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Monday, 8 March 1999
Page: 2416


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) (10:47 PM) —I rise very briefly to join my colleague Senator Coonan in recognising the great contribution women have made to public life in Australia. Perhaps I will start with you, Madam President, and your achievement, what you have done, as a senator for this territory but perhaps more importantly in your role as President of the Senate. I listened with interest to Senator Stott Despoja, who rattled off a list of prominent women. Apart from you, I do not think any of them were from anything but the left side of politics. I just wanted to mention Dame Enid Lyons, the first female federal MP and minister, and Senator the Hon. Dame Annabelle Rankin, who was the first minister federally in charge of a department and was also I am told the first female head of mission for the Australian diplomatic service.

Who could talk about the contribution women have made without recognising the vibrant and very able current Chief Minister of this territory, a person with whom I have the pleasure and honour to deal in my role as minister for the territories. Of course I am very proud of Joan Sheldon, who was the first female leader of a political party in the Queensland state parliament. Who could forget the magnificent contribution that my friend Sallyanne Atkinson made to public life as mayor of perhaps Australia's largest—in area at least—city. I was surprised that Senator Stott Despoja had forgotten the contribution Sallyanne Atkinson had made.

In my role as minister for local government I come in contact very often with a great number of very committed Australians who happen to be women but who are also mayors of their communities. I recognise the head of the Northern Territory Local Government Association is a female. There are very significant mayors like Liz Cunningham in Queensland, who was the Mayor of Calliope, and Anne Portess, who is the Mayor of Herberton. I should not do this, because there are literally dozens and dozens of female mayors right throughout Australia and, by mentioning some, you obviously leave out others. But some that immediately spring to mind are the mayors of Broadsound, Beaudesert and Longreach in my state. There is also Mayor Joy Baluch from South Australia, who I have had some very interesting meetings with and who is a very significant and interesting person in her own right.

I also, not in recent times but in previous years, have been impressed by the number of women leaders—chairmen, mayors, presidents—of some of the community councils in Cape York who, under very difficult circumstances, have done magnificent work. Madam President, they, like you, have all made a major contribution to public life in Australia which is very much worth recognising today.