Vaughan Johnson MP.
Vaughan Johnson MP.

Defection claims false: LNP vet

VETERAN state MP Vaughan Johnston has dismissed as “mischievous nonsense” rumours he will desert the Liberal National Party and join maverick federal Independent Bob Katter in forming a new political movement.

Mr Johnson, named in a weekend media report along with fellow LNP sitting members Shane Knuth and David Gibson as being in secret talks for months with Mr Katter, said he was committed to the LNP under new leader Campbell Newman.

“In the exciting atmosphere that is Queensland politics at the moment, rumours abound,” Mr Johnson told the Central Queensland News.

“However, at the time the story appeared, I was driving from LNP business in Roma to attend to LNP business and then on to LNP business connected with the Mackay regional parliamentary sitting.

“I think that speaks for itself.”

Mr Johnson, 63, said it was plain to see there were “plenty of people” with a vested interest in spreading malicious rumours to destabilise a resurgent LNP at a time when polls predicted Premier Anna Bligh faced the real prospect of being trounced by Mr Newman if an election were called.

The charismatic former Brisbane Lord Mayor who left local government for a tilt at the state’s top job, has been invited to tour the Gregory electorate.

“I have invited Campbell to visit the electorate and take several days to tour it with me,” Mr Johnson confirmed.

“I am hopeful this will come to fruition very shortly.”

Mr Katter, a former Queensland National Party cabinet minister, has so far refused to name his political supporters, but claimed he was building support for a group of independent-thinking candidates for the next Federal election.

He told reporters in Canberra there was a growing “anger” at the nation’s direction - especially with the collapse of traditional industries such as sugar, dairy and manufacturing.

Mr Katter said he supported a range of policies to “protect” industry, including re-regulating the dollar and bringing interest rates into line with countries such as the United States.

He said he could not say how long it would take to form a new group.

“It might be a few days, a few weeks, a couple of months... it took me three or four years to become an independent,” he said.

“... If we are going to succeed it will be a mass movement. If we fail it will because the people fail to get behind us.”

Mr Katter said he would vote against the soon-to-be detailed carbon price, and felt it was a sign of the government’s incompetence.

Former Queensland LNP leader John Paul Langbroek accused Mr Katter of staging a cheap “publicity stunt”, while Mr Newman described the situation as a “minor irritant”.

Mr Johnson will notch up 40 years as a card-carrying member of the National Party and its merged LNP in 2012.

“I joined the party in 1972 and I fully intend to die a member,” he said.

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