Q&A: Bob Katter drops 'blackfella' bombshell
MAVERICK MP Bob Katter had viewers confused Monday night when he said he sometimes "identified as a blackfella" during an emotional episode of Q&A.
The Queensland Independent caused consternation on social media as he repeatedly referred to himself using the word, during the televised debate in Alice Springs.
Asked about land title, he replied: "I identify as a blackfella on occasion and I'll identify this time as a blackfella - we are the most land-rich people on Earth, we blackfellas in Australia, and we are not allowed to use it. We are not allowed to have a title deed.
"We should be rich. We're not, because we can't get a title deed. Why won't government give it to us?"
Later, answering a question about youth imprisonment from former teenage inmate Dylan Voller , Katter repeated his claim: "The cost of a child in detention in Queensland is $580,000 a year. We put in a wild kid and we get back a professional criminal. 'Oh, jeez, that was great achievement!' Putting a kid in a steel cage like an animal ... after going on a joy-ride with his big brother ... seems to me unfair and unjust. Give us some credit - give we blackfellas some credit."
The Katter's Australian Party leader has said he has mixed and unknown heritage before, but astonished Twitter users seemed unprepared for his assertion.
Why does Bob Katter keep calling himself a blackfella? #qanda— Judith Ridge (@msmisrule) July 3, 2017
What does well known blackfella Bob Katter have to say about this? #qanda— Leo D'Angelo Fisher (@DAngeloFisher) July 3, 2017
Katherine MLA Sandra Nelson summed up the general feeling when she asked: "'I identify as a black fella on occasion' #WTH does that even mean #BobKatter ? #qanda #confusingtimes."
But a Twitter user called Aussie Alternative posted: "Unlike White identity, Aboriginal identity is INCLUSIVE, anyone can claim to be Aboriginal no matter how indigenous you are."
Katter has long been an advocate for indigenous workers and families, and his father Bob Senior was outspoken in support of racial equality, campaigning to abolish segregated seating between blacks and whites at the cinema.
In April 2013, Katter told Fairfax Media: "I identify with them. I'm not white and I come from Cloncurry. I'm not too sure where my racial background has come from but I am not going to argue if someone calls me a blackfella. I'm not going to argue that I am not," he says.
"There's a name in Cloncurry. We call ourselves the Curry Mob. There's Afghans and Lebanese, a lot of Chinese. You name it, you'll find them in Cloncurry. They've all intermarried over 220 years and they just refer to themselves as the Curry Mob."
In a Courier Mail interview published in April 2016, Katter's son Robbie said the family was sensitive to race relations because "we're not exactly purebred merinos", adding: "Our family are half-dark themselves and I guess they didn't care who they employed. They gave a lot of credit to the Aboriginal stockmen who came in off the stations."
'KATTER LOGIC IS LIKE STRING THEORY'
It wasn't the only moment Katter confused viewers. His rambling replies regularly had people struggling to keep up.
"Where I came from, we held the British Empire at bay for 60 years," he said, while talking about rehabilitation. "Give us some credit. What we did in the good old days - 200 years ago - was if you played up, you were sent out into the bush and you stayed out in the bush until you were prepared to behave yourself. The name used in most of the northern tribes was Budjeka - banishment.
"What happens out there? That's clearly the direction you want to be going. To give these kids the skills - not an education. Look, I come from a town where we didn't have a high school. My brother and cousins were forming in the councils, forming in the mine raids, engine drivers in the railway - three of the working mines in Cloncurry were all owned by First Australians. We got out of an education - if we have the incentive, the carrot and the stick, those incentives have been taken away ... I think the pathway, the old way, was the good way - eminently sensible, and saved us a hell of a lot of money as well."
VOLLER'S AWKWARD MOMENT
But at least Katter is never stuck for words. The most awkward moment of the night came after Mr Voller asked his cogent question about why more wasn't been done to rehabilitate young offenders.
After the panel addressed the issue, guest host Virginia Trioli decided to press him a little further, but this time, he was not so eloquent.
"Dylan, I just wanted to come back to you briefly before we move to the next question," she said. "We learnt a fair bit about your very troubled past and some rather violent behaviour by you during the royal commission. I just wondered if your life is back on track now, and how you're feeling?"
He replied: "Yeah, it's good."
Trioli tried again: "Yeah? Do you have some work?"
Mr Voller's answer: "Yeah."
An awkward pause. "Good. That's good to hear," said Trioli, and the conversation moved on.
WHY IS ALICE SO EXPENSIVE?
The debate covered Aboriginal rights, education and language - but the biggest cheer of the night came when a questioner raised the insane cost of accessing Alice Springs.
He said he and his wife were going on their honeymoon next month and it was costing more to fly from Alice Springs to Adelaide return than Adelaide to Croatia return. "Tourism would be higher and more people would live in Alice Springs if the prices weren't so expensive," he said.
Chair of Tourism Central Australia Dale McIver said she had sat down with the two major airlines that fly to the remote Northern Territory town - the gateway to popular destinations of Uluru and the Red Centre.
Asked how they justify those prices, she replied: "Not very well, unfortunately."
She said the airlines had mentioned "commercial viability" but that didn't mean much.
"We have locals here in Alice Springs that will drive 450km from Alice Springs to Uluru to get a cheaper flight," she said. "They'll leave their car there and fly back, then drive back. They'd rather sit in their car for nine hours than pay these absolutely insane prices."
Warren Snowdon was more direct: "Price gouging. Pretty simple."
The Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health said that when Tiger Air flew to Alice, "there was a bit of competition in the market and prices were forced down" but there is no longer a low-priced carrier serving Central Australia.
"So we don't have control over those airlines," he said. "They make their choices. They make the decisions. They know they've got a captive market. So they milk us."