Real EstateShareholdingsLiabilities

Katter Uncovered: MP's undeclared family houses, shares, debts ...

Federal MP Bob Katter’s vague disclosures to parliament’s interests register read like the ramblings of a mad uncle after a night on the tiles. They also demonstrate his wilful disregard for the rules and the need for reform to compel MPs to declare their interests.

Sean Johnson10 May 2024

Katter has declared he can't recall if he has free access to a private aircraft. But he's sure he owns 100 heifers.

The Member for Kennedy from Queensland's Far North has breached his parliamentary disclosure obligations by not declaring his wife’s four properties, mortgages, shareholding, and directorship to the House of Representatives' interests register.  

Queensland land title records show Susie Katter purchased a two-bedroom apartment in Brisbane’s Ascot for $699,000 in 2021. It is now estimated to be worth around $1 million.

Bob Katter never bothered to declare the purchase in his statement to the 46th parliament or in the current parliament.

Susie Katter’s undisclosed apartment in Brisbane’s Ascot

And, as first reported by The Courier Mail in 2011 and confirmed by Open Politics, the MP has failed to declare Susie is the sole owner of her residence with Bob in Charters Towers, and co-owner of a house in Townsville and one in Mt Isa with her Queensland state MP son Robbie Katter.

The Courier Mail revealed Susie owned another undeclared property, a three-bedroom house in Brisbane that has since been sold.  

Susie Katter's undisclosed cottage in Townsville's North Ward

Undeclared shares, directorship, mortgages, and Chairman's Lounge

Open Politics can also reveal Katter has not declared his wife’s shareholding and directorship of SFIT Nominees Pty Ltd, a company she established in 2015.

Nor has he disclosed her mortgage with the CBA over their Charters Towers residence and another with Queensland Country Credit Union over the Mt Isa property.

We note too that he hasn't declared his complimentary membership of the Qantas Chairman's Lounge, which the airline offers to all pollies and their spouses to buy favour. (Your correspondent used to see him there in the noughties when travelling with his minister.)

Susie Katter's undisclosed house in Mt Isa's Parkside

Why MPs need to declare their family interests

The requirement for MPs to declare the interests of their partners and children was introduced by the Hawke government in 1984 to reduce the risk of MPs making decisions or trying to influence policies and regulations to favour their families’ holdings.

More crucially, the rule, if complied with, neutralises attempts by MPs to conceal any ill-gotten assets by transferring them to trusted family members.

Of course, a minister or government backbencher (hello Eddie Obeid) has a greater opportunity than an independent MP to abuse their position, but Katter is not without influence given Labor's slim margin in the House and the possibility he will share the balance of power if the government loses its majority after the next election.

Katter’s excuse? He respects Susie's privacy

Unfortunately the requirement to declare family interests has a loophole as wide as Katter’s Akubra: MPs only need to declare interests they are “aware of”.

These golden words allow Katter to play dumb and claim in the real estate section of his statement that his wife, “has at times bought and sold some investment properties. She regards this as her private business.”

Bob and Susie at their wedding reception in 1970

And then there’s this pearler in the shareholdings section: “She does not provide me with this information - regards this as personal business and I respect her wishes in these matters.”

Now feminist Bob might like to respect his wife’s wishes about her private business, but if he’s aware of her interests he has no choice - he must declare them.

We concede he may not know about Susie's shareholding and directorship as couples don’t always share all their financial affairs, but he can hardly be unaware of her properties. Afterall, he lives in one.

Parliament – where accountability goes to die

In our view Katter has deliberately chosen not declare his wife’s properties, so under the Resolutions of the House: Registration of Members' interests he is guilty of serious contempt of the House of Representatives and should be “dealt with accordingly.”

Katter (left) in the 1980s as a Bjelke-Petersen government minister. Perhaps Sir Joh taught him about transparency?

But we don’t expect the privileges committee to investigate Katter, much less punish him. The committee didn’t do anything after The Courier Mail investigation in 2011, so we doubt they’ll jump into action over our revelations about Mrs Katter’s apartment, mortgages, shareholding, and directorship.

The root of the problem is that MPs can only be investigated for alleged breaches if one of their colleagues or the House refers the matter to the privileges committee. It’s the same for senators.

You won’t be surprised to hear referrals almost never occur. And on the very rare occasions when a referral is made - as happened with Christian Porter’s undisclosed legal funding in a defamation trial - MPs get off with a slap on the wrist. 

Given MPs have shown they’re unwilling to police themselves  (who would’ve thought), Open Politics recommends that enforcement be handed to an independent body with the power to initiate investigations into MPs and senators and impose fines and other sanctions on those who don’t declare their interests.  

In the meantime Katter might care to follow political norms and declare Susie's interests.

We sought comment from Bob Katter's office but didn't receive a response.

MP has a record of domestic violence. But we can’t name him.

David Collard’s previous arrest by NYPD in 2013

Deputy PM’s former confidant charged with assault and harassment

Scale Facilitation's inflated invoice to UK subsidiary raises questions about VAT refund

Scale Facilitation established a company in tax haven of Malta