Will the Katter-Hanson Political union end in disaster?
Any student of politics is well advised to study the 1979 Monty Python film The Life of Brian.
One scene especially speaks for the ages: at the Colosseum, John Cleese's anti-Roman People's Front of Judea spits its hatred for the rival Judaean People's Front. Even more detested is the Judaean Popular People's Front - a tiny faction consisting of a single man.
"Splitter!" the PFJ yells at the sad and lonely figure.
Splitter. Rat. Snake. This is the language of a very special hate reserved for one-time ideological comrades who 'cross over' to the enemy.
Cleese's Colosseum scene mocks far-left political parties hopelessly divided since the early 1900s. Indeed, for the most of the 20th century Communist Parties everywhere - often tiny outfits fighting Quixotic battles in democratic countries - fought bitter ideological wars over whom to support: the Soviet Union? China? The purged Trotsky? Or someone else?
But division is not the sole property of the Left.
Look at the various incarnations of the Republican Party in the United States in recent years. The mainstream Reagan Republicans compete with the Moderates, with the more recent Tea Party distinct from Trumpers who arrogantly deride all opponents as RINOs - "Republican in Name Only".
Australian conservatism is far from immune. Put aside the differences between Liberals and Nationals: they're mainstream parties representing very different economic interests.
I'm instead talking about the splits at the fringes of Australian reactionary conservatism, with most of these flaky outfits hiving off from the Libs and Nats in recent years. Think Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives, or Clive Palmer's PUP (now the UAP) - and the Glen Lazarus Team and Jacqui Lambie Network that fractured from Palmer. There's also Queensland's own short-lived City-Country Alliance or New Country Party or, of course, Katter's Australian Party or, the queen of them all, Pauline Hanson's One Nation.
But this array of right-wing outfits isn't so much a rainbow coalition but a mashup of overlapping interests more closely resembling a Jackson Pollock painting. And not genuine grassroots movements but mere splinter groups formed by some very rich and very powerful politicians.
Put simply, these little players hate each other more than they do Labor and the Coalition.
Why? Because they're each hungry sharks in a very small tank populated by a limited number of voting fish. And don't forget that every first preference vote after four percentage points hooks almost three dollars in taxpayer funding.
That's why the informal alliance between Hanson and Katter announced a few days ago is so remarkable. In fact, many will wonder why the two parties just don't go the whole hog and officially merge into one party. With shared resources and a single policy platform - Hanson could court votes in the south while Katter campaigns in the north - the LNP would face real challenge in regional Queensland at next year's state election.
Superficially, this appears sensible. Both parties claim to represent agricultural interests in a rural Australia traumatised by globalisation, and each speaks a plain language accessible to the dispossessed.
But such a political marriage would prove disastrous in the long-term, and even this temporary alliance is doomed in inviting ridicule from the very voters it's supposed to serve.
First, KAP and PHON were founded by two very different politicians from two very different parties: Katter always has, and always will, be from an old Country Party that prioritised Queensland agriculture over not only city interests but also before other regional concerns such as mining. Katter's stake is almost wholly economic, and that's why KAP's vote today is locked up in just a few seats.
By contrast, Hanson is a former Liberal small businesswoman from an urban centre. And where she once championed tariffs to kick start manufacturing, this has been abandoned in favour of fearmongering over cultural issues such as Muslim immigration and Safe Schools. It's that very vagueness of what PHON stands for (or, rather, against) that allows Hanson to hoover up disaffected votes across the state.
Second, Hanson and Katter have been, and will remain, remain suspicious of one another. Right from Katter's founding of KAP in 2011, PHON powerbrokers have criticised Bob for treading on its turf.
Third, voters fed up with mainstream parties will be aghast that Hanson and Katter - the so-called non-politicians standing up for ordinary people - are engaging in the very alliances and preference swaps they hate in the major parties.
The lesson, then, is simple. View any Han-Kat marriage for what is: a political trick to maximise votes and electoral funding.
Paul Williams is a columnist for The Courier-Mail.