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Katter the mad hatter

Georgia Behrens reports on a controversial speech by Bob Katter

Federal MP Bob Katter appeared to describe pre-colonial Australia as terra nullius in a keynote address on Thursday.

Speaking at the Australian Intervarsity Debating Championships at Griffith University, Katter began a potted history of Australia by belittling Indigenous society in the country prior to 1788.

“To start off with, there was no-one here,” he said.

This statement was met with vocal outrage from the large audience. Katter attempted to confine his comments to pre-Aboriginal settlement, and raised the possibility of his own Indigenous heritage. However he then went on to say: “So, there was no-one really here, only a couple of sheep.”

“Your forebears took a country that no-one wanted for hundreds of years, and turned a barren country into a prosperous one.”

Mr Katter’s speech also contained an appeal to female students to have more children.

“[Australian magazine] Marie Claire says 85% of women want to have babies. They’re not, so I want you to race out there and do it,” he said.

The tournament coordinator, Peter Coulson, says that he respects Mr Katter’s right to his own opinion.

“We support a plurality of views in debating, and thank Mr Katter for generously giving up his time to share his views with the contingent,” he said.

Mr Katter’s office has yet to respond to requests for comment.

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