I remember an MP saying to me once that we were due for a death of an MP or Senator. We hadn’t had a death for a while, and statistically we were due one.

Ray Hopper (left):Katter wooed me with promises of more wide brimmed hats. Photo: NWN

I couldn’t help but think that we were due the defection of an MP, when I heard about Ray Hopper jumping ship. There hadn’t been a defection since Peter Slipper up here and statistically it was always going to happen.

Ray Hopper is the state MP for Condamine, which is the area out the back of Toowoomba. He was elected to Parliament as an independent – a dairy farmer who made his name at the local dairy cooperative, and prior to that a meatworker who was very active in the Meatworkers Union.

In 2001, Hopper joined the Nationals, with whom he stayed until Saturday when he went to Bob Katter’s Australian Party.

It has become clear that Bob Katter has a formula for building his party in Parliament, and it has nothing to do with solid grassroots campaigning or electioneering. Katter likes to recruit from parliamentary ranks.

In fact, there is an eerie echo of Bob Katter Sr here, which makes me wonder whether Katter has some Freudian issues.

Katter Sr started as a union activist in Brisbane and during the turmoil in the ALP in the 1950s he left and joined the Country Party, going on to be preselected for the federal seat of Kennedy.

But they say Katter Sr, despite being patronised by the Country Party (and later National Party), given the support and resources to run for and win the federal seat of Kennedy, always considered himself a Labor man.

With that type of role model, it’s not surprising that Bob Katter Jr had the same sense of loyalty. As soon as John Howard started to say “no”, Katter Jr went out on his own.

Peter Slipper had the same ideas about loyalty. He started with the Nationals, went to the Liberals and then became an independent. If he had even the slightest hint of a union background, I believe Katter Jr would be knocking on his door tomorrow.

To prove the old saying true, that “birds of a feather flock together”, Ray Hopper has shown that he’s out, he’s in, and he’s out again. Hopper’s the name, nominative determinism has done the rest.

I don’t believe that Hopper was ever a true independent. He was elected in 2001, and since then he’s made 307 speeches to Parliament. This is an average of 28 a year.

Compare Ray with Liz Cunningham, who since being elected in 1995 has made 1089 speeches – or an average of 68 speeches a year.

Liz Cunningham doesn’t have the support of a party, and yes she does tend to become (in her words) a “one woman house of review” around budget time. But she started as an independent, and she has remained an independent.

She doesn’t have the luxury of an issues specific policy officer to provide her with the answers. She has to do this work herself.

When the Nationals wooed Ray Hopper to join the party, they thought they were doing the right thing by getting Hopper in the tent. Only in hindsight, with his weekend defection now out in the open, can those people appreciate how wrong they were.

Particularly considering the fact that the Nats lost a loyal and capable member of Parliament, Stuart Copeland, in the redistribution prior to the 2009 election.

I met Copeland once at a conference in the 1990s, when he was the state president of the Young Nats and vice president of the Federal Young Nats. At the time he was touted by many young Nats from New South Wales as being a genuine talent to watch in the future. I think they wanted him for themselves.

Copeland was elected to the seat of Cunningham in 2001 as a National Party member. He was the person who raised Jayant Patel in Parliament, and the person who, in a public hearing about the issue of overseas trained doctors, questioned Gordon Nuttall, who lied to the committee.

When Stuart’s seat of Cunningham was abolished in 2009, he was blocked from running for preselection in the new seat of Condamine on a technicality. He ran as an independent, but didn’t win.

The tragedy of this rule is that the Nationals lost a truly excellent MP and a talented politician, and got the time serving Ray Hopper instead.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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    • chuck says:

      07:26am | 27/11/12

      Yeap the death of this parliament is likely at the next election. RIP.

    • Hammy says:

      08:13am | 27/11/12

      Hardly think the criminals in the Labor party are going to be voted back in soon.

    • Abe says:

      10:24am | 27/11/12

      Yep, we’ll just be stuck with the LNP criminals

    • JoniM says:

      12:29pm | 27/11/12

      Well at least the kids should be safe, Abe !

    • Murray says:

      08:56am | 27/11/12

      I don’t often agree with Bob Katter - however he is an honest man,  unlike the members of the ALP and the LNP who are only interested in power and have zero interest in the future of this country.
      Give me an honest person, not beholden to party factional hacks, any day.

    • Murray says:

      08:56am | 27/11/12

      I don’t often agree with Bob Katter - however he is an honest man,  unlike the members of the ALP and the LNP who are only interested in power and have zero interest in the future of this country.
      Give me an honest person, not beholden to party factional hacks, any day.

