Rebel LNP MPs discuss forming a new political party with maverick federal independent Bob Katter
The Sunday Mail (Qld), May 21, 2011 8:01PM
Campbell Newman’s leadership has been undermined by a group of his own MPs discussing forming a new party with maverick federal independent Bob Katter.
The Sunday Mail has learnt state Liberal National Party MPs Vaughan Johnson, Shane Knuth and Alex Douglas have been approached to form the new political force.
Mr Johnson and Dr Douglas, who is related to Mr Katter, yesterday strongly insisted they were committed to the LNP.
But sources say the MPs have canvassed the idea, dubbed the Australia Party, since late last year when the LNP was under John-Paul Langbroek’s leadership.
The talks are said to have been revived in recent weeks as a back-up option because the former bush Nationals were disgruntled by Liberal Mr Newman’s takeover.
The discussions come despite Mr Newman’s popularity soaring and the Opposition set to easily turf Labor out of office on current polls.
Mr Katter yesterday said he had spoken to the state MPs but it was wrong to say they were joining him.
“Yeah, we’ve had discussions with them about possibilities,” said Mr Katter, who has long touted the idea of the new party. “We talked over a number of options but I do that all the time.”
Gympie MP David Gibson also said he was approached by Mr Katter late last year during his period of backbench exile but declined and had not heard anything since. While Mr Gibson has returned to the front bench under Mr Newman, Mr Johnson and Dr Douglas were overlooked in the recent reshuffle.
Mr Johnson initially denied he had talked to Mr Katter about a party, and threatened legal action, then confirmed Mr Katter had mentioned it to him. “But ... I am staying right where I am,” he said.
Dr Douglas denied talking about a new party.
“I know Bob wants to have a party ... but I believe the majority of the party room believe Campbell Newman is working,” he said.
Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said he knew nothing about the talks.
“We’re just focused on delivering for all of Queensland,” he said.
Mr Knuth did not return calls.
The Australia Party name was originally used by a group of disgruntled Liberals in the early 1970s for a new party.