In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
My ex-partner lived in Spain, was a curator at a fabulous gallery and I was living there for eight months in Madrid, Katter says. It was in a society that had full equality for all. Theyve had (gay) marriage rights since 2006.
One of the things I love about Spain is the people in (what is) a very Catholic country. They were so proud to tell me about this change in legislation. They had a huge amount of orphanages pretty much overflowing. There was little abortion. But since (the legislation) there were a lot of couples that were able to adopt and these kids had homes now. It was one of the proudest things these people had to tell me.
I am talking with Katter at a St Kilda bar/café, the type of place that helped make his mind up to move here from Brisbane 10 months ago. I wanted to move to a more progressive and fantastic city. Ill be honest now, I think Melbournes the best city in the world. Theres a genuine, down-to-earth quality to the people which we all value, especially if youve grown up in a regional area or a provincial city like Brisbane. Its the diversity, the arts my first degree was visual arts, so to be living in a place like Fitzroy and be surrounded by art and to be able to walk to the galleries just being embraced and being valued for who I am. I got back to Brisbane (from Spain) and I needed to live in an international city. I needed to live somewhere I could access the diversity that is such a precious gem of a city like Melbourne.
Carl Katter is the half-brother of quirky federal politician Bob Katter, who burst onto the scene last year after Bob told several hundred people attending a pro-marriage rally at Parliament House that same-sex marriage should not be taken seriously and deserved to be ridiculed.
Truly, Bob Katter said, the proposition deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed. It doesnt serve any serious treatment. He received thunderous applause.
Carl Katter was outraged. It was something that shocked a lot of people I know in the gay community and a lot of people across Australia, he says. It was a disgusting scene of hatred which was allowed to be done in the Great Hall of our Parliament House, a building that I greatly respected.
My father (former politician Bob Katter snr) would take me there when he could and we ran around that Parliament House and the one before that. So to see that shocked me. And of course the effect that has. I was thinking of my experience dealing with my sexuality in a regional area. I couldnt comprehend the damage that would do to a lot of young people, especially in regional areas.
Its a national disgrace in Australia, the levels of youth suicide in regional areas. And specifically suicide of young adults who might be questioning their sexuality or may simply be different. It seems something a lot of politicians shy away from. Its now a lot more acknowledged, but there is a long way to go. When leaders like Bob say such damaging things and disregard the concerns and issues of these people its extremely insulting. I didnt have a second thought. I had to try and do something because I acknowledge that there was a bit of leverage being his relative.
But Katter didnt know how to have his views heard. I have no background in media, Im not a lawyer, I havent studied politics. Ive always been involved and aware, he says.
But I had a hard time getting anyone to take me seriously. I approached ABC radio and they never returned my call. Later I found out they thought I was a prank caller. Then I thought I needed to contact my local MP, Adam Bandt of the Greens, and once again they thought the same.
He approached the social activist group GetUp!. They knew I was legit and could tell the concern I had and the passion for giving a different voice. Because no one stood up at that time to challenge that rally or the people involved. So they said OK, lets get you on a platform where people can hear what youve got to say. I didnt expect it to have such an impact as it did.
That week Katter was everywhere. The media couldnt get enough of the story. Of course, there was interest because of the stark differences between the two brothers from Queensland, the young gay man and the crusty cowboy-hat-wearing maverick. Last year Carl Katter was included in The Age (melbourne) magazines top 100 most influential people.
Then, in March this year, Katter the elder made headlines again when his party, Katters Australia Party, ran an anti-gay marriage ad in the lead-up to the Queensland election.
When this all blew over I was rather relieved, Carl Katter says. I was thinking, Hopefully Bob has learnt something from it, or the people who support his beliefs might find a bit of Christianity in themselves and a bit of compassion. But they didnt. I had to get involved all over again when he put that commercial out, which was condemned across Australia It was the general disgust at that approach. It was gutter politics.
Last month, in an interview with his old friend Kevin Rudd at the Sydney Writers Festival, Bob Katter rued the decision to OK the ad. Ive made some mistakes in my life but that one was really the crowning glory of all mistakes, he said.
