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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 947

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (21:40): To the member for Page: if those guys are going out there on postie bikes, the one thing they will not be looking for on the way home is a seat. They were looking for an acronym for the drive along the Flinders Highway, and one wag from Richmond came up with the acronym, MAMBA country. They asked him what it stood for and he said, 'Miles and Miles of Bugger All'. They will see plenty of that. Just be very careful—the only thing you see on the side of the road at night that does not look like a cow is a cow.

Last week on Friday I had the great honour of standing at the side of the road of our fabulous Strand to watch the welcome for the 3RAR. The 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment has moved from the seat of Cook into paradise in the seat of Herbert. They marched along, and it was a casual 34 or 35 degrees with 87 or 88 per cent humidity, but the guys just loved it. They had to form up in Strand Park near the Cenotaph there, which, Mr Speaker, you will know very well, and stand at attention for about 15 minutes before the speeches started. They watched all sorts of speeches. They had a welcome to country by Gracelyn Smallwood and Uncle Arthur Johnson from Magnetic Island. We only lost two, who collapsed in the heat, but we were very lucky to be able to walk around the crowd afterwards and welcome the boys.

As true Townsvillians we turned up—there were about 1,500 people there at 10 o'clock in the morning on a school day to welcome them. The 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment is the final hand in glove for the ready-deployable forces in Australia. It has truly come home. The member for Cook has often been told that the shire is where it happens, that the shire is the greatest place on earth, but he is so wrong. The guys have been fantastically welcomed into Townsville. It is not just the guys who are there; it is what they bring with them. With Lavarack Barracks, the RAAF base at Garbutt and Ross Island Barracks at South Townsville we now have over 7,000 defence people in Townsville, and with those 7,000 defence people we also have their families who live with us.

The effort that the ADF and the Townsville City Council in particular have made in integrating the defence personnel into our community has made Townsville the No. 1 spot that people want to be transferred to when they are in the Defence Force. We are singularly the best spot for defence forces in Australia. Our football clubs of all codes will be welcoming young, strong, fit men. These men are paratroopers; they proudly wear the parachute on the right shoulder. They are ready-deployable, trained, professional soldiers, but it is not only them but their wives who will fill our playgroups, our coffee lounges and our jobs that we need them to do. Their children will come into our schools and our university and our trade centres. Their friends will come and visit them. Townsville is a wonderful place and it is a great place to be.

We were lucky enough to have a defence families expo on the Friday afternoon and the Saturday, where we saw over 1,200 families come through to find out about everything from the Burdekin, out to Charters Towers, up to the Great Green Way and towards Tully, Innisfail and Ingham. It was a wonderful place for everyone to come through, and the Murray Stadium that the Townsville City Council erected with federal funding was a welcome place for it.

I was lucky enough to attend the Royal Australian Regiment dinner on Saturday night where the numbers were swelled by the officers and gentlemen from the 3rd Battalion. We were lucky enough to receive an address from Brigadier Bruce Scott, who has just returned from Afghanistan. The things that he was able to tell us about what is going on over there and the esteem with which Australian soldiers and Defence personnel are held was truly remarkable. It goes without saying, we have a wonderful place here that we are able to maintain these sorts of relationships without our Defence Force.

We have 7,000 Defence personnel. All these people are coming in and our places are all open. Come to Townsville; it is a great place to be if you want 3 RAR. Thank you very much. Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER: As I assume that Brigadier Bruce Scott is not the honourable member for Maranoa, I will allow the member for Herbert to refer to him in such terms.