    • DJ says:

      09:12am | 27/11/12

      Could be interesting, if the KAP garners enough seats from the LNP in rural areas to deny the LNP a federal majority an intereesting minority government with Katter calling the shots would be highly entertaining, not good for the country though - I’m feeling conflicted grin

    • fairsfair says:

      10:55am | 27/11/12

      I wouldn’t worry DJ - its not going to happen.

      The only people in QLD that are annoyed with the LNP are the public servants (to which I am one), other small minority groups who’ve had some funding ripped and people like my dad who hate Seeney and claim he is the puppet master and Newman is on borrowed time.

      Who cares if any of it is likely or true. I am just happy that the brakes have been applied to spending. Things have slowed big time thanks partly to federal governement decisions that the LNP seem to be getting blamed for but on the whole things are starting to improve and I agree with a lot of the mesures being made. A bit of pain for longterm gain it is what I have always wanted to see in a political party - a bunch of people that can look past the current term and make decisions based on the future of the state.

      Though I don’t agree with everything (thats never going to happen) I am not going to ark up at a bunch of people who are making tough decisions for the betterment of the state - its not all about me and nor should it be.

    • DJ says:

      11:33am | 27/11/12

      I agree with you on a political party willing to make tough decisions and Can Do seems to be doing that. My problem (and it is the problem I have with Abbott as well) is that they boast of sacking people, being terrible to asylum seekers - it is one thing to do it, it is another thing to smirk and pat yourself on the back when you do it. A bit of humility and a little less vindictiveness and you can take the electorate with you as Howard and Hawke did at various stages.

    • fairsfair says:

      01:02pm | 27/11/12

      That is an interesting comment and I think valid if that is how you have seen the information presented.

      I have not seen the back slapping re the job losses though and I have to say in my discussions with people who are outside of the public service they agree that the jobs need to be cut and do think it is a positive thing. Most people within think it is a positive thing but they are too busy working and trying to keep productive while union members stand around where the water coolers once were attempting to solve the public service’s ills. Those in favour can’t be bothered making themselves heard. We had a union instigated panic on Friday of last week that ended up being a total farce. It is wrong that they are allowed to do it with no consequence and the media pays them lip service. 

      I have been living a moral minefield of late. My own personal welfare is clashing with my bigger picture beliefs - its been hard to reconcile at times, but I am manging and the axe still looms over us all so I can’t see my dramas being solved anytime soon.

      My only criticism would be is that they are taking too long to decide, which is allowing union activity to beat up non existent dramas (fanning the flames) and “good” staff are tiring of the bottleneck and are jumping ship where work is available. At the same time though, they seem to be going about it the right way and nobody is leaving without financial assitance - so again - my tiny mind is in overdrive trying to decide which fence I am sitting on. I am a contractor and in my view no contractor has the right to complain about being cut - it is the nature of our job, its what we signed up for.

      I will disagree with you on the assylum seekers (at the federal level) though sorry. I also interpret that to be a hard decision in the best interests of all concerned (including the Australian public). I’m not an Abbott fan - if he was an effectively alternative leader he’d be able to communicate this to the public without repeatedly coming across like a deadset idiot. Thats a whole other kettle of worms though so I won’t hijack what I think is a really good article Julia smile

      Here is hoping the only shots Katter ever calls are with regard to the ones he is shouting on his KAP credit card at the Mount Isa Irish Club wink

    • fairsfair says:

      10:42am | 27/11/12

      Ultimately the only people they let down are their constituents. MPs should not be able to defect during term. By all means announce your defection prior to an election, but changing your fundamental ideology halfway through is not a good thing. I would certainly remember it if I lived in Condamine. I know a lot of people who vote on the back of independent status due to deep seeded opposition to particular parties and to elect an independent and have them form an alliance or formally defect is not what the voters signed up for. The fundamental attraction of the independent is just that - they are supposed to represent an individual who looks at things independently and does not toe any party line.

      I don’t agree with the KAP either. Rather the creation of a Party he should have gone down the path of a co-op of independents should have been formed with an appointed spokesperson. No leader and the spokesperson should have rotated throughout the year. It would have lead to the debate of individual issues and whilst some may argue that that would be too time consuming, I’d much rather be confronted to that level of debate in the house and the media than the current tosh that is being discussed (ie the participants, not the game).

      Katter is nuts anyway. Fantastic politician, gets things done but he is just a shithouse communicator and there is no getting away from that. Sad thing is Julia, with all your mention of Katter Jr all I kept thinking about was when we will start on the Katter Jr Jr? Its never ending in the BobKat department!

