How Bob Katter Became a Rogue Voice in the Federal Parliament

It is known as Katterland.

Kennedy’s federal electorate is more than twice the size of Victoria and stretches north from Townsville to Cairns and the border with NT. It is home to a political dynasty dating back to the 1960s.

Kennedy’s huge electorate. (Supplied: Katter Australia Party)

The seat was held by Robert Cummin Katter (Bob Senior) from 1966 to 1990, and on May 21, his son, Robert Bellarmine Katter (Bob Junior), is tipped off to celebrate his 10th electoral victory the same seat.

It will be a big weekend for the man known for his love for Akubras and propensity for sassy statements.

If he wins, the 77-year-old-to-be will be one of the oldest elected politicians.

And as the fears of Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese surface and voters deliver a hung parliament, Mr. Katter and his Katter Australia Party (KAP) may also be celebrating a new era of influence.

Bob Katter speaks in the House of Representatives. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

The popularity of eccentric politicians ‘on the rise.’

Political analysts say the casual, candid style of misfits like Mr. Katter makes them popular alternatives for voters who have left the two major parties.

“There is certainly growing dissatisfaction with Australia’s two-party system, which means more voters are open to alternatives,” said Lauren Rosewarne of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

“As global events like COVID-19 and international conflicts increase the inequality between rich and poor, I think you will see the popularity of these maverick characters grow.”

Federal Parliament

Analysts say that Maverick characters like Bob Katter are an attractive option for non-political voters. (Provided: Bob Katter)

Never one to shy away from a bizarre statement, some of Mr. Katter’s more infamous comments include a promise to “walk backward to Bourke” if there were homosexuals in northern Queensland.

Meanwhile, his transition from same-sex marriage to crocodiles went viral during a media interview in 2017.


Despite his unabashed conservatism, some voters who never considered Mr. Katter agree with some of his more progressive views.

“I always thought he was joking, but then I saw his tweet about giving more support to aged care and retirees with things like free solar hot water systems, and I was like, ‘Yeah, Bob!'” a Mount Isa woman said.

An Indigenous woman at a health conference in Mount Isa said she was a fan of his “boots-on-the-ground” approach, despite being inconsistent with his policies.

“I don’t agree with a lot of his posts, but I vote for him because he and Robbie came to the funeral of one of our elders, which meant a lot to me,” she said.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, and up and down hands for volume. Bob Katter 2016 Federal Election Promo (Supplied: Bob Katter)

An unlikely career

Mr. Katter comes from a pedigree of politicians.

The shearers’ strike of 1891 led to the involvement of the Katter family in politics. (Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

During the shearers’ strike of 1891, the family joined the Australian Labor Party. Active trade unionist Bob Senior joined the party after World War II.

In the 1950s, Bob Senior left the Labor Party and joined the Country Party, where he defended Kennedy’s seat and won in the 1966 poll. He would win the seat nine more times.

However, Bob Katter Junior had no ambitions to follow his father into politics.

Rather, his dream was to run his grandfather’s clothing business in Cloncurry – bought when Carl Robert Katter, a Lebanese draper, and Maronite Catholic, came to Australia during the gold rush.

Ramsay Street, Cloncurry, 1966. Bob Katter’s dream was to own his family’s clothing store in Cloncurry. (Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

“My ambition in life was to own the clothing stores and shops in Julia Creek and Mount Isa, become mayor of Cloncurry, and play rugby league for North Queensland,” said Mr. Katt. er.

“I don’t have any of those things, so people who say you can do whatever you want are fucking liars.”

Bob Katter Senior (left) with his son Bob Katter Junior, who never wanted to follow his father into politics. (Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

‘Paddle with my canoe.’

It wasn’t until the Labor Party’s Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister in 1972 that Mr. Katter, then 27, began to take an interest in politics.

“I never understood my father’s obsession with politics. I didn’t understand,” said Mr. Katter.

†[But] I suddenly went to political rallies where passionate people were eager to see Whitlam.”

In 1974, Mr. Katter won the Flinders state seat in north Queensland as a member of the National Party, which he held until 1992 before winning his father’s former Kennedy seat in the 1993 federal election.

