CARL Rackemann put the fear into batsmen when he took the ball – now the former Test cricketer’s ambition of taking to the field of politics is gathering the same pace his once-devastating bouncers had. A third-generation Kingaroy farmer, the 12-Test bowler is firming as the frontrunner to win the state seat of Nanango, held for 40 years by former premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, as a candidate of Bob Katter’s Australian Party. The start-up political entity is expected to win registration within days from Queensland’s Electoral Commission, as the party ramps up its campaign to challenge the political mainstream at the next state election, due by March. Party insiders are boasting of a campaign war chest that will exceed $2 million, with more than $500,000 already donated from a disparate band of backers that includes a union, an arms dealer and fishing and ethanol lobbyists normally welded to the Nationals.Vice-president Robert Noia last night told The Australian that the party was a new force to be reckoned with, echoing the optimism of Mr Katter, his father-in-law and federal independent MP, that it could hold the balance of power, or better, in Queensland.
“We are expecting to hear about our registration in the next few days, and so far we are not expecting any problems,” Mr Noia said. “We have the funding, the organisation and we are getting quality candidates, like Carl, that could deliver us 30 seats. We will be standing in probably 75 of the 89 seats.”
Mr Katter’s party – dubbed by former Coalition premier Rob Borbidge as “One Nation with a hat” – is tapping into renewed discontent about the mainstream parties, akin to that which delivered 11 seats to One Nation in 1998, as well as growing anger about farmers’ rights in the face of the spread of mining.
Mr Rackemann, who joined two rebel cricket tours to South Africa in the 1980s, said it was this debate over the rights of farmers, as well as the future of Australia’s food growing capacity and mining, that convinced him to enter politics.
Nanago’s incumbent, independent Dorothy Pratt, a five-term MP first elected as a One Nation candidate, tried to recruit him as her endorsed candidate. But Mr Rackemann said it was Mr Katter’s strong views about giving farmers greater rights over their land that convinced him to join the fledgling party.
“This country was supposed to have been built on the sheep’s back, but it seems people think we don’t need the sheep any more,” he said. “The party is not against mining, but what is missing is the rights of the landholder . . . at the moment they have no rights and that is clearly wrong.”