No more mister nice guy, Bob..

FOR years federal member for Kennedy Bob Katter has regaled audiences with tales of his own and his family’s rich military heritage.
Given the occasion, any occasion, he would tell of his father’s distinguished World War II service, and of his own as an 18-year-old volunteer, handed a rifle and put on 24 hours notice to go to Indonesia and Vietnam.
Patriotism and military service plumb deep veins in Australia’s collective psyche, no more than in rural and outback communities where service and sacrifice draw respect and praise.
There is great political advantage in distinguished military service as the parliamentary careers of many successful Australian politicians attest.
Except truth, accuracy and Bob Katter’s personal accounts have usually travelled diverging paths.
Last year in an article in The Australian Mr Katter repeated the oft told myth of his military self-importance during Confrontation and Vietnam.
It was repeating a claim he had made under parliamentary privilege in Hansard on February 15, 2006.
The self-proclaimed 49th battalion unit historian then attracted vocal criticism from an experienced veteran after Gordonvale’s Anzac Day service this year over several inaccuracies in his address.
This prompted Mr Katter to make exaggerated and incorrect claims in a letter to the Innisfail Advocate on April 30, causing TheTownsville Bulletin to again question his version of history in a Defender column.
Mr Katter in turn threatened to pursue legal redress for what he claimed was an “insult” and the “inherent nastiness” in the articles while again incorrectly interpreting what was written.
Enough is enough.
What Mr Katter said under parliamentary privilege is a matter of record in Hansard, as are articles and letters written by him and published in newspapers.
Details of Mr Katter’s military service and that of his father are also matters of public record in documents freely available on line from the National Archives of Australia.
The histories of the units he claims to record or proclaim are readily available in the archives of the Australian War Memorial.
Searched together they clearly contradict his claims about what he did, what members of his family did and more disturbingly what those units did.
It’s time Mr Katter’s military fantasies were given some scrutiny.

Katter undone by his own hand

According to Bob Katter, at age 18 he was handed a rifle and as a member of the 49th Battalion – “father’s battalion” - was at the forefront of Australia’s wars with Indonesia and Vietnam.
Never mind in 1963 when Robert Carl Katter was 18 Australia was not yet at war with either and he wasn’t even in the army.
Australia’s primary concern in 1963 was defending the long jungle border between its territories of Papua and New Guinea (TP&NG) and West Papua.
Control of the former Dutch territory was ceded to a UN temporary executive authority in October 1962 and to Indonesia in May 1963 on the proviso West Papuans be allowed to decide whether they wanted to retain their sovereignty or join with Indonesia.
As Malaysia and Britain committed forces to Borneo to contain Indonesian territorial expansion in what became known as Confrontation, the Australian government declined to commit Malaysian-based Australian forces except for the defence of the Malay Peninsula.
The Australian government feared further involvement would provoke Indonesian president Sokarno to extend hostilities to the West Papua - TP&NG border.
Concerned about Indonesian intentions in 1964 the Australian government raised an additional battalion of the Pacific Islands Regiment based in Wewak and reintroduced compulsory national service.
All 20-year-old males were to register for selection by birthday ballot for two-year’s fulltime service.
Second-year University of Queensland student Bob Katter found himself confronting this prospect in January 1965.
Robert Carl Katter was born in Cloncurry on May 22, 1945 to local businessman Robert Cumin Katter and his first wife Mabel Joan, nee Horn.
Katter Senior had joined the part-time Australian Military Forces (militia) in 1936 and while a student at St Leo’s College, Queensland University was commissioned into the 9/49 infantry battalion based at Chermside.
The Australian government was then equally concerned about its Pacific possessions and began reorganising its militia units, who were only permitted to serve within Australian territories manning garrison units.
Members could be called up for compulsory full time service.
When units were reorganised in February 1941 49Bn was re-raised for tropical service and sent to garrison duties in Port Moresby to form the 30th Brigade with the 39th and 53rd militia battalions.
Katter Snr remained with 9Bn and having been commissioned in April 1940 was called up for compulsory full time service in September 1941.
On December 7, 1941 Japan launched simultaneous attacks on Malaya, Hong Kong and Pearl Harbor.
On February 3, 1942 Japanese aircraft bombed Port Moresby and then Darwin on February 14, 1942.
In March 1942 they landed unopposed at Lae to begin an advance across the Owen Stanley Ranges towards Port Moresby.
Despite being promoted temporary captain Katter Snr was medically discharged in Brisbane suffering “anxiety neuroses” on 14 July 1942 as the Kokoda campaign began.
He did not serve in a designated operational area.
49Bn did not take part in the Kokoda Campaign between July and November 1942 but after savage fighting at Sanananda on December 6, 1942 during which it suffered 60 per cent casualties it was returned to Australia and disbanded in July 1943.
It was awarded battle honours “Buna Gona” and “Sanananda Road”.
Katter’s son Robert Carl followed him into St Leo’s College in 1964 to commence a commerce/economics degree with the possibility of later studying law.
In November 1964 when the government reintroduced national service all eligible males born between January 1 and June 30, 1945 were required to register for the first ballot scheduled for March 10, 1965, including Robert Carl Katter.
If however they had already enlisted in the CMF before their twentieth birthday and had completed at least one year's effective service, they were only required to serve a further five years.
Alternately those who volunteered for six years part-time CMF service 12 months before their due ballot date could be exempted provided they remained ‘efficient,’ that is fulfilled their training obligations.
Certain full-time study also allowed deferred call-up.
Bob Katter registered with the Department of Labor and National Service aged exactly 19 years and nine months on February 22 at Cloncurry declaring he was a fulltime university student and indicating he would enlist in the CMF on March 3, which he apparently did during UQ’s Orientation week.
He joined Queensland University Regiment whose sole role was to train officer cadets for commissioning.
His birthday was drawn 18 days later on March 10.
After a reminder note from DLNS on June 18 threatening fulltime call-up he “resubmitted” an application for student deferment on June 24.
Bob Katter was apparently not an enthusiastic participant because in April 12, 1966 wrote to DLNS believing he was only obligated for five not six years service.
Disabused of this belief, neither could he take advantage of the loophole which allowed those serving whose birthdays were not balloted to resign.
DLNS continued to raise questions as to his “efficiency” but issued a “not required for further service” letter on May 13, 1971.
Despite telling federal parliament he was serving at age 18, Bob Katter did not enlist until just short of his 20th birthday and only then in advance of the possibility he might be called up for two-years full time service.
He appears to have simply left when his obligation expired.
Despite claiming close affiliation with 49Bn, a special conditions unit whose sole role was to train deferred or exempted national servicemen without easy access to normal CMF units, Bob Katter served less than 14 months from March 26, 1970.
Confrontation had then long ended.
Despite claiming he was on “24 hours notice to go to Indonesia then Vietnam” 49Bn was never on operational standby.
Bob Katter's only obligation was to attend two fortnightly camps a year.
It’s a far cry from claims an 18-year-old Robert Carl Katter was an indispensable part of Australia’s response to conflicts that did not exist.
As Katter told The Australian in 2015, “It may be my consciousness is coloured by the fact that, as a kid, I was asked to go over there and fight a war.”
Coloured indeed.
It's a job Technicolor would have been proud of.


