OPINION

Voice of Real Australia: Watch out, there's been another Katter coronation

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Mount Isa-based Derek Barry.

This announcement is not to be confused with Bob Katter's retirement. Photo: Shutterstock

This announcement is not to be confused with Bob Katter's retirement. Photo: Shutterstock

The coronation of the Katters took place in Brisbane on Monday when Robbie Katter's reign began with reins given to him by his father Bob, ever with an eye to good publicity.

This announcement is not to be confused with Bob Katter's retirement which is not happening any time soon.

"I assure you, I ain't leaving the arena and I'm certainly not handing them my sword and shield over either," he said.

But Mr Katter wants to spend more time in the background dealing with enemies such as "the free marketeers and the lily-pad left" leaving Robbie to become the KAP's new front man.

Robbie is the third Katter of that name to become monarch of his domain (and there could even be a Robert IV in waiting in the years to come).

The half-century-old North Queensland dynasty was started when the late Bob Katter Senior (Robert I) won the seat of Kennedy in 1966 and held it until 1990.

TWO BOB: Bob Katter gives reins to son Robbie in Brisbane on Monday while state KAP MPs Nick Dametto and Shane Knuth look on. Photo: supplied.

TWO BOB: Bob Katter gives reins to son Robbie in Brisbane on Monday while state KAP MPs Nick Dametto and Shane Knuth look on. Photo: supplied.

After a gap of three years, when heaven forbid, Labor won the seat, Bob Katter Junior (Robert II) won it back in 1993 and no one has been able to take it out of his cold, but very much alive, hands ever since.

Mr Katter (we can dispense with the "junior" now he is 74 years old) has had an iconoclastic political journey, a mouthy and stunt-filled odyssey that saw him withdraw from the National Party in 2001 and found his own party Katter's Australian Party 10 years later.

Despite being seen as a loud clown in southern parts, the electors of Kennedy have loved Mr Katter's unique schtick and have given him a healthy majority in 10 out of the 11 elections he has faced.

The exception was a close shave in 2013 when he relied on Labor preferences to beat off a very strong LNP candidate (Noeline Ikin, who sadly died of a brain tumour, was unable to challenge him again three years later).

His son Robbie (Robert III) emerged from council politics to win the state seat of Mount Isa in 2012 and has held it ever since. State MP Shane Knuth also jumped ship from the Nationals to the KAP, and he and a third MP Nick Dametto won election to Queensland parliament in 2017. They will be looking at the very least to defend their turf in October's state election.

The three state MPs map perfectly onto Bob Katter's federal seat and therein lies the problem of how to make this mentality of "North Queensland First" (though that party name has already been taken by another northern maverick Jason Costigan) into something that might resonate with the voters of say, Longman, in outer Brisbane.

A clue as to how they might do this lies in Bob (Robert II) Katter's 2012 book An Incredible Race of People, where he talks about his colour-coded heroes: inter-war Labor politician Edward "Red Ted" Theodore and post-war Country party leader John "Black Jack" McEwen.

Theodore was a state premier and later federal treasurer and Mr Katter admires him for fiscal policies that tried to lift Australia out of the Great Depression by expanding the money supply (he was defeated in parliament) while McEwen was the arch protectionist determined to fight to keep manufacturing jobs in Australia.

This mix-and-match populist political style is not too distant from that perfected by Donald Trump and there are many similarities between Katter and Trump, both in style and substance.

Robbie Katter, however, couldn't be more unlike either of them.

Robert III is quieter, self-deprecating, well liked in parliament, and very much focused on individual issues (such as high airfares) rather than political philosophy, which he leaves to his father.

It remains to be seen whether Bob will be "pope emeritus" or the real power behind the throne but for now, Robbie's got the reins.

Derek Barry

editor, North West Star

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