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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 287

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:40): A terrifying climatic event which impacted on the coast of North Queensland in the early hours of Thursday 3 February 2011 had its much happier sequel last Saturday, when I, on behalf of the federal government, and others were able to officially open the Cardwell reconstruction project and the jetties at Clump Point on Mission Beach and on Dunk Island.

Senators will remember that Cyclone Yasi developed as a tropical low north-west of Fiji on 29 January and started tracking on a general westward track. It became a category 2 cyclone on 31 January and a category 3 cyclone by 4 pm on that same day. It continued to intensify over the next 24 hours and was upgraded to a category 4 cyclone on 1 February.

It continued to move towards the Queensland coast. I well remember it. Those of us living in the north were all fearful. We were all, in a selfish way, concerned about our own safety and hoping it would hit somewhere else and not our community. The cyclone actually crossed the coast as a category 5 cyclone, the most intense cyclone that is recorded, between Mission Beach and Cardwell between midnight and 1 am on 3 February.

That cyclone caused damage estimated at $3.6 billion and there was one indirect fatality. Many thousands of people who live in that area have had two years of difficulties in reconstructing their houses and re-establishing their businesses, many seeking medical advice for the trauma that they suffered as a result of this terrifying cyclone.

Having heard Senator Ludlam now, can I just point out, digressing slightly, that whilst it was a terrifying cyclone it was of about the same intensity and terror as Cyclone Mahina, which struck Princess Charlotte Bay in 1899 and the one which struck Mackay and Innisfail in 1918. It was a terrifying cyclone, but it was no worse than cyclones which struck that section of the coast a hundred years before. I am sure Senator Ludlam and Senator Milne will still blame man-induced carbon emissions for those cyclones which occurred with equal intensity back more than 100 years ago. But I digress.

The openings on Saturday of the reconstructions were very happy events. As I remarked in my speeches at both openings—at Cardwell and Mission Beach—it was almost as if Mother Nature, knowing that she had done the wrong thing two years ago, turned up on Saturday with the most magnificent day that you could see anywhere in the world. For those of you on Facebook, I urge you to have a look at my Facebook photos of the day in that marvellous part of Queensland. Cardwell is a magnificent tourist town, a seaside resort where the road runs along the beach for about five kilometres. It is one of the most scenic roadways anywhere in Australia. Mission Beach is renowned as a tropical paradise where the rainforest meets the reef and where cassowaries roam supreme and are protected by all the locals. It is a magnificent part of the world. Certainly, if anyone listening to this is looking for somewhere to go for a holiday at any time in the future, you could not better a stay in Cardwell, Mission Beach or in that general locality .

The event at Cardwell on Saturday was the culmination of a couple of years of work by so many people to reconstruct Cardwell. The main road through Cardwell, the Bruce Highway, had been partly washed away. The beaches had been destroyed. All of the beach infrastructure had gone. The two jetties that I mentioned, on fabulous Dunk Island and at Mission Beach, had been destroyed. Over the last two years a lot of people had put a lot of work into the reconstruction of those localities. I pay credit to the designers, the workers, the contractors, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council and all those who have played a part in the wonderful reconstruction that we opened officially on Saturday. In line with a very sensible decision of the Queensland government, the reconstruction has been done at a higher standard than it ever was before, so future events will not cause the same sort of destruction.

I want to pay tribute particularly to Councillor Bill Shannon, the Mayor of the Cassowary Coast Regional council, for his leadership over the time of Cyclone Yasi and ever since. It is a very, very difficult job. As you can imagine, when you are dealing with distressed people it is not always easy for the mayor and his assistants, but Bill has done a magnificent job. It was great to see on Saturday that his neighbouring mayors, Councillor Bob Manning from the Cairns Regional Council, and Councillor Rodger Bow from the Hinchinbrook Shire Council, were both in Cardwell and Mission Beach to join in the celebrations. I also want to congratulate the local member of parliament, Mr Andrew Cripps, who is a senior minister in the Queensland government, for his leadership and the role he has played. The reconstruction works were expensive: the Commonwealth government put in some $27 million and the Queensland government put in about $14 million for the Cardwell reconstruction and another $5 million or $6 million for the rebuilding of the two jetties, at Dunk Island and Clump Point. That money has been well spent.

Cyclones, as I mentioned, are not new in that area. We had Cyclone Winifred in 1986, Cyclone Justin in 1997, Cyclone Larry in 2006 and, of course, Cyclone Yasi two years ago. Whilst some people are terrified by these events, most North Queenslanders can deal with these things in their stride. They are regular events and if you prepare properly you can withstand them. Notwithstanding that, Yasi being one of the biggest cyclones in 100 years meant the damage to buildings and infrastructure and to people's being was immense. The openings on Saturday were, as I said on the day, a monument to the resilience and courage of the people of the communities of Cardwell and Mission Beach. It shows how these communities can fight back, how they can ensure that nature will not defeat them and that they will be back, bigger and better than ever. Those of you who at some stage in the future see the work at Cardwell and Mission Beach will understand what I am saying. I do not underestimate the terror for those in the path of Cyclone Yasi. I have been through a couple of cyclones myself and I know what it is like. But the work that has been done—the fabulous reconstruction and the look of the town—is just magnificent. It is a real credit, a real monument, to the resilience and courage and determination of the people of those communities. I congratulate them and I wish them all the very best for the future.

Senate adjourned at 19:50