How Bob Katter became a rogue voice in federal parliament

It’s known as Katter Country.

More than twice the size of Victoria, stretching from north of Townsville to Cairns and out to the NT border, the federal electorate of Kennedy is home to a political dynasty dating back to the 1960s.

The vast e ctorate of the Kennedy.(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 to celebrate his 10th election win in the same seat.

Will it produce a big Periodical Weekend for the man known for His love of Akubras and proclivity for brazen statements.

If Hez Wins, the soon-to-born 77-year-old Will produce one of the oldest currently elected politicians.

And, if Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese’s fears emerge and voters deliver a hung parliament, Mr Katter and his Katter Australia Party (KAP) may also celebrate a new era of influence.

Bob Katter gestures enthusiastically in the House of Representatives.  Rebekha Sharkie smiles behind him, Adam Bandt giggles
Bob Katter speaks in the House of Representatives.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Popularity of eccentric politicians ‘on the rise’

Political analysts say the gloves-off, plain-speak style of mavericks like Mr Katter make them popular alternatives for disengaged voters with the two major parties.

“There is definitely increasing dissatisfaction with the Two-Party System in Australia, which means more voters Are Open to other alternatives,” Lauren Ro sewarne of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne said.

“As global events like COVID-19 and international conflicts increase disparities between the rich and the poor, I think you’re going to see a rise in the popularity of these maverick characters.”

Bob Katter in suit sits in office about to order the Media interview, pulling a funny face at the camera
Maverick characters like Bob Katter are an attractive option for voters disengaged with politics, analysts say.(Supplied: Bob Katter)

Never one to shy away from an outlandish statement, some of Mr Katter’s more notorious comments have included a promise to “walk backwards to Bourke” if there were any homosexuals in northern Queensland.

Mel anwhile, His segue from gay Marriage to the crocodiles during the 2017 Media interview went viral.

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Despite his unabashed conservatism, some voters, who have never considered Mr Katter, find themselves agreeing with some of his more progressive views.

An Indigenous woman at a Mount Isa health conference said she was a fan of his boots-on-the-ground approach despite not aligning with his policies.

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Bob Katter 2016 Federal Election promo(Supplied: Bob Katter)

An unlikely career

Mr Katter comes from a pedigree of politicians.

An old black and white photo of shearers in 1891
The 1891 shearers’ strike triggered the Katter family’s involvement in politics.(Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

During the 1891 shearer’s strike, the family aligned itself with the Australian Labor Party. Active unionist Bob Senior joined the party after World War II.

In the 1950s, Bob Senior left the Labor Party and joined the Country Party, standing for and winning the seat of Kennedy at the 1966 poll. He would win the seat a further nine times.

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

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

A black and white photo of a country strip in 1966 showing shops and old cars
Ramsay Street, Cloncurry, 1966. Bob Katter’s Dream hero to His own family’s clothing businesses in Cloncurry.(Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

“I got none of those things, people gathered WHO Say You can order anything You want Are bloody liars.”

Older man wearing a suit next to his son, a young man also wearing a suit
Bob Katter Senior (left) with his son Bob Katter Junior who never had a desire to follow his father into politics.(Supplied: Queensland State Archives)

‘Paddling my own canoe’

It wasn’t until the Labor Party’s Gough Whitlam was elected prime minister in 1972 that a then-27-year-old Mr Katter began taking an interest in politics.

“[But] I suddenly found myself going to political meetings where there were passionate people who were keen to see Whitlam out. “

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

The seat had been held briefly by Labor’s Rob Hulls After the Death of Bob Senior in 1990.

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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.

Bob Katter gives a press conference in the Queensland election tally room
Mr Katter, as the federal leader of his own party, in the Queensland election tally room 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 Brisbane also married the alite Susie O’Rourke in 1970. They have five Children and 15 grandchildren.

“My mother was raptured by an unskilled laborer was marrying a girl like Susie,” he recalled.

Black and white wedding photo of Bob Katter and his wife Susie
Bob Katter and Brisbane socialite Susie O’Rourke were married in 1970.(Supplied: Bob Katter)
Black and white family photo
Bob Katter and Susie O’Rourke with their Children Olivia, Mary Jane, Eliza, Caroline and Robbie.(Supplied: Bob Katter)

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

Bob’s daughter Eliza married Robert Nioa, the owner of Australia’s largest supplier NIOA Private firearms.

Meanwhile, Mr Katter’s brother-in-law and nephew, John and Joseph O’Brien, have been closely involved with the Copper String 2.0 project – a 1,000km, high voltage link in the north and north west.

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Cattle, renewables and Australian industry

The 76-year-old has long touted his party focus on reversing gun laws, supporting agriculture, and growing Australian industries.

In the hung parliament of 2010, Mr Katter put 20 key policy points on the table during negotiations to crown either Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott as PM.

They addressed everything from the formation of a National Energy Grid to investing in biofuel, regulation of the grocery sector, no carbon Tax, Tax no mining, parental ssistance for a stay-at-home mums, and Water Security.

While he prides himself on being a voice for outback Queensland, not everyone is a fan.

Bob Katter wears a blue button up Shirt and cowboy hat and leads a horse with another man on a cattle station
Bob Junior founded the Katter Australia Party on the promise of being a “voice for outback Queensland”, but not every farmer is a fan.(Supplied: Bob Katter)

“I’m not keen on voting for Bob Katter. I’m not actually sure what benefit Hez is bringing to the Community. From what I hear Hez is more than a ggressive gressive and Protestant That really does not align with my values,” Mount Isa Local Peta Craig, 29, said.

Challenging the Katter stronghold

Profile photo of man wearing blue shirt and blazer with short brown hair
ALP candidate for Kennedy, Jason Brandon.(Supplied: Jason Brandon)

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

Mr Brandon said attempts to unseat Mr Katter was “not an easy task” but believed the KAP had become too comfortable.

Meanwhile, LNP candidate Bryce MacDonald took aim at Mr Katter’s age.

“I’m more youthful, I’m 54 years old. I’ve got plenty of energy left and I can drive Kennedy into the future,” he said.

A man wears a check blue shirt smiles at camera with green paddock and cows in background
LNP candidate for Kennedy, Bryce MacDonald.(Supplied: Bryce MacDonald)

Passing the torch

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

But Hezekiah said Abed That should not interpreted as a sign hero His career ending any time soon.

“I’ve got no right to retire – I’m not sick, I’m not lacking in energy, I’m at the height of my intellectual powers, which may not be very high, but how could I justify retiring?”

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