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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1694

Jones, Mr Steve, AM

Senator Bullock

Senator O'SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (19:49): I rise tonight to speak on two completely separate issues. The first is that I want to pay tribute and homage to the late Steve Jones AM, who was the Mayor of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council. The Lockyer Valley is an area in my home state of Queensland that is located at the bottom of the Great Dividing Range between Toowoomba and Ipswich—or Brisbane, for those who might not be familiar with the geography of my state. As a regional area and economy it is truly a wonderful place. It is a very eclectic agricultural area. Indeed, it is an irrigated food bowl and it hosts an awful lot of primary production servicing not just my home state of Queensland and Brisbane, but indeed the whole nation. In fact many of the producers in this area are solely contracted with the Woolworths, Coles and Aldi and the like, so we consume many agricultural soft commodities every day that are grown and developed in this great area of the Lockyer Regional Council. Steve Jones is a person whom I regarded as a close personal friend. Apart from that, over many years—decades, in fact—I had dealings with him in his capacity as mayor and in my capacity as the group managing director of companies that were involved quite heavily in business investments within the shire, including but not limited to developments within the domestic housing sector within their capital, if you like, of Gatton.

Steve Jones was a true man of the people. He was motivated to enter politics on the back of truly servicing the men and women and families within his electorate. I suspect that when the good Lord had Steve's clay in his hands in the beginning he moulded an individual whom the good Lord knew would eventually serve this particular constituency.

He was a man who grew up with limited education. He was involved in agriculture and allied pursuits for most of his adult life. He really, truly understood deeply what was required of that particular regional shire to support the economy of his shire. I will bet you that if tested he could have named not only the mum and dad and the principals of every farming enterprise within the geographical area, but indeed their children, and on most occasions their grandchildren, or their grandparents before them.

So, Steve Jones was a lifelong man of the Lockyer Valley. He was a very decent man who held the principles of integrity and honesty as the touchstones for him as he went about conducting the business of the shire. It was rare for you to drive down the main street of Gatton, or indeed some of the other communities within his shire, where did you not see Steve with his leg cocked up on the front of a shop or on the bullbar of a car talking with people who were resident in the area. He was a very firm man with respect to his administration of the affairs of his local government. He was much loved, having served in the position largely unchallenged for a very long period of time.

About five years ago I had a personal experience with him that stands out for me. Through a business interaction we inherited a site that had been a sawmill in the township of Gatton for about 30 years before it came into our ownership. Over that time there had been a massive accumulation of timber, timber that no longer had a commercial value, and there were quite literally thousands and thousands of tonnes of this timber on the site, and the site itself was unsightly. I decided that the only way we were going to resolve the issue was to collect all of this timber and burn it. There was no other reasonable commercial alternative to resolving the mess that the site was, as it was our intention to go on and perhaps apply it to some other commercial purpose. So, along with quite a number of staff, we started to clean up. I was on a dozer, feeding a number of quite significant fires on the site for us to get it to a position where we could then remediate the whole site. On day 4 I saw Steve Jones come and sit on a billet of timber over near the main office area. I did not do anything about that for about 20 or 30 minutes and then I noticed that he was still there, so I climbed down off the dozer to talk to him. Steve said to me, 'I can't be certain, big feller, but I think that you are at the same time simultaneously breaching anywhere between 30 or 50 by-laws of the council here.' I said to him, 'Well, Steve, I have been here for nearly a week. You should have come and seen me sooner.' He said, 'No, there is a more compelling motive involved. We have wanted this site cleaned up for nearly 20 years now.' That is the sort of fellow he was—a very pragmatic, practical and decent man.

I say 'vale' Steve Jones and I reach out to his wife, Ann, to his sons, James, Dale and Brandon, and their partners, Ally, Stacey and Ayla, and, of course, to his granddaughter, Avery. I say to them that our thoughts and our prayers are with you in this very difficult time. Having experienced a very similar episode with my own wife, Annie, some nine years ago, I know just what Ann is thinking and feeling at the moment. I say to her that in time the clouds will part.

The second contribution I want to make is to reflect upon the retirement notification yesterday of Senator Joe Bullock. I have become friends with Senator Joe Bullock, and it is not unusual in this place for people of different political backgrounds to become close. I want to pay tribute not just to his overall contribution to this place, but in particular to the contribution he made, along with the contribution of Senator Sterle, his good friend and his companion in the Australian Labor Party, during two serious reference committee inquiries that were held: one into the sugar marketing industry and the other into the beef levy.

All of the sugar grown in this country is in my home state of Queensland. Sixty-six per cent of the beef herd is in my home state of Queensland. From my point of view these were significantly important issues that we examined. I can say that Joe Bullock, whilst he would not hold himself out necessarily to be an expert in either of the commodities, showed a wisdom, an affinity and a belief in the small businesses and small family farms. I think that that is probably perfectly consistent with his 30-plus years in the union movement. I thank him for that, and on behalf of the people of Queensland I thank him. Joe, you are very decent man and this place is poorer for your retirement.

Senate adjourned at 20 : 00