Does Katter make headlines, or make them up?
BOB Katter is not happy with Gina Rinehart. It’s got nothing to do with her tilt at the Fairfax board, although he believes media concentration in Australia is appalling. It’s not because she wants to fly in 1700 foreign workers, although that did make Katter – the politically incorrect, protectionist, trade unionist Katter – angry.
He’s rankled because of a new issue. As he leans back on the lounge in his Parliament House office in Canberra, he explains she hasn’t helped him with his recently released book, An Incredible Race of People. ”I tried to contact her because I wanted to put her father [Lang Hancock] in my book, but she wouldn’t get back to me,” he says. ”You’ll have to talk to her as to why she didn’t want to talk to someone who wanted to put her father in the history of Australia as a great hero.”
I asked for 40 minutes with Katter in an attempt to find the difference between the man and his image. ”We’ll give you an hour, but it will probably take two,” the adviser tells me.
Katter represents the electorate of Kennedy occupying half a million square kilometres of north Queensland, from the Northern Territory border to the Pacific Ocean. The bulk of his constituents – he held the seat by a 31.7 per cent margin over his nearest rival at the last election – see him as the defender of common sense. ”Are we serious? The real crime here is the thought police stripping us of the right for boys to be boys,” is what he said when two Australian Olympic swimmers were penalised for having their photo taken in a gun shop.
Others seem incredulous he is an MP at all. ”Bob Katter wants a return to some mythical Wild West frontier land where decisions are made at 10 paces, gays are chased out of town with their pants around their ankles, and they kindly let the natives work the plantations” is how online opinion writer Tory Shepherd puts it. In reality, on her last point, he has runs on the board as Queensland’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister for four years in the 1980s. He wants rural men to have the freedom to shoot, hunt and fish, which he thinks will reduce suicides in regional Australia. Many men will back him up on this.
He argues Australia’s farmers are the most economically unprotected in the world, particularly because of the high Australian dollar.
Farmers will back him up on this.
And he is worried Australia is a vanishing race and wants to give mothers thousands of dollars to propagate. ”There can be no more definitive judgment on a race of people [than] that they simply eliminate themselves from the gene pool,” he says.
Katter, 67, has been a state or federal politician for the past 38 years. He served in the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1974 to 1992 and boasts an unbroken stint as federal MP for Kennedy since 1993. When he arrived in Canberra he did ask himself whether he should remove the hat. He decided against it and the image was born.
After I sit down in Katter’s office, his staff member reminds him the interview is being taped and everything he says is on the record. Perhaps she has been prompted by past experiences. ”I would be deeply disappointed if [SMH columnist] Gerard Henderson didn’t attack me,” Katter says.
I had asked him about Henderson’s criticisms of his book. These included Henderson’s view that the book is lopsided and ignores the fraud, dishonesty and abuse of ministerial position by Queensland premier and federal treasurer ”Red” Ted Theodore during the Mungana affair in the 1920s.
Mining properties in the Chillagoe-Mungana districts of northern Queensland were sold to the Queensland government at a grossly inflated price. Theodore owned a large chunk of the properties.
I note a photograph of Theodore looks over Katter’s shoulder as we speak. His latest book is a tome of Katter’s loves. Protectionism, the freedom to hunt, fish and shoot and the need to protect Australia’s food security. And sets out his disdain for free marketeers. He also defends Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s legacy as Queensland premier, and shrugs off the state’s police corruption problem as a difficulty every workforce faces at some point.
While parts of Australia ridicule Katter for some of his wilder statements, how much does Katter welcome the controversial headlines for his own means? He leans forward, as if to mean business. ”It’s the only way we can get any publicity,” he says. ”If I say ‘this country is a net importer of food’ I won’t get a single line in any newspaper in Australia. If I wasn’t a boofhead, no one would know who I was.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.