MP Robbie Katter takes to the skies to view his electorate
OUTBACK MP Robbie Katter is taking to the skies to cover his 570,000sq km electorate of Mount Isa.
Mr Katter is training for his pilot’s licence in Townsville and hopes that before midyear he will be able to travel from one end of his electorate to another in a fraction of the time it takes him in a car. And at far less cost to the taxpayer.
Mr Katter’s seat takes in nearly one-third of Queensland’s 1.7 million square kilometres. He says his seat of Mount Isa in its present form will be slightly smaller, when and if it becomes the new seat of Traeger, as recommended in a draft report handed down by the Queensland Redistribution Commission in February.
The draft redrawing of Mount Isa has the seat losing the far southwestern desert towns of Birdsville and Bedourie, but keeping Boulia, Kynuna and Dajarra, bringing it back to 560,000 square kilometres.
It still stretches northward, across the Flinders and Mitchell grass plains to the mangroves and spidery river systems of the Gulf Country.
It continues to take in Mornington Island out in the Gulf and stretches up the western side of the Cape York Peninsula to the mouth of the Staaten River.
On the eastern side it takes in the ironbark and box cattle country of Mt Garnet and Greenvale.
Further, to the southeast it takes in the southernmost Wet Tropics rainforest village of Paluma, just 87km north of Townsville.
There are the Flinders Highway cities of Charters Towers in the east and Mount Isa in the west.
In between, along the highway, there are the whistlestops of Homestead, Pentland, Prairie and larger centres such as Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek and Cloncurry.
The old drover’s town of Camooweal, just 13km east of the Northern Territory border, is the electorate’s most westerly populated community.
This entire region is interconnected with a network of secondary roads, some bitumen and some dirt, which facilitate the movement of cattle on roadtrains from the inland stations to marketing points on or near the coast.
In other parts it is a little travelled world of remote stations and national parks, some of which see only a handful of visitors a year. The electorate’s major industries include tourism, beef, wool, mining and fishing.
Mr Katter said as the local MP he was expected to travel the electorate on a regular basis, visiting schools and community gatherings. He said the long drives could see him out of phone contact for “the best part of a day”. “I’ve got a satellite phone, but it is ‘scratchy’.
“With flying I can minimise the time I’m out of network and can travel long distances in a much shorter time. With my limited, government, air charter allowance you don’t get far when it costs $1000 an hour in a twin engine plane (government regulations stipulate only twin engine for air charter).
When I’ve got my licence and the single engine plane I’ll be leasing, it will cost $200 an hour. So I can go five times as far with my charter allowance,” he said.
Mr Katter said he was paying for the flying lessons out of his own pocket and could not claim the cost as necessary work expenditure with the Australian Taxation Office. He said he would finish with a private pilot’s licence at a cost to himself of $30,000.
Mr Katter said he had already done his solo training flights and was “95 per cent” through his navigation. He said he was looking forward to winging his way around his mega-electorate.
Credit: The Herald Sun