By HARRY CLARKE
ANYONE who’s ever interviewed Bob Katter before knows it can be quite difficult to keep him on topic.
The maverick North Queensland MP is perhaps more prone to digression than any other Australian politician. Theories, anecdotes and passionate arguments often erupt without any warning or conversational prompt.
But during a 44-minute phone conversation with Mr Katter, there was a 10-minute period when the Member for Kennedy dutifully remained on the topic of “survival” in relation to his home town of Cloncurry.
It was revealed last week that the next season of reality television juggernaut Australian Survivor would be filmed around Cloncurry. The TV show pits contestants against one another in a series of challenges, often set in harsh climates and terrains.
The announcement had clearly got Mr Katter thinking and reflecting, because only days later he posted a very amusing meme to his official Instagram page, offering the show’s contestants some Cloncurry survival tips.
The image was followed by a series of historical references to the Kalkadoon indigenous tribe, Dame Mary Gilmore and a unionist shearers’ strike shootout on a North Queensland sheep station.
The Caller immediately contacted Mr Katter’s office to find out more, and within minutes the man himself was on the phone discussing (among countless other things) his delight that Cloncurry had been chosen to host Australian Survivor.
Here’s a recording of the interview:
The Caller is obliged to ‘fact check’ some of Mr Katter’s claims:
The Kaldadoon people – Mr Katter claimed that about 120 black people and 120 white people were killed during the Kalkadoon wars, which lasted for about 60 years during the 1800s. This is disputed on the website of renowned Kalkadoon artist Cher’nee Sutton who, along with a group of historians and website curators, has compiled an extensive documentation of Kaladoon history. The website suggests that the period of colonial violence lasted closer to 40 years, and that up to 900 Kalkadoon people were killed.
Mr Katter was correct in saying that today the Kalkadoon people were “land-rich” due to native title arrangements. However, one historian lamented to the Caller that the community was “land-rich but money-poor”.
Dame Mary Gilmore – Mr Katter mentioned the fascinating but perhaps little-known fact that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a distant relative of famed Australian writer Mary Gilmore, whose profile is immortalised on the Australian 10-dollar note. It’s difficult to confirm whether Dame Gilmore “had it off” with past political and poetic icons Ted Theodore, Jack Lang and Banjo Paterson, but her relationship with writer Henry Lawson is well documented.
Shearers’ Strike shootout – Mr Katter said “three, arguably four people, were killed” during a unionist shearers’ strike. The Caller assumes this is a reference to a shooting at Grasmere Station near Cloncurry during a shearers’ strike in 1894. Monument Australia suggests only two people were killed.
Record temperature – The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the scorching 53-degree temperature recorded in Cloncurry in 1889 was actually taken from a gauge situated inside “a beer crate nailed to the side of a house”, and that the true temperature would actually have been closer to 47-degrees.
Qantas, Distance Ed, Bank Robbery, Ernest Henry – It seems that pioneer Ernest Henry was indeed speared by aboriginals and was then forced to ride from Mt Isa to Cloncurry on horseback. Investigations of the 1932 Cloncurry bank robberies turned up nothing. The MySchool website indicates that Charters Towers School of Distance Education currently has 2024 enrolments, as opposed to nearly 3000 as suggested by Mr Katter. According to Wikipedia, the last fatal Qantas flight was in 1951 which was 60 years ago, not 100 years ago. There is also no suggestion that Qantas once had the highest number of fatal crashes in the world.