A pro-marriage equality candidate who contested the Senate at last month’s federal election for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) has laid the blame for the party’s worse-than-expected performance at the polls on its attempts to court both “the bigot vote” as well as more progressive voters.
Steven Bailey, a 30-year-old Canberra-based composer and theatre director, was the ACT Senate candidate for KAP at the September 7 ballot.
Speaking to Fairfax Media last week, Bailey said the party’s “demise” occurred because it tried and failed to juggle both conservative and liberal perspectives, meaning that many social conservatives ended up voting for parties such as Rise Up Australia.
“The terrible irony of it is that if Bob kept on allowing people with these social misconceptions like; ‘all Arabs are bad’ … if that culture continued in the party, then we might have got more votes,” he told Fairfax Media.
‘“We tried to be the party that wasn’t of these social issues and I really admire Bob for allowing his demise, that’s what he allowed; his demise.”
Bailey said while conservative hardliners may have attracted more votes, it was their involvement in the party that prevented it from attracting financial support.
“We had [no money in the campaign]. Once we lost the $250,000 from [James] Packer then no one wanted to give us any money and that’s the reason that these Queensland philistines in the party … that’s why they needed to be eradicated,” he said.
At the time of when his candidacy was announced in February, Bailey caused internal strife within the party when he went public with his support for marriage equality, telling some reporters that he loved his “gay friends and I love my redneck friends”. Then-KAP party director Aidan McLindon, who has since moved to Family First, sought Bailey’s resignation until party leader Bob Katter intervened on his behalf.
Bailey told Fairfax he believed Katter used his candidacy to soften the party’s image as one full of anti-marriage equality candidates. Katter, formerly an independent, was the only one of his candidates to run successfully for KAP after he held onto his seat of Kennedy in Queensland.
“Perhaps that is one of the reasons Katter endorsed me as the first Senate candidate,” Bailey said.
“I was the cat and he was the mouse. He was the mouse that thought he was the cat … it backfired, he should have remained appealing to the bigots.
“I think morality got the better of Bob and morality was the demise of his party, good morals.”
Figures show Bailey and the KAP received only 1,416 votes according to initial ACT Senate results. Rise Up Australia received 1,381 votes and the Stable Population Party attracted 930 votes. The Palmer United Party – whose strong performance in Queensland was partially responsible for KAP’s poor showing in that state – polled 5,213 votes in the ACT Senate race. Labor’s Kate Lundy and Liberal candidate, Zed Seselja, eventually took out the territory’s two Senate spots.
Bailey now intends to contest the ACT Legislative Assembly as an independent at the territory’s next election.
“I joined the party for what I hoped it to be … I understood very quickly that the party was inundated with cultural fanatics … [but] I have ultimate respect for Bob,” he said.