Politics

Just A Friendly Reminder That Bob Katter Is Not A Good Person

He's not just a funny old guy in a cowboy hat.

bob katter

Two days ago, Katter’s Australian Party Senator Fraser Anning dragged Parliament to new lows with an extraordinarily racist maiden speech, which he used to slander Muslims and call for a “final solution” to Australia’s “immigration problem”.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it took less than 24 hours for Anning’s party leader, Bob Katter, to pile on. Katter’s comments were nothing short of appalling — he said he backed Anning’s words “1000%”, and described the racist tirade as “a magnificent speech. It was solid gold.”

Katter did not stop there. He suggested that the question of whether people of Muslim faith should be allowed to come to Australia should be put to a public vote. When asked if his party was racist, his response was “are we racist? We’re Australians. I don’t know if that’s racist or not. I’m not apologising to anyone for it”.

When asked if his own Lebanese grandfather would have been allowed into the country under the kind of rules he’s advocating for, he broke in to snap that “no he’s not, he’s an Australian”.

“And I resent strongly you describing him as Lebanese. That is a racist comment, and you should take it back, and you should be ashamed of yourself for saying it in public.”

This morning, he doubled down on that point, shouting that “I think asking people where their forebears come from is the height of bad manners”. He then suggested the journalist should be beaten. No sense of irony at all, just dangerous rage.

Katter said plenty more, too, but Amy Remeikis over at The Guardian nailed it when she wrote yesterday that “I cannot transcribe all of this. I won’t. It’s wrong and it’s hateful and it’s incoherent.”

“Anyone who is listening to this, and still thinks Bob Katter is a harmless joke, someone who is good to make fun of in parliament, because he says his bullshit with a laugh and a reference to thousands of flowers blooming, I hope you have found your line.”

That’s a point worth dwelling on, because too many people — this website included — have at times dismissed Katter as exactly that: a harmless joke, an old guy who says weird bullshit.

During the marriage equality debate, we had a good laugh at Katter suggesting we had our priorities wrong even discussing the issue when “every three months, a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in North Queensland”. Katter has a long history of demonising queer people. He once claimed that there are no gay people in his electorate, and if there were, he’d walk backwards to Bourke. Katter’s own brother is gay.

Katter’s support for Anning isn’t surprising, either. In 2017, he was filmed saying he doesn’t want “any Muslims” in Australia. We’ve watched this guy produce political ads that feature him pretending to shoot his political opponents, and sure, we were concerned, but mostly we wrote it off as “bizarre”.

But Remeikis and everyone slamming Katter’s comments yesterday are right: Katter crossed the line long before yesterday. This man is not a joke, or a funny old guy in a cowboy hat, or someone who just spouts racist crap at the occasional press conference but is ultimately somehow harmless. Bob Katter, Fraser Anning, and anyone endorsing the ideas we heard from them this week are not harmless. Incoming Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi put it perfectly yesterday when she pointed out that “we could all be more aware of the sustained abuse that some of us have to weather”.

“We can’t ignore the real consequences this will have for the people on the street,” she wrote. “There is no doubt in my mind that many migrants and especially Muslim-Australians woke up this morning deeply anxious, worried about the license Anning’s speech gives to racist opportunists.”

She’s right. Katter’s platform, and the way he wields it, are dangerous. They threaten people. See for example how Katter concluded his press conference yesterday, if you can call twenty-odd minutes of quite literally shouting racist and dangerously inaccurate garbage a press conference:

“You know what I’m going to do, when you come at me?” he said. “I’m going to go after your head. Big time, with aggression.” That sounds like a threat, because it is. We should be treating it like one.