Over the past few weeks, Crikey — inspired by the preselection of fourth generation politician Georgina Downer — have been cataloguing Australia’s many political dynasties. Here’s our third installment.
The Katters and the Douglases
Rasping eccentric and member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, is but a single tree that springs from a particularly fertile orchard; one that’s notable even among these monarchic political families. Bob Snr previously held the same state (Flinders) and federal seats his son would later occupy. And, since 1966, the Katters have held Kennedy for all but two years (between 1990 and 1992 it was held by Rob Hulls, who would go on to be deputy premier of Victoria).
Bob Jr’s own son Robbie (Jesus guys, there so many possible names…) is the leader of the Katter Party in Queensland and the state member for Traeger. Then there’s black sheep (by Katter standards) Carl, who was the founding president of Marriage Equality Australia and had an unsuccessful tilt at the seat of Higgins as Labor candidate in 2016.
Bob Katter is also linked with another Queensland dynasty: he’s the uncle of old school party hopper Alex Douglas. Douglas picked up the the state seat of Gaven for the Nationals in the byelection of April 2006 before being turfed out in the state election six months later, and then clawing it back (now with the Liberal National Party) in 2009. After a dispute with Campbell Newman, he quit to become an independent, before switching again in 2013 and becoming the leader of the Palmer United Party in Queensland. That lasted all of a year before he returned to independent status.
Douglas’ grandfather Henry was the member for Cook for eight years from 1907, and his great grandfather John was the seventh premier of Queensland from 1877 to 1879.
Social Services Minister Dan Tehan is the son of the late Marie Tehan, a member of Victorian Legislative Council for Central Highlands between 1987 and 1992. Upon the election of the Kennett government, Marie moved to the Legislative Assembly and became Minister of Health, before switching to Minister for Conservation and Land Management in 1996, which she held for the next three years. Perhaps not a full-on dynasty, but as Dan noted in his first parliamentary address, this is noteworthy as the first time a mother and son have both been elected to Australian parliaments.
While it perhaps doesn’t stack up with the 276 years racked upon by the original, Australia’s Ming Dynasty is still impressive by local standards. Sir Robert Menzies had already served as Victorian deputy premier and been a minister and attorney general in the government of Joseph Lyons before becoming Australia’s longest serving prime minister over the course of two non-consecutive periods from the late 1930s to the mid 1960s. His father James and uncle Hugh were both members of the Legislative Assembly in Victoria, while James’ brother-in-law Sydney Sampson held the federal division of Wimmera (abolished in 1977) for 13 years from 1906.
Meanwhile, Bob’s wife, Dame Pattie, was also of a highly political pedigree. Her father, John Leckie, was a politician at Victorian state level, before briefly holding the federal seat of Indi and then — after a gap of 15 years — returning as a senator for Victoria in 1934, a role held until three months before his death in September 1947. Pattie’s brother held the Victorian Legislative assembly of Evelyn for two years at the beginning of the 1950s.
The family also had a judicial branch: Menzies’ cousin Douglas was a high court justice from 1967 to 1974.
Former Western Australian premier/godfather, jailbird, and — in his subsequent career as a “lobbyist” — committed millstone around the WA Labor Party’s neck, Brian Burke is, at it turns out, a chip off the old trouble making block. His father Tom held the federal seat of Perth from 1942 to 1955. A conservative and relentless critic of Doc Evatt at the time of the mid 1950s split, Burke didn’t end up joining his fellow staunch Catholics and anti-communists in Bob Santamaria’s Democratic Labor Party.
It did him little good — his constant sniping still got him expelled from Labor in 1957 (even Brian got to resign), and his energies turned to his sons Brian and Terry. Terry held the state seat of Perth for nearly 20 years from 1968. He did not escape the stain of the WA Inc scandal that defined his brother, with the resulting royal commission finding he had received $600,000 in “commission” for his fundraising work on behalf of the ALP in 1987.