Iconic Aussie breaks silence on new honour

QUESTION TIME
Bob Katter during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Bob Katter’s been a staple in Australian politics for nearly as long as anyone can remember.

And this week, the prime minister announced the maverick MP was being given the rare honour of having a portrait commissioned to commemorate his decades of service.

In making the announcement last week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the independent politician had served more than half a century as an “institution in his own right”.

Mr Katter, 79, confessed he “can’t see why” he is being chosen to have his portrait hung in parliament – but does have one hopeful theory.

“I just don’t think that I’m really a very important person in any way,” he told NewsWire.

Helen Haines Regional Housing Bill
Bob Katter will have a portrait hung in parliament in honour of his long service to Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I think the blokes that decided on this, they wanted a tribute to ordinary Australians and this was a way of saying that.

“They might not have been remarkable, won gold medals or played for Manly or Cowboys or whatever but just ordinary people.

“I would hope that’s what it’s all about.

“If my picture is up there, I hope they know that picture is of them and not me.”

Reflecting on joining the wall of honour, Mr Katter admitted while he was “being a bit naughty”, he believed all the portraits currently on the walls of parliament accurately portrayed their sitters.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Bob Katter have formed a friendship during their time in politics, according to the PM. Picture: PMO via NewsWire
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Bob Katter have formed a friendship during their time in politics, according to the PM. Picture: PMO via NewsWire

“They have all the prime ministers, and I suppose I’m being a bit naughty here but the artists have brought out brilliantly the personality of each of them,” he said.

“Gough Whitlam looks like he’s in out of space, Malcolm Fraser looked very, very superior, Bob Hawke looked drunk.

“I think the artists have done a very good job.

“Jack (John) McEwen, he’s my hero and he’s on the wall.

“I wouldn’t have tangled with Jack, not for a million quid. He’s one tough mother, and again, they captured the essence of him in that portrait.

“Even Kevin Rudd looked intelligent and concerned, and that’s probably a fair call.”

Bob and Susie Katter, on their wedding day. The happy couple celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2020. Picture: Supplied
Bob and Susie Katter, on their wedding day. The happy couple celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2020. Picture: Supplied

Mr Katter’s career in politics has certainly been a memorable one for the public.

The Kennedy MP has gone viral on several occasions with his wild antics and hot takes on day-to-day politics.

At a press conference during the same sex marriage debate, he declared: “People are entitled to their sexual proclivities, I mean, let there be a thousand blossoms bloom as far as I’m concerned but I ain’t spending any time on it (marriage equality) because in the meantime, every three months, a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in North Queensland.”

He’s not afraid to dress up, having donned an inflatable pig costume to protest the market power of Australia’s major supermarket chains, and a grim reaper outfit to highlight the death of the nation’s car manufacturing industry.

Bob Katter, in his office, has always been a colourful part of Australian politics. Picture: Supplied
Bob Katter, in his office, has always been a colourful part of Australian politics. Picture: Supplied

Most recently, the colourful MP shared his view on politics in a video on TikTok, where he told the internet he had worked as a labourer in the mines before venturing into politics, elected first as a Queensland MP in 1974 before winning a federal seat in 1993.

In the clip, he says he “wouldn’t touch” a career as a politician for the money, despite his $200k pay packet.

When asked if he found the gig stressful, he responded: “No, I stress other people.”

But Mr Katter told NewsWire what keeps lighting the fire in his belly is fighting for everyday Australians.

“I love a fight, my life centred around rugby league and I got (into) my 70s I was still running all the rugby league in north Queensland,” he said.

“I love a fight but I don’t like losing, and I’m in fights now where I’m losing all the time.”

Mr Katter said one of his proudest achievements in politics was helping to prevent the Howard Government from selling off the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, which was one of the largest engineering projects undertaken in Australia.

