Bob Katter and Clive Palmer at the National Press Club. Photo: Getty ImagesFederal Election 2013 coverageHave your say on YourViewElection Live with Stephanie Peatling
It was billed as a debate between two political mavericks but Clive Palmer and Bob Katter agreed on plenty of points when they faced off at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday.
“Please, God, there are forces out there being unleashed and you are watching two of them today,” Katter declared in a prophetic tone, his trademark hat perched on the table in front.
The first National Press Club election debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott two weeks ago was a bland affair. There was no risk of a repeat on Monday when Palmer and Katter rolled up to the same venue to argue the case for their fledgling political parties.
Katter laid out his classic pitch about supporting food producers, saving the manufacturing industry and mandating ethanol in fuel.
The enthusiastic storyteller recounted being approached by young men in the street who understood what Katter’s Australian Party stood for.
“They punch me in the chest and they say, ‘for Australia, mate’,” Katter recalled.
Palmer, subdued in comparison, rehashed the appeal he made at the Palmer United Party launch on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday when he outlined an extensive plan to slash taxes and increase spending in a bid to increase economic activity.
“Prime ministers may come and go, but ideas go on for ever,” said the self-declared prime ministerial candidate, banging his right hand on the podium for emphasis.
They may have set up separate parties in their own names but Palmer and Katter have a lot in common.
Both are former Queensland Nationals whose political strategy depends on clinching the votes of people disillusioned with the major parties.
Both are supremely confident of their ability to win seats despite all the focus being on the main clash between Labor and the Coalition.
And both used their appearance at the National Press Club to hit out at the media.
Palmer took a swipe at Rupert Murdoch for trying to influence the election “by remote control” while Katter pleaded for journalists to give the two mavericks a fair go.
“Give us a break, give us a fair go, because if you don’t, you will break our country,” Katter thundered.
The atmosphere was chummy at times, with only friendly jousting occurring.
“He’s pretty right,” Katter interjected at one point.
Palmer, conscious of the ticking clock, replied: “Don’t take up my time, Bob.”
“I’m cheering you, Clive,” an exasperated Katter shot back.
When Palmer, who will only enter Parliament if he wins the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax, was asked about the need to make MPs more accountable to their electorates, the mining magnate turned his focus to his debating partner, the long-standing member for Kennedy.
“Definitely, Bob should be much more accountable,” Palmer said.
They insist they have some different policies and ideas, brushing off questions about whether their cause would have been better served by working together and not splitting the vote in target seats.
Katter admits, however, that a recent deal to preference each other over the major parties was a natural outcome. The arrangement “took about three seconds to stitch up”, he said.
Perhaps one major difference between KAP and PUP lies in the access to money and resources.
Billionaire Palmer said the party had more than 1000 donors, and 100 people working full-time on the campaign. Palmer was coy about how much money he would personally pour into the election effort, estimating only that campaign bills would run to “many millions of dollars”.
Katter said his own party had turned away some tempting donation offers, declaring he was “very very proud of my poverty, if you could put it that way”.
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