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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 3976


Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:00): I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death, on 6 April 2016, of the Honourable Dr Rex Alan Patterson, a former Minister and Member of this House for the Division of Dawson from 1966 to 1975, place on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tender its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.

Rex Patterson was born and bred on a dairy farm in Bundaberg and grew up through the Great Depression of the 1930s and the early years of World War II. Determined to do his bit for the war effort, he enlisted in the RAAF at just 18 years of age. He was known locally in the Mackay region and in Queensland for his sporting prowess. Rex was a rated tennis champion, an athletics blue, and a first-grade cricketer. He excelled academically. He was the recipient of a Wright Fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship. He had a degree in commerce, a Master of Science and a PhD in agricultural economy.

As a true son of the land, he championed the causes of agriculture, development and conservation throughout his life. Rex proved himself to be a visionary; his ideas were years ahead of anyone else of his day. He was an advocate for water conservation, for the development of Northern Australia, for the sugar industry and for the development of beef roads. His passion for Northern Australia and his expertise were recognised with positions as Deputy Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and Director for Northern Development in the Department of National Development. In 1966, he was elected to this House by the people of Dawson, and between 1972 and 1975 he held a number of portfolios focused on Northern Australia and agriculture. It was in this capacity, on Christmas Day 1974, the day after Cyclone Tracy, that he flew into Darwin with Major-General Alan Stretton to take responsibility for rebuilding that city.

Rex became Minister for Agriculture in 1975, bringing invaluable experience to that role. His legacy was long-term trade agreements for Queensland Sugar with Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and many European countries. He never stopped advocating for agriculture and Northern Queensland and, on leaving politics, he was a consultant to several international corporations on sugar industry matters. Rex will be remembered as a great Australian with a great confidence in the people and the possibilities of Northern Australia. He leaves an enduring legacy for rural Australia, our land and resources.

On behalf of the government and the members of this House and our nation, I extend our deepest condolences to his family.