Australians can “kiss goodbye” any serious debate on marriage equality if Bob Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) holds the balance of power in the federal Senate, one political expert says.

Earlier this month, the Star Observer revealed that former Greens leader Bob Brown had written to Canberra residents warning that KAP could gain the politically influential balance of power in the Upper House.

University of Canberra ACT election expert Dr Robin Tennant-Wood said there was no chance Katter’s party could win one of two Senate spots in the territory.

But Sarah Maddison, an associate professor of politics at the University of New South Wales, has told the Star Observer the concern was not that the KAP could win a seat in the ACT.

“The concern is that if the Liberals retain their seats in the ACT and the Greens candidate does not win the Senate spot in the ACT, then that could leave Bob Katter’s Australian Party holding the balance of power in the Senate nationally,” Maddison said.

She said there was a “genuine possibility” he could win the few Senate spots needed to block progressive legislation in the next parliament.

“Given the general poll trends towards the Coalition, it’s very unlikely Labor will end up with the balance of power,” she said.

“It really is going to come down to one of the minor parties.

“There is a very real chance this new kid on the block, Bob Katter’s Australian Party, could get the numbers to actually have their one or two seats in the Senate and hold the balance of power.”

Maddison warned that if a conservative government was elected, it was important for LGBTI people that another conservative force did not also hold power over the Senate.

“If Katter’s Australian Party were to hold the balance of power in the Senate, then we could certainly kiss goodbye to any hopes of moving the debate on gay marriage forward in Australia,” she said.

The KAP faced a public backlash last month when Victorian KAP candidate Tess Corbett compared gays and lesbians with paedophiles.

Katter called Corbett’s comment “stupid” and said they should not have been taken seriously.

Corbett withdrew her bid as a KAP candidate for the seat of Wannon.

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