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Tuesday, 8 May 1990
Page: 40


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button). Bob Katter was well known to many of us both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. As Senator Button has said, he was a person who would go out and welcome people into his electorate. I well recall him on one occasion turning up to welcome the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to his electorate at Mount Isa. When visiting Mount Isa during the last campaign, the Prime Minister offered to go and see Bob Katter in hospital.

Bob Katter was born in 1918 in Brisbane and grew up in north Queensland. He was the proprietor of the local drapery business, menswear store and picture theatre. He won the seat of Kennedy in 1966 and held it until six days before the election. Kennedy had been an Australian Labor Party electorate held by the Riordan family for two generations. Bob Katter won that seat because he had the ability to mix with the mighty and the humble and would give each the same time and consideration. He was just as much at home with the leader of the grazing community or the captain of the mining industry as he was with the ringers, fencers, fettlers, kangaroo shooters and the Aboriginals. In fact, he had a special affinity with the Aboriginal people and was extremely kind and generous to them.

Before television came to the bush, one of the main sources of entertainment in country Queensland was a night at the pictures, and it was customary at that time for Aboriginal people to sit on the hard benches either in the back or front of the theatre and the Europeans to sit in the canvas chairs. Bob Katter would not tolerate that segregation. In fact, he removed the hard chairs so that everyone was forced to share the canvas seats.

Those attributes were passed on to his son, young Bob. Bob junior played with the Cloncurry Tigers, which was an all-black team. The reason he played with the all-blacks is that he did not like racism or segregation. Bob Katter champ- ioned the causes of north Queensland and his beloved seat of Kennedy. In his maiden speech he called for the development of the north. He saw the tremendous job potential, the job opportunities and the wealth creation that were in north Queensland-the timber industry, cattle industry, mining, wool growing-and he continually fought for people in the bush to have the same facilities as were taken for granted in the cities. In his maiden speech he called for television for remote areas, and he lived to see three television stations servicing north Queensland, including his electorate. He successfully pushed for decent communication, and at present very few people in western Queensland do not have a telephone or some decent form of communication. That is a tribute to him. I can remember probably less than 12 months ago being at a meeting with him in the town of Blackall, where he continued to fight for people to get off party lines and to have some form of communication comparable to that of the cities. Bob always said that he thought everyone was entitled to know who won the last on Saturday.

Bob Katter worked hard for a decent road system in north Queensland. When he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1966 it was a seven-hour drive between Cloncurry and Mount Isa, a distance of some 200 kilometres. It is now a comfortable one-hour journey because he achieved decent roads for the north. Bob was an achiever for his massive electorate of Kennedy, an electorate that is three times the size of Victoria. Both he and his wife, Joy, moved around the electorate, calling on the major centres but never neglecting little towns like Dajarra, five or six houses. He kept in communication with his electorate. He was also a great supporter of the underprivileged.

Bob had a great many years in local Government, as Senator Button has said, as a councillor, deputy chairman and chairman of Cloncurry Shire Council. He was a man before his time in a lot of ways. As chairman of the Cloncurry Shire Council he was responsible for the installation of fridges and evaporative air conditioners by making bulk purchases and amortising them against the cost of the rates, because he knew that many of the people there could never afford those amenities that are so necessary in the heat and the dryness of western Queensland.

While he was its chairman the local shire council provided small one-room cottages for retired station workers who were living in absolutely appalling conditions in Cloncurry and were unable to afford any accommodation. He was well respected and admired in the local government community right throughout Queensland and was a member of the Queensland Local Government Association and an executive of the western Queensland local government association. He continued that interest right up until his demise. I can recall going out and meeting Senator Reid and a number of other senators on a local government committee when he was taking them around and showing them north Queensland only a couple of years ago. He served in the Army between 1936 and 1942, rising to the rank of captain. I can recall him naming one of the Army helicopters after the Kalkadoons, who were the local Aboriginal people in Cloncurry. Mr Bob Katter was a legend in Kennedy and a legend in north Queensland. There are many Katter stories told about Bob right throughout the north.

I believe that the people in Mount Isa said it all on the day of the funeral. Many thousands of people lined the streets from the church to the cemetery to pay their respects to their member of 24 years. He had won a great deal and done much for north Queensland. Bob lived by the maxim, `Work hard, play hard and pray hard'. He is survived by his wife Joy, four sons-Bob, Norman, Carl, Richard-and two daughters-Geraldine and Bernadette. On behalf of the National Party of Australia, I extend our sympathy to them.