Family ties: One on one with Carl Katter
No longer able to withstand the ridicule of same-sex marriage and the LGBT community by politicians like his half-brother Bob, Carl Katter appeared on national television to make a stand. Enter our newest hero.
Carl Katter is truly of a rare breed. Such a statement, however, has nothing to do with his being a distant relative of the renowned poet Khalil Gibran.
No, it’s Carl’s relationship with another family member – his tough talking, conservative, gay-baiting older half-brother, Kennedy MP Bob Katter – and their public battle over gay rights that has left many recently applauding the younger Katter for delivering some courageous home truths.
The quietly spoken Carl hit the national zeitgeist a number of weeks ago when he fronted up for a nationally televised interview on 6.30 with George Negus.
Intelligently and calmly, Carl told the mustachioed veteran journalist in no uncertain terms how he could no longer stand by as politicians, like his half-brother, and others continued to “ridicule” same-sex marriage and the LGBT community.
Speaking to Gay News Network, Carl explained how it was the memory of another relative – his father, Bob Katter senior – that spurred him on to take a leap into the unknown.
“My father was member for Kennedy for 20 years; he represented the people of Kennedy.
“There’s many stories from people from all walks of life who have told me about my father and his influence on his community and the people he represented. I was confident that was pretty different to the influence Bob has been having, hurting lots of different minority groups within his electorate,” Carl says.
The public record seems to suggest likewise.
While living in the town of Cloncurry in the 1950s, Bob Katter senior worked tirelessly in ending segregation practices put in place to protect ‘pure’ white folk from ‘perverted’ indigenous people.
He took up the issue of police deaths in custody of Aboriginal men, and also removed barriers in the local cinema, which until then separated Aboriginal moviegoers.
Ironically, one could perhaps argue that today it is his son and namesake who is doing his best to once again drive up walls between the community in Mount Isa and surrounds.
Carl himself is no stranger to discrimination, having lived a large part of his life in northern Queensland and Brisbane, before moving to Melbourne earlier this year.
He told Gay News Network the recent Equal Love rally held for the first time in Mount Isa outside Bob’s office was a real eye-opener for him.
“It was very courageous of them to have so many people turn up because I’ve lived in those areas and certainly if I was asked to come along to one of those events when I was 18 or 19 or so I probably wouldn’t because fear of intimidation and hate was pretty daunting.
“Especially when your [elected] representative is perpetuating that,” he says.
Comparing his new home, Carl told Gay News Network that he believes Queensland still has some large steps and cultural obstacles to face before being considered a true beacon of diversity and growth, despite the recent economic boom times.
“Not to take anything from living in Brisbane, but I think Brisbane still has a little way to go. We saw that recently with the response by a particular organisation to a particular campaign on sexual health,” he says.
“That was very surprising but it also just reinforced how Queensland has a fair way to go. And it’s not just the representative of the electorate of Kennedy, it’s every other representative in Queensland like the Barnaby Joyces … who have said very damaging and dangerous things.”
On his newfound political fame, Carl is quite circumspect about where it may lead.
Having studied visual arts after high school, and then a property economics degree, Carl says the past few weeks have been a decisive moment in his life.
“In this point in time, I’ve realised that if I could contribute something to society, it would be a lot more pleasing than earning a certain level. And I’ve realised that from the responses to the initial George Negus interview,” he says.
“It’s been very overwhelming and humbling. I didn’t expect it to be as newsworthy as it was. But it is an important issue and the greater picture for me is equality. You know I may never get married but I would like to live in a society where everyone has the opportunity.”