Bob Katter is seen as a maverick. He is.
He is seen as an eccentric. He is.
But Bob Katter is a maverick in a party-political system that has lost touch with mainstream Australia. He is certainly "outside the circle" of the corporate, Treasury and union major players who have commandeered the political agenda over the past 20 years.
His decision to cut ties with the National Party should go down as a watershed in Australians politics. It is the first substantial brick out of a crumbling National Party wall, and it could well bring the wall down.
Like me, Bob Katter now realises there is more that can be done outside the party-political circle than inside it if we are to have government for all the people in this country.
It is significant that Katter has now publicly confirmed what I have been saying for the five and a half years I have been in Parliament: the National Party is the little red caboose on the end of a Liberal Party train that has taken the former Country Party in economic and social directions that
have seriously hurt its once core constituency.
The Labor Party stands guilty of the same betrayal, while in many of its policies the Liberal Party has trodden all over liberal principles.
Let me explain.
All the forces of economic rationalism, a disease that first struck Australia in the early 80s, have battered the town of Lithgow. Lithgow’s coal mines, electricity industry, defence factory, Berlei undergarment factory, and state rail works have been variously corporatised, privatised, outsourced, rationalised, globalised and in the case
of Berlei, moved offshore by tariff cuts. This has cost the community several thousand jobs and more importantly, apprenticeships and inter-generational career paths.
Most of these people had traditionally voted Labor, yet have watched their natural political party sacrifice them on the altar of global competition and something called "world’s best practice".
Down the road around Orange, orchardists have seen their industry wilting before their eyes. Imports of apple juice concentrate from China have gradually increased under world trading agreements, to the point where local suppliers can’t compete. Yet export markets won in Thailand for local apples have been gazumped by massive plantings of
the same varieties grown in China with virtually no labour and environmental standards. On the Australian domestic market, major supermarkets have taken a stranglehold on demand, with growers often receiving barely the cost of production for their crops.
Now our quarantine barriers seem about to be lowered to allow in apples from Fire Blight-infested New Zealand, all in the name of free trade and reducing "non tariff barriers".
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