Queensland independent Bob Katter has had his arm twisted “pretty firmly” by former prime minister Kevin Rudd to support Labor.
Mr Katter revealed Mr Rudd had tried to persuade him to back a government led by Julia Gillard, who toppled Mr Rudd in a dramatic coup in June that has been blamed for costing Labor seats in Queensland.
Mr Katter refused to rule out supporting Labor, and praised Mr Rudd’s leadership – saying he had never indulged in the sort of vote-buying that former Coalition prime minister John Howard had indulged in to sandbag marginal electorates.
He said Labor and Mr Rudd’s support for a National Broadband Network (NBN) and the creation of the national electricity grid were not electorate-buying policies.
But Mr Howard had spent $700 million to build a railway “from nowhere to nowhere” in South Australia to win over voters during his reign.
Mr Rudd was one of the first people to call Mr Katter on election night to congratulate him on retaining his seat of Kennedy, in far north Queensland.
Mr Katter said his 20-point list of priorities 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?”
He said there were “no Andrew Wilkies” in his list – referring to Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie, who requested a new hospital for Hobart, but backed Labor despite an “intoxicating” Coalition offer of $1 billion.
His 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, he said.
Mr Katter – a vocal opponent of supermarket giants Woolworths and Coles, which 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 appeared amused, rather than concerned, by the Coalition’s $1 billion 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.”
Mr Katter said he was 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 want 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.
He gave both leaders his wishlist yesterday, and Mr Katter said he would have more meetings again today.