Kennedy MP Bob Katter has fought to stop the sale of Australian industries. Picture: Supplied
Kennedy MP Bob Katter has fought to stop the sale of Australian industries. Picture: Supplied

In 2006, then-Prime Minister John Howard announced his government had abandoned the $3 billion sale of its 13 per cent stake in the publicly funded Snowy scheme.

“That was not a North Queensland issue, that was not a Kennedy issue, but it was an Australian issue,” Mr Katter said.

“We rescued the control of the electricity industry from some foreign government.

“Both political parties, both state and federal governments and both upper and lower house all voted to sell the Snowy Mountains. You control the electricity industry in Australia if you own Snowy Mountains Hydro.

“You can say it's to no avail because China owns 42 per cent of the electricity in Australia now.

“But what sort of country buys its electricity from China? The leadership of the country is doing that, not the people of Australia.”

Bob Katter had plans to blows up the 'Queensland economy' at one stage of his career. Picture: Supplied
Bob Katter had plans to blows up the 'Queensland economy' at one stage of his career. Picture: Supplied
Bob Katter has previously raised his concern after his cash was rejected at a cafe in Canberra's Parliament House. Photo: Supplied
Bob Katter has previously raised his concern after his cash was rejected at a cafe in Canberra's Parliament House. Photo: Supplied

While the former Nationals MP turned independent before starting his own political party in 2011, Mr Katter said he originally decided to throw his hat in the ring and run for politics more than 50 years ago because he didn’t like what he was seeing play out in Canberra.

“To be honest, there was a collapse in the mining industry, I’m a mining man working in my own mines and there was collapse in the cattle industry and I own cattle as well and I was bored silly,” he said.

“But Whitlam did untold damage to this country and what was left, Keating finished off and the Liberals made sure that we stayed buried.

“I could see what was coming with Whitlam and I was terrified, so I started racing off to political meetings and shooting my mouth off.

“I knew 13 blokes were going to run for that seat and I wasn’t one of them but when Whitlam came in they obviously liked what I was saying.”

The Katter family has a strong history in politics across three generations. Bob Katter Senior (left) and Bob Katter Junior (right) pictured with future Queensland MP Robbie Katter as a baby. Pictures Supplied
The Katter family has a strong history in politics across three generations. Bob Katter Senior (left) and Bob Katter Junior (right) pictured with future Queensland MP Robbie Katter as a baby. Pictures Supplied

While Mr Katter’s fight isn’t over yet, he hoped others looking to make valuable change in their community will consider giving politics a go.

“If you get out there and fight, you might pull off enormous things for your country,” he said.

“We’ve got to get more people in there who have a good tiger in their tank and might get tears in their eyes on Anzac Day.”

While Mr Katter declined to directly address WA Labor Senator Fatima Payman’s resignation from the party this week, he said there was “fundamental change” washing over Canberra, and he expected to see more politicians ditching major parties for the crossbench.

“The European newspapers are still talking about left and right (factions) but that’s completely wrong,” he said.

“It’s just not an explanation of the current political behaviour. There’s proactive and precautionary and that is a much better explanation of parliament today.

“I would say (it’s becoming) more of a democratic system where the voice of the people is actually heard instead of the voice of the powerful.”

Senator Bob Katter To Introduce Re-Establish Manufacturing Motion As Parliament Sitting Continues
Senator Bob Katter dressed as the grim reaper at Parliament House in June 2020. The stunt was part of his plan to introduce a motion in the House of Representatives that Australia support the re-establishment of an Australian car manufacturing. Picture: Sam Mooy/Getty Images
Question Time
Bob Katter says he’s long stood up for the everyday Australian in parliament. Picture: NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Katter said he expected to see more people on the crossbench alongside him and his colleagues in the future.

“When you think trade unions, don’t think about the person with dirt under their fingernails or wearing blue steel boots, think in terms of university double degrees sitting in an office, because that’s most of the trade unions today,” he said.

“Most of the trade unions today fit entirely into that category. The aspirational classes, people like myself represent, and a lot of the crossbenchers represent aspirational classes.

“The old ‘left’ and ‘right’ is so irrelevant today.”