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Monday, 23 February 2009
Page: 1558

Mr HALE (9:16 PM) —It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to speak about a couple of significant events that have taken place in my electorate of Solomon recently. Last Thursday, I had the honour of representing both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence at the commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. The service was held at the cenotaph on the Esplanade to mark the anniversary. It was very touching to see at the commemoration so many of our veterans, survivors and their families, as well as dignitaries and officials. Over 3,000 people were enthralled at the spectacular re-enactment of the anti-aircraft ground fire by the Army and the fly-by by the RAAF Hornets. The re-enactment took place at 9.58 am to mark the moment when the first bombs fell on 19 February 1942.

In a recently published book of some 7,000 pages documenting the Second World War there were only two pages dedicated to the bombing of Darwin. We need to tell this story because over 250 people died that day and it is a story that a lot of Australians do not know.

I would also like to thank the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin, who made the trip north for the occasion. I know that he always enjoys coming up to Darwin. Alan and I also attended the Australian American Association commemoration of the bombing of Darwin at the USS Peary gun memorial. It was a very special service this year because, as was reported in the Northern Territory News, the family of the last survivor from the USS Peary have closure after they scattered his ashes at the site where the ship went down in Darwin Harbour in 1942. Dallas Widick was one of 31 sailors who survived when the USS Peary slowly sank after sustaining devastating blows. Ninety-one of his comrades went down with the ship. Mr Widick, who was the last remaining survivor, died in his home in America surrounded by his family and friends on September 22 last year. His wife Lorna said it was her husband’s dying wish that his ashes be committed to the sea over the USS Peary wreck so that he could spend eternity with his shipmates.

During the week I also had the pleasure of being at the opening of the Sattler room at the RSL in Palmerston. The room is named after Sattler, who was a pilot during the Second World War. The week just gone in the electorate of Solomon highlights the significance of the Australian Defence Force to Australia and their importance to the Northern Territory. With over 5,000 ADF men and women based in Solomon, I am particularly proud to be their representative in a government that is committed to the ADF.

Last week I also had the great honour and privilege of presenting the Nakara Primary School’s outside school hours care service with the NT Active After School Community Super Site award for 2008. I would like to put on-record my congratulations to the children and staff of the Active After School Community program at the Nakara Primary School. To be selected the Super Site award winner in front of 70 other participating sites around the territory is a fantastic effort for all those involved. The super site award recognises the outstanding contribution made by the Nakara Primary School in the coordination and delivery of the AASC program. The school has excelled at helping children and their families to be more active, providing healthy and nutritious afternoon teas, and encouraging local community involvement in sport.

Whilst visiting the Nakara Primary School I also had the pleasure of talking to the school’s principal Mr Barry Griffin, an extremely hardworking and committed educator—just like all the teachers I have met. Barry was talking to me about how excited he is about receiving his school’s share of our government’s $14.7 billion boost to the education revolution. The building education revolution will commence this year and provides new facilities and refurbishment in schools to meet the needs of the 21st century for students and teachers. Forty-one primary schools in Solomon will directly benefit from the immediate funding for major and minor infrastructure projects.

Barry was talking to me about his need for new classrooms to replace the demountable classrooms he currently has in use. He also talked with a lot of excitement about the opportunity for weather proofing his multipurpose hall and being able to have kids exercising without being subjected to our unpredictable extreme weather conditions in the north. I was also pleased to hear Barry talk about community groups using the updated facility, something that I know will be appreciated by many not-for-profit organisations, which often do not have adequate space to undertake the great work that they do.

It is not only Barry who is excited at the prospect of our building revolution. Last week I also had the pleasure of being shown around Malak Primary School by its Principal, Paul Nyhuis. I spoke to the kids and talked to the staff out at Malak. What a fantastic school! It also has a unit dedicated to children with autism. What a great feeling I had when Paul told me about the school’s plans to improve their facilities with a community room for kids, teachers and community groups. Just like Nakara Primary, they are desperate to weatherproof their undercover areas so that kids can exercise without passing out from heat exhaustion.

I also spoke to a small business man in Palmerston with regard to the first round of stimulus packages. I asked him how it had impacted on his business. He told me that December had been the best December he had had in eight years and that it went on into January. It is making a difference, because he had kept on the casual staff that he would usually have to lay off in January. This plan strikes the right balance between supporting growth and jobs now and delivering the investments needed to strengthen the economy for the long term.

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the media outlets in Darwin and Palmerston for the fantastic work they have done for the Victorian bushfire appeals. So as not to offend anyone, in case I miss someone, I will not mention all of them. However, I would like to say a big thankyou to the NT broadcaster Pete Davies, who raised over $400,000, a tremendous effort. Pete Davies is a guy with a lot of energy. We do not always agree. He gets me on air and has a go at me at times on different issues—

Mr Irons —He must be brave.

Mr HALE —He is brave—I will take that interjection—but when it comes to community activities and being committed to the community of Darwin and Solomon, you would go a long way to find someone more committed than Pete Davies. The moment the news broke of the horrible events of 7 February, Pete Davies started to get people to ring in with pledges of support. From that, a population of 80,000 people in Darwin and Palmerston raised a total of $400,000. To me, that is a fantastic effort. So I would like to thank Pete for that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! There being no further grievances, the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.