Shane Knuth and Rob Katter at Queensland Parliament in November 2016.
Shane Knuth and Rob Katter at Queensland Parliament in November 2016. Annette Dew/ The Courier Mail

KAP: The boys who cried croc?

WITH renewed threats to block the Queensland budget next month, Katter's Australian Party MPs Shane Knuth and Rob Katter have grabbed the state's attention.

The crossbenchers and party leader Bob Katter again have announced they would withhold support for the budget, this time unless the crocodile culling measures are introduced.

If the threat was followed through on, it could cause government agencies such as cyclone recovery services to come to a halt and public employees such as police and nurses to go unpaid.

Such a tactic could have the potential to hinder the North more than a growing population of crocs would.

The situation is all too familiar to Queenslanders, now accustomed to almost three years of similar announcements from the crossbench.

From the beginning of this term, Mount Isa MP Rob Katter and Dalrymple MP Shane Knuth have been vocal about their ability to side either way on budget appropriation bills.

Despite the impossibility of KAP's two votes overturning the government's 42 without help from the Opposition, the minor party has continued to build its bluff in the media spotlight.

While the strong rhetoric is often well received in the regions, an ARM Newsdesk analysis shows that in the light of day the political threats have proven less than prosperous for North Queensland.

Making minority government: February 2015

In February 2015, the new Labor government's position hung on the outcome of the Ferny Grove seat that had to be re-counted because the PUP candidate was ineligible.

In response to the uncertainty, the fledgling party released a 28-point list of demands in exchange for support to form a minority government.

The minor party received its only written guarantee for action from Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg.

The Palaszczuk government instead formally committed to nothing, and retained power by a slim margin.

The KAP negotiations secured nothing for the regions, just further staff funding for Mr Katter and Mr Knuth.

Deadline set: August 2015

In August that year, Mr Katter and Mr Knuth reinforced the 28-point list, publicly laying down a 90-day ultimatum to see further progress on their agenda and threatening to commit to handing power to the Opposition if given the chance.

KAP had not committed to supporting the minority Palaszczuk government and threatened to vote against every bill - which would have pushed the government to rely heavily on the support of former Labor MP Billy Gordon.

Again the Palaszczuk government gave no formal commitment for any of the 28 points, instead announcing the establishment of a Rural Debt and Drought Taskforce to help identify and recommend solutions for producers.

KAP claimed the move was the next step towards item 4 of their list, an Industry Development and Debt Reconstruction Board.

 

Katter's Australia Party MP Rob Katter pictured when he gave the Labor government 90 days to deliver on a list of his party's demands in August 2015.
Katter's Australia Party MP Rob Katter pictured when he gave the Labor government 90 days to deliver on a list of his party's demands in August 2015. Zak Simmonds

Deadline reached: November 2015

The November 13 deadline came and went, with a number of secret talks as reported in the Courier Mail.

KAP stated they would not be so sympathetic towards the government's agenda.

"What we're saying to them is everyone needs to pull their socks up and jerk into gear," Rob Katter said.

"All options become live for us".

Publicly no formal outcome was reached.

That month the Premier announced the North West Mineral Province Taskforce.

"My government is keenly aware that the ongoing resource commodity price lows are making times tough for families and local businesses in resource communities, such as Mount Isa, and across the North West," the Premier said in the original statement.

However on March 27, 2017, two years since its establishment, the member for Mount Isa called for a report from the taskforce, stating he had again heard nothing from the committee.

New crossbench member: March 2016

The opportunity for the minor party to form minority government with the LNP arrived early in 2016 when Cairns MP Rob Pyne announced he would leave the ALP.

This put the Opposition's and the Government's votes in the house on an equal 42.

KAP and Mr Pyne then threatened to form government with the Opposition if the Premier called an early election. 

"I will be providing the Governor with this letter and the governor will have the understanding that if the Premier decides to go that there is another avenue," Mr Knuth told the media at the announcement.

Infrastructure Plan: March 2016

The bolstered crossbench formed what was known as the Northern Alliance. They sent a letter to the Premier telling her the state infrastructure plan was heavily skewed to the south-east of the state.

"It is our view that the plan fails to adequately address infrastructure priorities across the state, is skewed heavily in favour of infrastructure projects for southeast Queensland, and ignores major job creation opportunities to the detriment of regional and rural Queensland," the letter stated.

"As such, we are writing to give adequate notice to your government that we cannot support any supply or appropriation bills that would facilitate the plan in its current form."

By the middle of the year the infrastructure plan had not changed and the 2016-17 budget and its appropriation bills were passed in the house.

Mount Isa MP Rob Katter described the budget as "a win for rural Queensland and the Mount Isa electorate".

In his own release, Dalrymple MP Shane Knuth said the 2016-17 budget was the "best he'd seen delivered to his electorate in his 12-year career".

 

Rob Katter at question time in Queensland Parliament in September 2016.
Rob Katter at question time in Queensland Parliament in September 2016. Annette Dew

Crossbench alliance: February 2017

Less than two months ago, the northern duo with new crossbench member Steve Dickson confirmed the possibility of holding the government to ransom had been discussed at a crossbench meeting.

"You don't have to be Einstein to work out that if we've got the numbers and the budget doesn't deliver for all of Queensland, then of course that would be a consideration," he told the Courier Mail.

In response, Ms Palaszczuk said the budget would focus on regional Queensland.

"Let's be clear - blocking the budget would block jobs in regional Queensland," she told the house.

Now: May 2017

Despite the thus far hollow threats, the KAP's developments for regional Queensland at this late stage in the parliamentary term remain limited.

The legacy for west of the divide extends as far as an ethanol mandate, a disputed sugar bill, a drought taskforce and a number of local wins.   

These achievements may far surpass those of a minor party outside of a hung parliament but the KAP's major priorities such as a Rural Reconstruction Board and Development Bank, taxi reform and further weighting on rural seats have all been dashed once the bills have reached the house.   

As the Queensland Budget approaches, the party grappling with a looming electoral redistribution and a support base on the trajectory towards the far right, may just surprise us all.  


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