Gay row as state election gets dirty

By Greg Ansley

An advertisement published by the Australian Party launched by leader Bob Katter. Photo / Supplied
An advertisement published by the Australian Party launched by leader Bob Katter. Photo / Supplied

This is shaping up to be a very Queensland election.

On March 24 the state's voters will go to the polls dazzled by a campaign that has featured an Opposition leader who may never make it to Parliament, a bruising row over gay marriage, candidates dumped or stained by tawdry connections, and a Labor Government fighting a quixotic battle for survival.

But amid the scandals and portraits of naked gay men there seems one certainty: nothing bar a miracle will save Premier Anna Bligh's stricken Administration.

Polls continue to toll her doom. The most recent Newspoll gives the Opposition Liberal National Party a landslide 58-42 per cent lead in the two-party preferred vote that will decide the outcome.

Yet while there are serious policies aplenty, the messages keep getting obscured by sidelights including a damaging Labor attack on LNP leader Campbell Newman's finances, and - even more spectacularly - Bob Katter's Australian Party onslaught on Newman's view of gay marriage.

Katter, who sits as an independent in federal Parliament, is a colourful and controversial politician whose electorate covers a vast chunk of north Queensland, symbolised by his trademark Akubra hats.

The state branch of his new party is contesting its first election with the goal of becoming the state's third political power, pushing a conservative social agenda and robust opposition to government intervention in lifestyle.

"If you like shootin', huntin' and fishin', you know we exist," state leader Aidan McLindon says on the party's website.

On Sunday the party launched a new campaign, featuring an image by French photographer Franck Camhi of two gay friends, which he took to illustrate the issue of gay adoption and which was sold through an online image gallery.

The image features in TV advertisments that attack Newman and federal Greens leader Bob Brown.

Newman has personally supported gay marriage but has said he abided by official LNP opposition, which will directly impact on Queensland's new civil union legislation.

A voiceover asks if voters can really trust Newman to stand up for family values and resist the Greens and other minority groups, and warns: "Then think again. The LNP leader supports gay marriage just like Greens leader Bob Brown."

Camhi told the Sydney Morning Herald it was wrong to use his work in the anti-gay ads and that he would stop it if he could.

The campaign brought a barrage of anger from all sides of politics, including three Australia Party candidates who condemned it as "offensive", "appealing to the lowest common denominator" and "hideous".

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey and former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull attacked it as "a homophobic shocker" and "petty and pathetic", and gay activists intend complaining to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

Katter's gay half-brother Carl told ABC radio that the campaign ignored the high level of support for marriage equality in Queensland, and was "totally disrespectful of the many gay Queenslanders who proudly contribute to their state every day of their lives".

Katter, who was offered police protection after death threats against him and other party officials, said he respected his half-brother for speaking out but that "other people are entitled to their morality, we're entitled to ours".

Newman told Channel Ten yesterday that while the advertisements were "negative and nasty ... grubby American-style political campaigning" he would review civil union laws if he won power - but not as a priority.

Newman, meanwhile, is facing his own problems. While the LNP is soaring ahead in the polls, his chances of winning the western Brisbane seat of Ashgrove are receding, with the latest Galaxy poll predicting he will lose to Labor's Kate Jones.

And his party has been embarrassed by its candidates: two were dumped - one for visiting a swingers' club and the other for drink driving - while another was linked to a soft porn internet site, and a female campaign worker to extremist groups on a social networking site.

- NZ Herald

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