Katter's claims
According to the records
My battalion will always be the 49th. As unit historian It was one of the three battalions sent up to Kokoda to stop the Japanese invasion of Australia. Letter to The Innisfail Advocate, April 30, 2016.
49th Bn did not go into action until Dec 6. 1942, a month after the Kokoda campaign ended.
49 Bn has no record of Katter as unit historian.
When the 49th was relieved at Sanananda there were only 28 of the 800 man battalion able to walk out from the trenches. Letter to The Innisfail Advocate, April 30, 2016
The (Sanananda Road ) attack failed and cost the 49th dearly. In five hours the battalion lost 14 officers and 215 men killed or wounded. Close to sixty per cent of the attacking force, just under half of the battalion's full strength, were casualties. Australian War Memorial
While I of course was not there, it was father’s battalion and my Uncle Billy’s battalion. As a kid we would hear the stories in awe about the men who had fought and saved their country from invasion. Letter to The Innisfail Advocate, April 30, 2016
Q15621 Lieutenant Robert Cumin Katter was called up for full time duty (FTD) with 9Bn on Sep 22, 1941. Promoted captain, he was medically discharged on July 18, 1942 suffering “anxiety neuroses.” He did not serve outside Australia. Army records, Q15621, T/Capt Katter RC
I was on 24-hour call-up to go to Indonesia and then Vietnam. I was a trained platoon commander and I had done the course to go to Indonesia and to Vietnam. Hansard Feb 15, 2006
He served with QUR between Mar 3, 1965 and Mar 25, 1970, and 49Bn between then and May 31, 1971. Both were training units only. NAA file J1687, 3005974-6 KATTER R C
As a young man of 18, I was handed an SLR rifle and had to give two next of kin phone numbers. I was in the 49th Battalion and we were on a full war footing with Indonesia. The Australian Aug 21, 2015
He enlisted in the CMF on Mar 3, 1965 aged 19 years and 7 months.
He joined 49 RQR on Mar 26, 1970. Aged 24 years and 7 months.
Confrontation ended in August 1966. J1687, 3005974-6 KATTER R C


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