Working the Room

(from The Coalface, June 2023)

Bob Katter is an ebullient political animal. A journalist I have known has said that Bob can ‘work a room’ as adeptly as anybody in the game. He is the independent Member for Kennedy in the Australian Parliament. The Electoral Division of Kennedy is located in northern Queensland. Among other things, it is coal country through and through.

I found his photo, complete with iconic white hat and a jacket of his own design, in the June 2023 edition of a rag called The Coalface, which is distributed free of charge, throughout regions where coal is mined, in venues such as Hungry Jacks. The jacket bears the motto ‘NO CO2 NO TREE, NO TREE NO ME’. It includes a drawing of a koala wearing a hard hat and sitting in a tree.

It is interesting to see that Katter, among other things, is apparently trying to spruik his credentials as a environmentalist. We may be forgiven for our scepticism. After all, he has been known to say (and I paraphrase here) that greenies are about as welcome in Kennedy as a taipan is in a bedroll.

So, what have we here? Politician, everyman, coal industry enthusiast, tree hugger, bush poet. What a chameleonic quality this man exudes.

Of all his multifarious talents, it’s his sympathy for the embattled coal industry that has me most worried. As its name suggests, The Coalface is a propagandist outlet for coal interests, which matches the views of the Katter we know all too well. Re-positioning coal mining under the umbrella of environmental preservation, as Katter appears now to be doing, is a bold move. Could it, perhaps, be a stroke of genius? Extrapolate his motto to the extreme, and you are lead to the conclusion that trees would nothing more than dusky skeletons if coal wasn’t being mined.

But Katter is nothing if not a wily fellow. You won’t get him saying out loud that the very existence of trees is dependent on mining the black stuff. That would potentially expose him to ridicule. After all, trees are what our evolutionary ancestors came down from when they began to inhabit caves. There was no coal mining back then, but trees, we are led to believe, were there in abundance.

And, if that’s not enough, take yourself back to the time immediately preceding the glory days of the industrial revolution. Coal was not burnt then, at least not on a mega scale, but trees were flourishing, and certainly (if the evidence is to be believed) more so than now.

No. Katter is not about to put his own head in the noose. But, if other less discerning people are prepared to extrapolate his motto about CO2 and trees beyond the limits of believability, what’s not good about that? It could be called ‘dog-whistling’ or ‘working the room’. And isn’t that the stock in trade of all politicians?

This way, he can disseminate a lie, without being held personally responsible. It’ll be those gullible types with less ability to discern who’ll duly cop it in the neck should they dare to stick said neck up. They’re the ones who’ll be held accountable.

Forget truth. What’s the most important duty of a politician? Surely, to get himself/herself re-elected. And if an undiscerning Electorate is prepared to vote you in, that’s just how the democratic system works, isn’t it?

So, good on you Bob. Work the room for all it’s worth. It’ll serve you well.

And don’t forget your white hat.