The Katter’s Australian Party conducted their inaugural convention in Brisbane yesterday. In advance of the upcoming Queensland State election on March 24.
Katter’s Australian Party is being compared in the media with the One Nation Party and parallels are being drawn with the 1998 Queensland state election and the large 22.7% of the primary vote that One Nation won at that election. However there have been other right-wing parties in Queensland which have existed at times in the recent past and it is illuminative to consider their past performance.
Prior to 1989, the National Government of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen had been seen by its supporters and detractors as the most right-wing government in Australia. In Queensland this prevented any opening for any party to spring up to the right of the Nationals. With the demise of the Bjelke-Petersen as Premier in 1988 and the electoral defeat of the Nationals in 1989, this created an opening for right-wing parties to form and draw a significant amount of support. One Nation is only one of 4 socially conservative parties independent of the major conservative parties that have achieved significant electoral results since 1989.
This post looks into the other 3 parties and One Nation’s post 1998 electoral performances and what lessons we can draw from them to determine the true size of the right-wing minor party vote in Queensland.
Confederate Action Party (CAP)
The Confederate Action Party was founded in 1990 and quickly became a magnet for right-wing activists dissatisfied with the post-Joh National Party. The Party had a strong right-wing ideology which manifested policies such as the reintroduction of the death penalty and convict labor.
The Confederate Action Party of Australia (CAP) was founded on July 20 1990, by six right-wing activists in a trucking office near Ipswich and drew many other independent right-wing activists to the party’s cause. The party suffered from a loss of membership in the mid-1990’s due to internal disputes. Many of its members joined One Nation upon its formation in 1997.
The party stood candidates in 12 seats at the 1992 state election and 8 seats in 1995, scoring above 5% in some electorates. A full detailed table of the party’s primary vote share in the seats it contested at these state elections is set out below.
City-Country Alliance (CCA)
The City-Country Alliance was formed from the remaining five One Nation State MP’s in December 1999 after disagreement and discord between One Nation’s Queensland party room and the federal leadership core of David Oldfield, David Ettridge and Pauline Hanson of the One Nation Party at that time.
The CCA parliamentary membership ultimately consisted of 6 MP’s with Bill Feldman as leader and MP for Caboolture, Harry Black MP for Whitsunday, David Dalgleish MP for Hervey Bay, Jack Paff MP for Ipswich West, Peter Prenzler MP for Lockyer and Jeff Knuth MP for Burdekin.
In terms of policy position, the CCA could validly be characterised as Hansonism without Hanson’s leadership or the One Nation label.
At the 2001 election CCA candidates stood in 25 seats and all sitting members stood for re-election with One Nation candidates standing against them. All CCA MP’s lost their seats at the election. A table setting out the CCA primary vote share in the seats it contested at the 2001 state election and the vote share of any competing One Nation candidates is set out below.
Family First (FF)
The Family First Party was initially formed in 2002 as a South Australia based party and its primary focus was to seek upper house seats in that state. As the party’s name suggests, its primary focus is on the protection of the traditional family and other related social conservative causes. In the mid-2000’s it sought to branch out nationwide to contest federal elections, which it did with minor success in 2004. The Queensland branch of the party contested state elections from 2006. The party’s primary vote share in the seats it contested at the 2006-2009 state elections is set out below.
One Nation post-1998
While the One Nation Party elected 11 MP’s at the 1998 election, none of these MP’s remained in the party for the whole term of the subsequent parliamentary term.
In 2001 the party contested 39 seats, winning 3 seats and earning a respectable 8.7% of state-wide first preferences. With Pauline Hanson remaining the national leader of the party, despite the loss of its sitting MP’s it was still able to draw significant voter support.
By the time of the 2004 state election Pauline Hanson had left the party she had founded, depriving One Nation of their prime vote winning figure. Of the three MP’s elected in 2001, only one, Elise Roberts, MP for Gympie had left the party to sit as an independent. At the election the party put up a slate of 51 candidates, however without Ms Hanson the appeal of the party declined and the party’s share of state-wide first preferences declined to 4.9% and only one MP was returned, Rosa Lee Long of Tablelands.
After the 2004 election the party went into decline, fielding only 4 and 2 candidates in the 2006 and 2009 state elections respectively. The only significant result was from Ms Lee Long retaining Tablelands in 2006 and coming second in a re-distributed Dalrymple in 2009.
A table of One Nation primary vote shares by seat for 2001-2009 is set out below.
Is there a natural right-wing minor party vote in Queensland?
It is clear that each Queensland state election since 1989 there has been a significant right-wing minor party which has been able to, at least, to post a primary vote of above 5 % in more than one seat.
