Queensland independent Bob Katter says there are “no Andrew Wilkies” in his list of 20 conditions for Labor and the coalition to consider.
Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, who requested a new hospital for Hobart, has backed Labor despite a coalition promise of $1bn.
Mr Wilkie said he declined the “intoxicating” offer of $1bn to rebuild a Hobart hospital because he couldn’t see where the money would come from, preferring Labor’s “more reponsible” offer of $100m upfront and the promise to open a new round of a federal health infrastructure fund.
Mr Katter said the jury was still out on which way he was going to go but, obviously, the government that was heading in the direction with his list would win his support.
He has refused to rule out supporting Labor.
Meanwhile Liberal frontbencher Peter Dutton said Labor’s deals with the Greens and independent MP Andrew Wilkie meant they would have better access to the prime minister than her own senior ministers.
“On a weekly basis, the prime minister will meet with Andrew Wilkie, will meet with Bob Brown,
“If you were a senior minister, or if you were a treasurer in a government, I would be very surprised if you had a formal meeting with the prime minister on a weekly basis,” he said.
Dutton added that the Labor-Greens coalition was not in the best interest of Australians.
“It’s certainly not in the best interest of people living in regional communities,” he said.
Katter’s list of conditions includes the scrapping of the resources rent tax, the emissions trading scheme and addressing food security.
While farmers in the United States and Europe were heavily subsidised, Australian farmers were not, Mr Katter said.
“We’ve got nothing at all,” he said.
If the Murray-Darling foodbowl was closed down, more dams would be needed further north, Mr Katter said.
“It’s fundamental to the survival of the nation,” he said.
Mr Katter, a vocal opponent of supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, who he considers rip off Australian farmers, said addressing food security was fundamental to the nation’s survival.
But, of the list, which also includes a condition that rural hospitals are run locally, he said: “I’m very proud to say there’s no Andrew Wilkies in here”.
Mr Katter said his wishlist was about doing everything he could for rural Australia’s survival.
“It’s my responsibility to do whatever I can to secure the right to survive. That’s all I’m asking for,” he said.
“Do you deny it to the first Australians, do you deny it to the people living in rural Australia?”
Mr Katter said Mr Rudd had twisted his arm “pretty firmly” to support Labor in an earlier meeting.
He has given both leaders his wishlist and Mr Katter said he would meet them again today for negotiations on points they were open to.
Gang of three
Mr Katter admits he’s anxious to be in concert with fellow independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott with his decision.
“We may not (agree), at the end of the day, but I’m very anxious and I would be very strongly influenced by the position of my colleagues, as I hope they would be by my position,” he said.
The trio wants legislation to stop an early poll, which would mean another election could only be called if the independents supported it.
“It’s a sign of weakness if you’re racing back to the polls every five minutes,” Mr Katter said.
Praise for Rudd
The Queensland independent praised fellow Queenslander, and former labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd for not trying to buy electorates during his term of government.
Mr Katter said the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the national grid were not electorate-buying policies.
He said former coalition prime minister John Howard had spent $700m to build a railway “from nowhere to nowhere” in South Australia to win over voters during his reign.
He compared it to Mr Wilkie’s demands.
“This Wilkie thing yesterday seems we’re back in the bad old days.
Mr Katter appeared amused, rather than concerned, by the coalition’s $1bn offer for a hospital in Mr Wilkie’s electorate.
“If one person gets a thousand million, how much do three people get?” he asked.
“I would’ve thought my demands here were very, very moderate indeed.
“I’m regretting now that this actually doesn’t require money from government, I might redraft tonight.”