Can anyone actually understand what Bob Katter is saying? Sure, words are always there – in proliferation. There is some faint idea of context. But usually the former overwhelms the latter to create something that more resembles verbal abstract expressionism than the noble art of rhetoric bequeathed to us by Athens and Rome.
And that’s only the start. Katter deliberately styles himself as rough and rustic, a burr under the saddle, not the product of focus groups. He’s a throwback, an anachronism, a bloke who not only might use kero heaters but kerosene lamps too. Then there are his policies — a studied and deliberate rejection of everything that has given this nation an unbroken quarter century of economic growth. In short, Bob Katter doesn’t care – or at least as far as we can tell. So why should we care about him?
Yet all the usual suspects among the nannying nongs (and others who should know better) have leapt in to denounce the Member for Kennedy after a campaign ad in which he wields a cap gun appeared online via the satirical Beetoota Advocate website. Blissfully unaware of the multiplier effects of their free publicity, the phalanx of perpetual scolds lined up to condemn the shooting theme. Perhaps they have been overawed by the superstitious significance they attach to firearms, which parallels the “big white chief’s fire-bang sticks” lines from the most politically incorrect boys’ adventure books of a century ago.
More to the missed point, by fretting over Katter’s cap-gun grand guignol, they’re missing his true record. Last year he told The Australian, “As a young man of 18 I was handed an SLR rifle and had to give two next of kin phone numbers. I was in the 49th Battalion and we were on a full war footing with Indonesia.”
Ross Eastgate, a writer on matters military for the Townsville Bulletin, has been examining this and other claims for some time. Today he reports:
“According to Bob Katter, at age 18 he was handed a rifle and as a member of the 49th Battalion – ‘father’s battalion’ – was at the forefront of Australia’s wars with Indonesia and Vietnam. Never mind in 1963 when Robert Carl Katter was 18 Australia was not yet at war with either and he wasn’t even in the army.”
Eastgate’s report is a better catalyst for outrage than any antics for the camera with a cap gun.