    • sven svensenburger says:

      10:44am | 27/11/12

      Well, the reason they’re leaving is obvious and it is because of Can Do Cambell Newman who is going to be a one hit wonder in Queensland. He will be out at the next election and out is the best word to use for him and his mates in the NLP.

      That’s it from me because it is not worth wasting any more fresh air on him or his party. Queenslands won’t cop this for much longer.

    • RichardB says:

      11:05am | 27/11/12

      The problem for Katter’s Australia Party is .... well….it’s Katter’s Australia Party. It’s all about Bob. He chose that name for a reason.  I can’t imagine he is the sort of inclusive Leader Hopper is looking for. KAP’s policies don’t come from members or supporters. They come from one man - Bob. KAP has too many egos in too small a room to become a viable alternative.

    • Gordon says:

      11:56am | 27/11/12

      It’s called Katter’s Australia Party because The Kattermites didn’t get past the AEC.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:44pm | 27/11/12

      Despite asking many times now I haven’t found anyone who can tell me how the vastly vastly outnumbered and minority Queensland Liberal Party, who have always struggled to hold more than about 6 seats in the Queensland Parliament (and nearly all their seats being in the SE Corner) suddenly gained the upper hand and took over the Queensland National Party which has ALWAYS been the dominant conservative force in Queensland.

      Sgt ‘I see/hear no dissent or negativity’ Newman is a Liberal Party member and represents Liberal Party interests. For all the talk of a united LNP what we are starting to see is the diehard old school Nationals pull back on the reigns and say ‘Wait a second…....’ as they are starting to realise they’ve been conned by the Queensland Liberal Party.

      I think we are going to see more National Party led cracks in the future the longer Sgt Newman wields the whip.

    • fairsfair says:

      02:41pm | 27/11/12

      I interpret it to be down to the fact that QLD Politics has always been (currently is and always will be) all about the SEQ corner Dave. Similar to the power distributor split in our state. 97% of the geographic network belongs to the regional supplier yet both distribute power to essentially the same number of customers. One runs at a good profit servicing 3% of the network while the other piggybacks and runs at a massive loss even with the input of tax dollars. WIthout the metro supplier the regional one would not exist and you can’t turn the lights off on regional Queensland. Same applies to the Nationals.

      Population distribution is all that matters. I don’t agree with you that it is anything to do with the current personalities involved or whatever they are calling their coalition this week - rather it is the usual National Party chest beating that happens every few years when they get a bunch in their shorts. It quickly subsides when they realise that they don’t have enough people in their electorates for anyone else to care.

      Katter is capitalising on this and as someone else just pointed out to me - today is a day in which federal parliament is sitting and Bob Katter is too busy watching Campbell Newman from the audience of the Queensland sitting. Sadly he is so entrenched in his electorate that his constituents won’t care about this but it pretty confirms that he has his nose in the trough of somewhere it doesn’t belong.

    • TheRealDave says:

      03:38pm | 27/11/12

      I totally agree Fairs but the point still remains that the Nats have always been the driving Conservative voice in Qld. Even now if you broke it down there are far more Nat elected members in the LNP than Libs. I’m jsut wondering how the Nats allowed themselves to be suckered like this?? Was it more to do with the ‘unelectibility’ of Springborg or any other National?? Not that the Libs had anyone until they got Newman across. Because I don’t think that Langbroek could have got half the votes away from Labor that Newman eventually got.

      But then again, we would still have Anna Bligh and a Qld Labor government in right now (and Tunnels Newman planning more Bikes in Brisbane as Lord Mayor) if they were smart and had the last State Election the first chance they could have right after the floods last year. They screwed up by leaving it so long.

    • fairsfair says:

      06:35pm | 27/11/12

      looking at it from an internal point of view Dave, it would be down to who brings in the most political donations. the libs will always rake that in due to their alignment with business. I think its a reality the Nats have just grown to accept. like if Energex said stiff bikkies Ergon, we’re privatising and youre on your own - too many people would be left high and dry. Ergon (the Nats) has the base on paper, but really without city representation and an ally to run to when times are tough they are screwed and they know it. I think the Nats know it too. I think Springborg was was more likeable than Newman, he was just a victim of the smear and didn’t fight back. Campbell (likely a longterm sufferer of small man syndrome) fought back which seemed to get people onside in his rejection of tired old Bligh. I dislike them all really, but the shake up and change of pace can only be good for the state. I guess we just have to wait and see what happens.

    • Joe says:

      01:45pm | 27/11/12

      Yep we lost a good mp in Stuart Copeland through redistribution.


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