By Emma Kennedy
August 18, 2013
Bob Katter hasn’t been home much in the past few weeks as he campaigns around the country in support of his more than 60 candidates and doing preference deals with the major parties.
His absence is drawing criticism from Kennedy locals but he has kept himself consistently in the media spotlight.
Since he created Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), Mr Katter’s goal is to become the “third force” in the country’s politics and provide another legitimate option for the people of Australia.
The past week has seen many chops and changes, with KAP making preference deals with Clive Palmer, the ALP and the LNP in an attempt to best the Greens in the Senate.
Back at home, though, the other Kennedy candidates have been plodding along on the campaign trail, using Mr Katter’s absence as evidence they have more commitment to the electorate.
The withdrawal of Ken Robertson as Labor’s candidate, after he called Opposition Leader Tony Abbott a bigot, has left Andrew Turnour flying Labor’s flag in Kennedy.
Mr Turnour has been quiet since his endorsement releasing few statements and not holding too many interviews, as has Greens candidate Jenny Stirling.
The one candidate who is ramping up is the LNP’s Noeline Ikin, who appears to be the real threat to the Katter empire come election day on September 7.
Ms Ikin spoke with me, at work with The North West Star, from a community forum held in Atherton with Barnaby Joyce’s Senate replacement Barry O’Sullivan where she spoke about aged care in rural areas.
She said she was in the race because, as a Georgetown local, she believed in the region and although she was an LNP member she would not be too involved with party politics and deal making.
That may be because she doesn’t have to as part of a major party, but Ms Ikin also comes across as a genuine country woman who is passionate about doing what’s right.
But Mr O’Sullivan wasn’t shy in saying Katter should “sit on his apple crate in his electorate until September 7”, implying he was spending too much time elsewhere and not enough maintaining his support base in Kennedy, which covers a wide area of Queensland’s northern outback.
The deals, talks and negotiations will continue thick and fast in the next few weeks, but it seems Mr Katter is gaining more power than he’s ever had.
It remains to be seen whether the people of Kennedy want a leader with national pull, or someone who sticks around in the region fighting on their behalf.
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