I acknowledge hes recently come out and said it was a very bad move, says Carl Katter. It was a bad move for him because he realised he lost votes. I dont think he thinks its a bad move because he degraded a group of people who have no effect or harm on him or people he supposedly represents. Unfortunately if he genuinely thought it was a bad move, he would have taken the ad off air.
I asked if Bob had ever called to discuss these issues? No he hasnt. Im often asked have I tried to connect with him. Why would I make an effort when he has a history of vilifying and belittling gay people?
Carl Katter, 34, grew up in Mount Isa, Queensland, and moved to Charters Towers when his father died. Carl was 13. His father, Bob Katter snr, held the seat of Kennedy in Queensland from 1966 to 1990. Dads first wife died when his kids were in their early 20s. And then many years later he married my mum. Carl has two younger siblings, a brother and sister. Dad, being an older father, really wanted us around him as much as possible. When he was posted overseas to the UN or Zimbabwe hed take us along. So Ive had some interesting, dynamic experiences in my early childhood.
I asked if he had much to do with Bob when he was growing up. Definitely. We spent Christmases together. His family lives in Charters Towers, which was one reason mum moved us there to be closer to family, and to go to the school that dad and Bob went to, a very small Catholic boarding school.
I went to a school where the name for me and anyone who was different was poofter or faggot or homo or whatever. I was scared to walk down the street in Charters Towers at night. There were a few individuals that I had to avoid because I know they wanted to beat me up, punch my head in. I didnt even know them that well. Ive had some horrible things happen to me but none of them compare to the stories Ive heard of (others) specifically in regional areas. The stories are truly horrific. These stories are never heard, you know. People dont want you to hear them. So for me to be able to defend a group that had really been oppressed throughout history in this country is a greatly rewarding thing.
Growing up, did he feel like a brother to Bob? His kids were like my cousins. We were very close to his kids, we were all around the same age. I would refer to him as my brother. But with the age difference there was never the closeness I had to my full brother, who is only 18 months younger than me.?What sort of relationship did he have with Bob? We looked up to him, we admired him greatly. As I became a more aware teenager and a sexual being, as you do in your teenage years, I found a lot of what he was saying was vastly different to how my father would have represented people in Kennedy.
I gradually lost a lot of respect for his political stance on things. Its pretty obvious that we have different beliefs. I still find some of his stances baffling when I would look back and see how my father would address issues such as diversity within a community, I cant reconcile the difference there.
Katter says he adored his father, misses him greatly and looked up to him and what he achieved. Before Bob snr moved into politics he owned the cinema in Cloncurry in north-west Queensland. At the time there was a wire chain separating the black fellas from the white fellas, Carl says. And the first thing dad did after taking over that cinema was to remove those chains. And he did a lot for the indigenous community and other groups in that part of north Queensland.
He says he finds Bobs approach very different. I think Im not stating the obvious, especially with the last election with a lot of the attacks he undertook on the gay community. It was assuming he could win votes on fear and hate and its shown now that that did not work very well for his fledgling party.
Katter says his older brother saw segregation and discrimination as a boy. The primary school they went to there was segregation. The black fellas would sit at the back of the class, and Bob was considered a half-caste because my grandfather was Lebanese, so there was a slight difference in skin, and so the half-caste kids would sit in front of the indigenous kids and the white fellas would sit at the front.
Carl says he understands why he has a public voice now and wants to use it for good. I have a platform and its my last name. But when people say Im riding (Bobs) coattails, Im not (doing that). Bobs riding my fathers coattails. And I have a lot of respect for my father. Im always confident Im doing the right thing because my father would acknowledge that Im doing the right thing.
He is working in employment services, helping people who are getting government support to get back into work. He is encouraged by the people hes helped with his public stance against his brother. For me its the response from young people in regional areas that is the most encouraging. I have to pinch myself. I feel like Im a very lucky person now because I have given people a voice who might not have had (one). Not intentionally. Ive kind of been thrown into the spotlight.Carl Katter will speak at the Melbourne Cabaret Festivals closing gala night on July 21. A percentage of the takings will be donated to Australian Marriage Equality.
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