Almanac Rugby League – Katter’s FNQ position stable thanks to good old rugby league

When, on Wednesday, Bob Katter rose to his feet in the lower house of the national parliament and defended Johnathan Thurstons, some condemned his actions. They said that Australian politics had fallen to the depths, and that it showed how disgraceful this parliament was. (“The worst in Australian history”).

People weren’t of that view in Far North Queensland where New South Wales officials are (to use a favourite Katterism) as popular as a taipan in your sleeping bag.

Katter began with a nod to rationality: “The citing [of Thurstons] by the match review committee stemmed from an incident in which both the half-back and referee were looking in a different direction from that in which they were moving…Neither party could be regarded as culpable, responsible, or even as initiating the incident.”

But he couldn’t contain himself, and he followed up with what they really believe up there. This was a Sydney-based match review panel. And there were only two ways of interpreting the panel’s action. It proved the southerners to be either mischievous (likely) or incompetent (certainly).

North Queenslanders have built a community based on two fundamental beliefs. They believe that anyone living to the south of them cannot be trusted, and they believe in rugby league. They tolerate Brisbane (brothers in arms three times a year, even if they won’t send the money north to fill the pot-holes). They abhor Sydney (politically, culturally, and especially in the rugby league sense). And there are no words in the North Queensland lexicon which will convey to their young the depth of loathing for Canberra.

Bob Katter is the personification of the two beliefs; the incarnation of what is pure and right. He loves rugby league: he is a huge (and genuine) fan of the Cowboys. He is deeply suspicious of the south.

Bob grew up in Charters Towers which is a terrific sporting town. The old gold mining community, a couple hours inland from Townsville, has one of the great cricket carnivals of the world (not an exaggeration), called the Goldfield Ashes which was first staged just after the war. These days about 150 teams from the far north descend on Charters for what is a wild Australia Day weekend.

Charters is also famous for its schools, which have a colourful heritage. They were a bit like H Division at the famous Coburg College. If you were having behavioural difficulties at school in Brisbane (that is, you were a little shite) the omnipresent threat was that you’d be sent to Charters Towers.

And so the schools there had very good rugby league teams.

Bob, I’m told, played rugby league when at Mt Carmel.

He has always loved the game. He played touch football for years, and, if you are already confused by the ideological paradoxes in Bob’s statements, consider this: he played for a team of unionists called The Reds. His teammates remember that he was late for every game.

Bob is famous for being late. He and his tribe (he has enough kids to pack a scrum and have a half-back feed it as well) were routinely so late for mass the local priest had to get a ruling from the Pope as to whether the Katters had satisfied their Holy Obligations.

Bob is of North Queensland. Up there they really do think that referee Matt Cechin has been purposefully lining up Queenslanders in the hope of getting them suspended for Origin.

To raise this in the House of Reps is political gold for Katter. He could be the member for Kennedy in perpetuity. Or as they say up there, for as long as he likes mate, ay.



About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. John Butler says


    Those who reckon this parliament is the worst in our history don’t know their history.

  2. Mark Doyle says

    A good contribution to Australian culture, John. I believe there is very little difference in the culture of all Australians, which includes local parochialism. I am not sure if this is the worst parliament in our history, but some of the federal parliaments in the early part of the 20th century plus some of our state parliaments had ‘colourful’ histories. Bob Katter is an honest and smart politician with a real empathy for his fellow North Queensland citizens. I think that he probably sees Parliament as a forum to represent all aspects of the culture of North Queensland. I also think his father was a Labor member of the QLD. parliament. North Queenslanders love their rugby league and state cricket in the same way as Victorians love their aussie rules footy and state cricket. Johnathon Thurston is just as popular in North Queensland as blokes such as Dale Thomas, Chris Judd and Joel Selwood are in Victoria. I also believe there is very little difference in the political philosophy and idealogy of most Australian people. I often hear people on Melbourne radio stations such as 774 and SEN make disparaging and patonising comments about other Australians, especially Tasmanians and South Australians and redknecks from the North. These comments are ignorant and patronising. There are just as many redknecks in the outer suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney and North Geelong as North Queensland.

  3. Mulcaster says

    Although Bob Katter Jnr lives in the Towers he is actually a “Curry Boy” and as he will tell you they remove the tear ducts from boys at birth in “The Curry”. I agree entirtelywith the suggestion that he is a very canny politician and has a deep and abiding comitment to Aboriginal people. His father was a Courty Party minister in Federal parliament. His mother was a delightful lady who owned a clothing store in Cloncurry in the 1970s (when I lived there for a sjhort period of time). His Grandfather was prominent in the ALP.

    I have had the pleasure of meeting his wife and I can say she is an adornment to North Queensland.

    Katter is the member for Kennedy a massive electorat whichj extends from the territorial limit on the great barrier reef to the Northern territory border. And from the gulf down to the inland waterways near Boulia. They do everything in his electorate from sugar to cattle and diary to wool and minng.Deep within the electorate of Kennedy lies “the outter Barcoo where churches are few and men of religion are scanty”.

    It is easy to dismiss the man as a a joke, but he has survived when others have not.

    However, having said that he goes missing from Parliament from time to time, and morphs into a foghorn whenever anyone puts a microphone infront of him.

    We Northerners actually have a broad appreciation of sport in general and Australian Rules is played everywhere. In Townsville and Cairnes we have grounds designed to the same dimensions as the MCG playing surfaces. We will play any sport from Bocchie to Beach volleyball.

    It is true that North Queenslanders have more chip than shoulder and are generally distrustful of anything from south of Mount Morgan, deeply distrustful of anything south of Noosa and absolutely untrusting of anything from south of the Tweed. But why wouldn’t we be?

  4. david butler says

    I think Barnaby Joyce, a chap who attended the prestigious Riverview College in Sydney, and a fellow whose electorate lies well below Noosa Heads had a fair crack at the NRL outside of parliament this week.

    I wonder if Barnaby or Bob remember one B Gomersall. I do, and I can remember catching the train to work one day after a State of Origin with white foam still coming out of my mouth.

    But I remember the old saying,” when there is a choice between a stuff up and a conspiracy…..always go for the stuff up”.

  5. david butler says

    Should read electorate office not electorate

  6. tim dixon says

    I love Mulcasters comment “generally distrustful of anything from south of Mount Morgan” generally somes up the situation I reckon!, I became good friends with a bloke when I lived in “Mt Isa by the sea” (Townsville), and Cairns, who used to work in Bob’s office. He reckons Bob IS as mad as a cut snake, but also the most caring and canny politician you will ever see. He told a story about Bob being as busy as hell and running late for 15 appointments, when a rather enebriated genleman entered the office after obviously being in the local since opening, my mate was in the process of telling him that Bob was very busy and he would have to make an appointment, as he was doing this Bob comes out of his office, sees what is happening and says ” no, no I will see “Mr Smith” ” and proceeds to spend the next 15 minutes asking “Mr Smith” about his troubles, how the wife and kids are etc. After a very happy “Mr Smith” leaves the office, my mate says to Bob, that he is now running ridiculously late and given the mans state he could have spoken to him later. Bob replyed that no he was one of his constituants and that anyway he would go back to the pub and tell everyone for the rest of the afternoon within earshot he had just been speaking to Bob Katter and what an understanding and great bloke he is. No wonder Bob Katter will be the member for Kennedy for as long as he wishes, he is the epitomy of NQ and FNQ, a decent bloke.

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