23 July 2016
by Katharine Murphy

Bob Katter warns PM not to 'antagonise' him by proceeding with ABCC bill

Bob Katter recently agreed to give the Coalition confidence and supply in the new parliament provided various conditions were met.

MP says he is at a loss to know why Malcolm Turnbull would proceed with legislation on building watchdog given it has no hope of clearing the Senate

Crossbench kingmaker Bob Katter has warned the prime minister not to “antagonise” him by proceeding with legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which was a trigger for the recent double dissolution election.

Katter recently agreed to give the Coalition confidence and supply in the new parliament provided various conditions were met, including significant infrastructure spending in northern Australia, and no “union bashing”.

Katter declined to say whether or not he would go as far as revoking his recent confidence and supply agreement if Malcolm Turnbull proceeded with the ABCC legislation, but he said he was at a loss to know why the prime minister would proceed with the proposal given it had no hope of clearing the Senate.

“Clearly this is going to antagonise me,” Katter said on Friday. “This was introduced by an extreme faction within the Liberal party and I do not know why the government will proceed in a highly controversial area such as this when you still have no hope getting through Senate.”

“The ABCC legislation contains the removal of the right to remain silent. It also contains powers for the government to apprehend without reasonable cause to suspect.”

The Coalition has emerged from the election with a wafer-thin majority in the House of Representatives.

The latest count has the Coalition on 76 seats. If the government takes the Queensland seat of Herbert – which is currently the subject of a recount, given Labor pulled ahead by a tiny handful of votes – it will get to 77 seats.

Katter’s agreement with Turnbull is not as vital as it would have been in the event the prime minister was forced to form a minority government, but the fine balance in the new parliament means Turnbull doesn’t have much latitude to antagonise anyone in the chamber.

His own backbenchers are already flexing their muscle internally. One LNP backbencher, George Christensen, has signalled his preparedness to vote against the Coalition’s superannuation policy if it isn’t amended.

If Christensen made good on his threat, under the status quo, after the Speaker is chosen, this would mean the government would have to rely on an independent or minor party MP to get the superannuation legislation through the House.

Katter was supported in the recent election by trade unions, and he has been a consistent supporter of unions throughout his political career.

The ACTU secretary, Dave Oliver, said his expectation was Katter would stand up for the rights of workers in the new parliament.

“One thing that Bob Katter is renowned for is being a man of his word,” Oliver said. “We know he has always stood up for workers throughout his career – on industry policy, manufacturing and worker safety in particular.”

“Bob has a strong track record that I fully expect he’ll continue to add to in this parliament.”