Labor’s Rob Hulls briefly owned the chair after Bob Senior’s death in 1990.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, and up and down hands for volume. Watch Duration: 2 minutes 38 seconds 2 m 38 seconds Bob Katter leaves the National Party in 2001 (7:30)

In 2001, Bob Katter Junior split from the National Party, citing differences in economic and social policies, and continued to hold the Kennedy seat as an independent before forming the KAP in 2011.

“It was time for me to paddle my own canoe,” he said.

Mr. Katter, as the federal leader of his party, in the Queensland Election Chamber in Brisbane in March 2012. (ABC News: Rosanna Ryan)

The Katter family

Since then, the Katter family has grown in size and influence.

Bob Junior married Brisbane socialite Susie O’Rourke in 1970. They have five children and 15 grandchildren.

“My mother was thrilled that an unskilled worker married a girl like Susie,” he recalls.

Bob Katter and Brisbane socialite Susie O’Rourke married in 1970. (Provided: Bob Katter) Bob Katter and Susie O’Rourke with their children Olivia, Mary Jane, Eliza, Caroline, and Robbie. (Provided: Bob Katter)

Mr. Katter’s only son, Robbie Katter, followed him into politics as a KAP member for Traeger in the Queensland Parliament.

Bob’s daughter Eliza married Robert Nioa, owner of NIOA, Australia’s largest private arms supplier.

Meanwhile, Mr. Katter’s brother-in-law and nephew, John and Joseph O’Brien, have been heavily involved in the Copper String 2.0 project – a 1000km high-voltage power link to the north and northwest.


Livestock, Renewables & Australian Industry

The 76-year-old has long praised his party’s focus on rolling back gun laws and supporting agriculture and Australia’s growing industries.

In the pending parliament of 2010, Mr. Katter tabled 20 key policy issues during negotiations to crown Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.

They covered everything from forming a National Energy Grid to biofuel investments, food sector regulation, no carbon tax, no mining tax, parental support for stay-at-home moms, and water security.

While he is proud to be a voice for outback Queensland, not everyone is a fan.

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Bob Junior founded the Katter Australia Party with the promise of being a “voice for outback Queensland”, but not every farmer is a fan. (Provided: Bob Katter)

“I’m not eager to vote for Bob Katter. I don’t know how much benefit he brings to the community. From what I hear, he is more aggressive than progressive, and that doesn’t align with my values,” Mount Isa local Peta Craig, 29, said.

Challenging the Katter stronghold

Kennedy ALP Candidate, Jason Brandon. (Provided: Jason Brandon)

Five other candidates are between Mr. Katter and a 10th election victory, including Bryce MacDonald for the LNP, the independent Jen Sackley, the Greens’ Representative Jennifer Cox, Jason Brandon for the ALP, and Peter Campion for the United Australia Party (UAP ).

Mr. Brandon said relieving Mr. Katter was “not an easy task”, but he believed the KAP had become too comfortable.

“It’s time for a change. The most important thing for me is to go out and hear people in the electorate. I listen to people’s problems, not assuming I know what they are,” he said.

Meanwhile, LNP candidate Bryce MacDonald was aiming for Mr. Katter’s age.

“I’m younger; I’m 54 years old. I have plenty of energy left and can propel Kennedy into the future,” he said.

LNP candidate for Kennedy, Bryce MacDonald. (Provided: Bryce MacDonald)

Pass the torch

In 2020, Mr. Katter handed over the leadership of KAP to his son Robbie, marking a new era of the family’s political dynasty.

But he said that should not be interpreted as a sign that his career was about to end.

“I have no right to retire – I’m not sick, I’m not short of energy, I’m at the peak of my intellectual abilities, which may not be very high, but how would I retire?”

Election news:

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Dorothy R. Barrett

I’m a full-time blogger by passion. This is my first blog, and I'm excited to share everything that I love about technology, business, and lifestyle with you. I’m a writer by trade, and I can be found writing about tech, business, and lifestyle on my personal blog.

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