First week of LNP rule criticized by eminent corruption fighter Tony Fitzgerald QC, as ‘jobs for the boys’
Former Liberal member claims the Mareeba-based LNP spent more than $120,000 much of it from private sources, to keep KAP out
The Far North Queensland seat of Cook produced a big surprise at the State election on Saturday when LNP candidate David Kempton (pictured left) got over the line.
Pundits had predicted the Katters party candidate Lachlan Bensted to take the seat from incumbent ALP Member Jason O’Brien.
Bob Katter’s son Robert won the seat of Mt Isa from the ALP, and incumbent Shane Knuth, a former LNP Member held the adjoining seat of Dalrymple with 66 per cent of the primary vote.
The local LNP spun into overdrive after confidential polling found that Lachlan Bensted (pictured right), Katter’s hand-picked 26 year old Mareeba prodigy, should win the seat.
Candidate David Kempton, according to the source, dispatched emissaries to far-flung Aboriginal communities in private air charters to entice them to support the LNP and if they did, alcohol restrictions in their communities would be lifted.
Consequently a sufficient number of communities did support the LNP, now leaving the party with the problem of delivering on their subterfuge.
The LNP also conducted an expensive recorded telephone message campaign targeting people across the electorate trying to bolster their hopes.
Bensted polled evenly or beat Kempton in the Mareeba area and lower part of Cape York Peninsula but lost the Cooktown area by just 60 votes.
Coastal communities in the Port Douglas area withdrew considerable support after the airing of the KAP’s controversial television advertisement of Campbell Newman saying he supported gay marriage. The intent of the ad was to show the potential leader said one thing to one group and something else to another. This message was lost in the ensuing public debacle.
It was the Queensland Electoral Commission’s ‘two party preferred’ allocation of preferences which saw Katter’s candidates across the state involuntarily surrender their preferences to either LNP or the ALP.
The so-called ‘two party preferred’ system has been branded as a scam by numerous candidates and scrutineers around the state over many elections.
NSW electoral systems analyst Lex Stewart said the optional preferential system has been designed to keep either the ALP or LNP in power and keep alternative parties out.
The sealed envelope trotted out at each polling booth by the returning officer after counting begins, dictates to which party the preferences must be allocated. In this election, like most others, the secret instructions from the Electoral Commissioner gave the KAP preferences to either ALP or LNP.
One booth worker reported that a radio news item at 8.30 on the morning of polling day, had the LNP as having already won the seat.
Such is ‘democracy’ in Queensland and NSW, however voters there have a backstop with the Upper House. LNP leader Campbell Newman has said there will never be an Upper House while he has control of the Parliament.
A former LNP member told Cairns News Kempton got over the line due to the LNP brand.
“It wasn’t anything to do with Kempton,” said the source, who asked for anonymity in fear of reprisal.
“The whole state wanted to get rid of the Labor Party and everyone voted in a bloc, which upset the support for the Katter Party.”
Kempton was the candidate his party didn’t want. Prior to the local plebiscite last year, some LNP members were furious that Kempton, now a Cairns-based solicitor, had nominated. Favours were called in and a now prominent LNP MP contacted the members of the selection panel advising them not to support the former Cooktown lawyer.
The campaign against Kempton nearly succeeded, but for one vote, he now would not be in Parliament.
Yesterday, Bensted said he was “still around” in spite of demands in newspapers from LNP members, telling Bob Katter to get out of local politics. Privately, the source said they are complaining about the huge amount of money it cost them to keep Bensted out of Parliament.
A spokesman for the Mareeba KAP, Alan Webb, said he had received a lot of inquiries about formalising the existing interim party branch and getting involved in local issues.
“We are here to stay and I have no doubt we will get much bigger so we will keep the bastards honest.” Mr Webb said.
“The LNP is bankrolled and owned lock-stock and barrel by the coal seam gas industry and oil companies,” Bob Katter warned a week before the poll.
“We hope people will be able to hear their televisions over the noise of the drilling rigs in their back yards,” Mr Webb added.
“And it will be fruitless to complain about the expected 20 per cent jump in power prices after the LNP sells our power stations.
“Most pensioners I know can’t speak Chinese or Indian.”
More election stories soon from Queensland correspondent
Robert J Lee
When I was contracting in the Central Queensland Coalfields 2009-2011 I saw the beginnings of the CSG industry at Moranbah. Arrow was still Arrow albeit in the throws of being swallowed up by Royal Dutch Shell. I believe Prince Phillip has a sizeable stake in this company. I have seen first hand the huge amounts of water needed to operate gas wells. Friends were contracting to Arrow with semi water trucks. It was great lurk for contractors.
Having a rural journalism background I could see what was going to happen to our great brigalow belt across Queensland. It is our best grazing and farming country comprising cracking clay soils with high humus content in many cases. Much of this state’s wheat, barley, sunflower and sorghum crops and cotton are grown in this huge area. Many towns and farming communities are supported by this foodbowl, not to mention that it also represents some of best grass fattening country in Australia. Millions of export Jap ox and domestic slaughter cattle have been produced in the brigalow belt for most of the last century.
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