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Taking the high road: Katter slams 'personal attack' in transport tiff

Politics

MP Robbie Katter has hit back at what he says was an “insulting personal attack” on him by the State’s Transport Minister.

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Reigniting a tiff with Mark Bailey, Katter says his points about the parlous state of some of Queensland’s roads, and in particular some in his outback electorate, is valid.

Stung by Bailey’s comments, in a recent InQueensland article, where he was mocked as “Kingsford-Smith Katter” and for having his “head in the clouds” for flying around his electorate in his personal plane, Katter is not pulling any punches.

He is annoyed that Bailey has made a political blue a personal one.

The stoush had its origins in Katter’s calls for the revenue from covert cameras catching motorists on mobile phones to be diverted to funding for rural and regional roads.

Katter had called for the camera revenue – which netted $1.5 million in their first week of operation after coming online on November 1 – to be prioritised to the regions with the most road fatalities.

Bailey responded that “aviator Robbie ‘Kingsford-Smith’ Katter” needs to get out of his plane and drive on regional roads occasionally, which he said were undergoing major roadworks around the State.

Katter told InQueensland that he was incensed by the personal nature of the attack and his retort came in the form of a pointed Facebook post on his MP Facebook page,  accompanied by a photograph of his car having a tyre change on the Duchess to Dajarra Road in his electorate.

In the post, which has garnered almost 600 comments, Katter said there were several points he wanted to make.

He does at least 20,000km behind the wheel of his car in a lean year. No, he doesn’t have a Government driver.

No, he doesn’t have access to a government jet. He flies a 1985 vintage small plane and the licence to fly it around the skies of his electorate cost him personally $50,000.

He has slept in his car, in a swag and beside the plane in order to get his job done as the State Member for Traeger and the Leader of Katter’s Australian Party.

And he has a question for the Transport Minister. Has he ever done any of the above three things?

“I would do 20k klm ‘behind’ the wheel in a lean year even when flying. Would be surprised if the Minister did much more than 2k klm in his car,” Katter said in his post.

“He gets driven around by a driver on roads by a driver. I never do.

“He gets access to a government jet. I fly an aircraft built in 1985 to fit it in my price range.”

Katter says the pilot’s licence cost him personally $50,000, none of which he could claim.

“This was just to help me get around my electorate better and this seems to be something he is knocking me for?”

And Katter extends an invitation to Bailey – he will happily take him along the Flinders Highway, in his electorate, and see how much he brags about spending on roads.

“Some sections of this highway are still, straight up, dangerous,” Katter said.

He says his original point, that the income from mobile phone camera fines, should be prioritised in the regions with the most fatalities, is a valid one.

“This is not something to joke about,” Katter says in response to Bailey calling him, in the offending article, “Aviator Robbie Kingsford-Smith Katter”.

“The insinuation of those comments is that ‘he is more affluent and flies around the place in a plane and I (Bailey) do the hard yards on the road driving’” Katter told In Queensland.

“The insinuation is that I don’t know enough about the roads in my electorate and in these western regions because I don’t drive them enough.”

Katter said the plane, which cost him about $420 an hour to run, was purely an enabler to help him get around his vast northern Queensland electorate in the Mt Isa region.

In the original comments Bailey said Katter needed to leave his plane in the hangar and get out on regional roads to see the amount of investment being poured into the road network.

Katter says it’s ridiculous to suggest he doesn’t drive on roads and says he has a good understanding of the roads in his electorate which are dangerous and unsealed.

Katter’s Traeger electorate, the second largest in the State, covers about 429,000 square kilometres, from Charters Towers through to Mt Isa and out to the Northern Territory border, also covering Mornington Island.

And Katter says the vastness of the electorate, means flying himself is a much more efficient way of getting around and seeing his constituents.

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