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Bob Katter, up close and personal

OPINION:  The Bob Katter persona you've seen and read about everywhere this week is, well, pretty close to the real thing.

Only up close and personal, he's actually far more quirky, eccentric and warmer than the bloke often painted as a cartoon character.

Half a lifetime ago when I was managing radio stations in Far North Queensland and he was the State Member for Charters Towers in the Bjelke-Petersen government, we moved in similar circles and I got to know him pretty well.

Yes, he's a little bit crazy as are all unconventional people but he has one of the sharpest minds of anybody I know.

Even back then he was a maverick, straining against conforming to the political hair shirt imposed by the modernising Nationals and pining for the traditional values learned from ‘Old Bob' ... his dad, the Federal Member for Kennedy.

Old Bob was a died-in-the-wool Labor man who jumped ship to the DLP during the big split and then joined the Country Party at the behest of Black Jack McEwen before passing on to ‘Young Bob' a mix of agrarian socialism and an almost Marxist zeal for protecting primary industry.

Above all, Bob has a hardcore belief that just because you don't choose to live in an urban environment, it's no excuse for government, city media or big business to look at you like a bush hillbilly and treat you as a third-class citizen.

Even as a minister he always came over as uncomfortable in the party straight-jacket and it was no surprise he went Indie after taking over dad's old seat.

Yeah, you might say we got on pretty well ... and if he ever fronts up on the Coffs Coast offering support to local banana growers while booing and hissing overseas imports, many of you will get to like him as well.

And don't get him started on the supermarkets flogging cans of cheap foreign pineapple ahead of home-grown product.

Since the election, it's amazing he's managed to turn up for interviews and meetings with fellow independents because Bob is notoriously late for everything.

The moment he spots a fellow human he has to converse on everything from country music to rugby league and Australian history.

You couldn't leave the office window open because if Bob came past, an invitation to head for the White Horse Tavern would be produced and I'd spend the rest of the afternoon knocking the froth off ponies of barbed wire (7oz Fourex) while Bob gas-bagged with everybody in sight, the level of his glass of orange juice never falling.

There's an opinion (which he refuses to change) on every subject, a solution (often hair-brained) for every problem and a BS-detector extraordinaire.

A brilliant Don Quixote addicted to not just pointing at windmills but jumping on the sails and taking a ride, Katter is the blueprint of what every local member should be but most are not.

When he says his decisions will be made with the needs of the folks back home first and foremost, he means it.

This will be his biggest problem.

For this new Independent-led government to succeed, you need the other 149 members acting accordingly but under the self-interested reality of party politics, it ain't gonna happen.

If and when he boldly fails, please be gentle with my old friend.


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