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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1340

Mr ROBERT (12:02 PM) —On indulgence: it is hard to know what to make of the range of tragedies that have struck our nation in recent weeks. While we have witnessed the horror of Victoria’s bushfires in the south, with several hundred people and thousands of homes taken in the blink of an eye, in the north 62 per cent of Queensland is under water and the parts that are not under water are in drought.

I live in the seat of Fadden. It is the fastest growing electorate in the nation, as one would expect with it covering the Gold Coast. I live in the middle of the two great tempests of fire and flood that scourge our land. In my military days, I lived in the north and experienced the monsoon and all its volumes of water. We truly are a land of rugged mountain ranges, drought and flooding rains. Residents of the north prepare for the monsoon. It is part of their way of life. In military days gone by, I trained at Tully. Having parachuted into a swamp because of the metres and metres of rain—the deluge—that the place gets, I understand well how the north understands and prepares for this. But, every now and then, the heavens open up and there is a tempest and squalls greater than anyone would expect. The rivers rise, the creeks burst and the towns are flooded. And while the north prepares for the monsoon and the rains—part of the great charm of the area is that it is wet and that it has a significant wet period; that is part of what makes it a great tourism area—when the heavens explode in such a mighty way and the rivers run deep and wide and 60 per cent of Queensland floods, what becomes part of a way of life can quickly turn into horror.

My thoughts go to those communities in North Queensland and parts of north Australia, including the electorate of Kennedy, who are struggling in dreadfully wet conditions and who have been cut off for weeks and weeks on end. Only now are some roads beginning to open. Families have had no fresh food for many weeks, and there has been difficulty in providing them with services and amenities due the overwhelming volume of water. While the dam wall of the Burdekin is an impressive sight at flood, that impression fades when such a degree of water spills over and impacts our communities.

Like in the horrific bushfires of Victoria, there are some great heroes amongst the tragedy of this story. Those who have gone from house to house seeking to provide support need truck drivers, who are moving forward despite the deluge to provide food, clothing and essentials. There are emergency service personnel who are doing enormous hours to ensure that people are fine and well taken care of. It is fitting that we acknowledge the volume of water, the hardship and the fact that 62 per cent of the great state of Queensland is literally under water.

I will finish by looking at what Ecclesiastes says in the Bible, in chapter 3. When King Solomon was reflecting on his life and all that he went through, he said: ‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun. There is a time to be born, there is a time to plant, there is a time to weep and’—if I can paraphrase—’there will be a time to laugh. There is a time to mourn. There will be again a time to dance. It is now a time of scattering stones; there will be a time to gather them. It is a time to embrace. There will be a time to mend. There is a time to love. There is a time for peace. There is a time to heal.’ I think I can speak for all parliamentarians, as we look at what is happening with the floods in the north of Queensland, when I say: there will be a time to build and rebuild.