THERE was a new face among the election candidates who turned out at yesterday’s Tamworth Business Chamber lunch.
Sitting on the end was a Katter’s Australian Party candidate, but not for the seat of New England.
Rather, Peter Mailler is the national leader for the party’s Senate candidates and holds the coveted number one spot on the NSW Senate ticket.
It gives the grain and cattle producer from north of Moree a great chance of being elected, a prospect he’s more than ready for.
Mr Mailler said the party was hoping for three to four senators across the country, with the aim of holding the balance of power in the Senate – or at least contributing, along with independents and other minor parties, to keep upper house power out of the hands of the Coalition, the favourite to win the lower house.
To hold both, Mr Mailler said, would be a “blow to democracy” and jeopardise the Senate’s traditional role as a “house of review”.
Up until January this year, Mr Mailler was the chairman of Grain Producers Australia, a job that frequently took him to Canberra and gave him an insight into the nation’s political engine room.
It also brought him into contact with the independent member for Kennedy, whose party is contesting its first election.
Mr Mailler said “there were a lot of things that resonated quite well with me” in terms of Mr Katter’s fledgling party and prompted him to ask some questions.
He never saw himself as a politician, he said, but was asked by those involved, including Mr Katter, to consider signing up.
“I thought, ‘I could sit at home and whinge about what was happening or I could do something about it’,” he said.
Mr Mailler said while the party carried Mr Katter’s name, it was about a lot more than “Bob Katter and north Queensland”.
“I’ve been a conservative voter all my life, but I think it’s clear the Nationals have been captured by the Coalition,” he said.
“We need a more effective rural voice in Canberra and this party is interested in being here for the long-term. We want to be a legitimate third voice.”