The last sitting week of Queensland Parliament was certainly one of theatrics, tension and drama.
The LNP government's response was not dignified, but it was also a dangerous attack on democracy in Queensland.
By changing the law to prevent parliamentary recognition of Katter's Australian Party, the LNP government created a dangerous precedent. Effectively, Queensland members of parliament are now greatly limited in their ability to build parliamentary groupings or parties as they best see fit to represent their electorates.
It leaves us with the absurd situation where Labor would be protected as the opposition, even if there was a larger non-government party in the chamber. Given the cross benches are the same size as Labor and the further possibility of LNP members leaving, this prospect is not out of the question.
The laws are so draconian that they make it much more difficult for two parties to merge and gain parliamentary recognition. It would be a useful thing for the newly united LNP to ponder this.
The argument presented by the LNP government for this action is that members are elected to represent their party.
This is not how the Westminster system of government works, but considering that all conventions about party leadership were broken prior to the last election, it is not surprising this fact has been overlooked.
Members are not elected to represent a political party. It is a member's right to leave their party if they wish, especially if they feel they can better represent their constituents by doing so.
Members sit in parliament to represent their electorate and, at each election, the public cast judgment on their performance. Voters decide whether actions to change political allegiance should be rewarded or punished. But the Queensland government now thinks it should play judge and jury on a parliamentarian's loyalty to a political banner – specifically that of the LNP which has now lost six sitting members in under three years.
It appears that the LNP is fearful of political dissent and has taken these actions to cap KAP. But there is no doubt that the government also had another target in mind. As LNP members were voting, Clive Palmer's declaration that he was considering launching a new political force was still echoing through the parliamentary precinct. By altering these laws, the LNP government sent a clear message that it will legislate and change the rules to limit opportunities for political opponents.
Queenslanders should be concerned by this and the rushed process undertaken to amend the status of political parties in the parliament.
This action was taken after the Clerk of the Parliament wrote to notify Katter's Australian Party that it had gained recognised status under the law. He also copied in the Premier. Just two hours later the government bypassed the supposedly bi-partisan committee system and used urgency provisions to rush changes to the democratic process in Queensland through parliament.
Bernard Gaynor is a married father of five children and formerly served as an officer in the Australian Regular Army, where he was recognised with the United Stated Meritorious Service Medal for his service in Iraq. He works as a strategist for Katter’s Australian Party.