Below is a summary table of the election performance of each of the above-mentioned parties. Where there have been several minor right-wing parties competing at a single election they are listed separately and then collectively. To this end, for the 2001 election One Nation is grouped with the CCA, for the 2006 and 2009 elections One Nation is grouped with Family First. The relevant row which indicated the sum of the right-wing minor party vote for each election is in bold.
However to make sure that each of the non-1998 performances listed above is more indicative of a state wide performance we need to compare the seats contested by the relevant party/s at each election with the One Nation result in 1998 in the same seats.
At each election the relevant party ran in fewer seats than One Nation did in 1998 and these seats tended to have a higher average One Nation 1998 vote than all of 79 ONP contests in 1998. Consequently, we need to find an adjusted average vote to take into account the broader range of seats that a near-statewide ticket would run candidates in.
We can run a regression between the relevant party electorate results as the dependant variable and with the comparable 1998 ONP vote for each seat as the independent variable. For each election we get an upward sloping relationship. The general findings are as expected, the greater the ONP vote in 1998 in a given electorate, the greater the right-wing minor party vote in a given election. I’ll give the scatter plot of the CAP 1992 vs ONP 1998 as an example.
For each election using the equation the regression provides for us, we plug in as the x value the average ONP electorate vote in 1998:
- 25.27% to the equation for the 1992 & 1995 elections,
- 25.48% for the 2001-06 elections to take into account the 1999 redistribution
The corresponding y value gives us an estimated average electorate vote share if the given party contested the 79 seats the ONP did in 1998. For the 1992 CAP performance this figure is 8.1%. A table for each party or group of parties with their average electorate vote share is set out below.
Once we take into account organisation (i.e. nominating candidates into seats) and the types of seats the candidates run in, the comparable average electorate vote share of right-wing minor parties has been between 5-8%, without a prominent leader. With a prominent leader, the comparable average electorate vote share rises over 10%, as was the case for One Nation in 2001.
If we are to assume that the KAP as party which is analogous to CAP, ON, CCA and FF in both the types of voters it attracts and place where it sits on the left-right spectrum, then this is a good omen for the KAP. They have a leader with a high profile in Mr Katter and as of the date of this post, according to the party, KAP has 65 candidates appointed for the 2012 election. Furthermore, nominations will close in few weeks, so there could be more candidates to come. In terms of realistic expectations anything significantly less than 6% (8%*65/89) of the state-wide primary vote would be a disappointment given the number of candidates and Mr Katter’s high profile.
However in terms of higher expectations, Mr Katter has less personal appeal than Ms Hanson, for the simple reason as Mr Katter has been in Queensland and Federal politics for nearly 40 years at this upcoming election. In 1998 and 2001, Ms Hanson was relatively new to politics and her appeal had not been dulled by being in the public spotlight for a long period of time, Mr Katter does not have that luxury.
But Mr Katter’s personal profile is not inconsiderable and this should translate into a breakthrough above the 10% of the average electorate vote share although for reason previously indicated, below the 25.3% average electorate vote share obtained by One Nation in 1998 . I would set the upper limit of KAP expectations to 15% of the average electorate vote share, which depending on the ultimate number of KAP candidates would place the statewide primary vote of KAP above 10%.
Is the KAP to the right of the LNP?
The one important caveat to this analysis of a core right-wing minor party vote in Queensland state elections and expectations of KAP support at the next election is that, the KAP may not be to the right of the LNP.
The economic policy of KAP cannot be considered free market and is properly characterised as a reaction it. A core KAP policy is to institute a blanket 10% tariff of all imports. In this sense the economic policy of KAP is to the left of the Labor Party.
However on contemporary issues such the Carbon Tax and environmentalism in general, Mr Katter has been a dogged opponent. In terms of social issues, Mr Katter has been outspoken in his opposition to gay marriage, and this has been consistent with his social conservative positions he has taken over his political career.
Since the formation of the KAP, Mr Katter has been relatively quiet on immigration and multiculturalism, issues which were more prominent in the political message of Ms Hanson and One Nation, nevertheless, he has infused a strong nationalist message into the KAP with the party’s tariff policy and the policy of “Australian first” in government purchases.
In short KAP seems to promote nationalism over free trade in economic matters and general social conservative policy positions. This is a platform with appeal to right-wing voters, the same types of voters that voted for CAP, ONP, CCA and FF will gravitate to the KAP.
Therefore the bloc of voters identified with the right-wing minor party vote should be the core vote for the KAP at the upcoming state election. The expected share of the state wide vote should be between 6-12% if a full slate of 89 candidates does not eventuate. A full slate of candidates would push that expectations band up to between 8-15%.