Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:27): Tonight I want to very briefly but very sincerely pay tribute to all of those who assisted selflessly during Cyclone Debbie, which ravaged parts of North Queensland in the past few days, and those who are still assisting in its aftermath. I cannot mention them all by name individually, as it would be impossible to do so because there are so many. Many who helped in their own quiet way will never be publically identified. We owe a real debt to all the emergency workers, police, fire rescue, SES, council workers, meteorologists, local radio presenters, neighbours, community groups and other countless helpers who did so much in their own way to help. It makes you proud to be an Australian to see the volunteers and those working beyond the call of duty to help with natural calamities that are unpredictable and unstoppable. Many people put their own personal safety and even their lives at risk to help others.
When driving from Ayr to Townsville airport this morning to come back to Canberra I was overwhelmed by the number of police, emergency, SES and fire rescue vehicles heading south but particularly by the constant stream of tradies' utes and four-wheel-drives with trailers, ladders, mobile workshops, a range of doors, gates and the like, and generators all heading south to help. I know from Yasi the reassurance of seeing Army convoys and helicopters heading into the affected areas. To know that the Defence Force is on the way is a real reassurance to those whose stress levels and equilibrium have been imbalanced by the events of the past 48 hours.
In Ayr, where I live and where the cyclone was originally tracking, we were very lucky. I want to thank and acknowledge all those friends, relatives and Facebook friends—many of whom I have never personally met—who sent messages of support, including, I am proud to say, almost every one of my coalition colleagues in this chamber and the Prime Minister. Believe me, in times of terror, it does help to know that others are thinking of you.
In Ayr, we missed it, thankfully, but I do feel for those friends and the residents of Bowen, Airlie Beach, Proserpine and Mackay who have borne the brunt of Cyclone Debbie. Having lived through a couple of cyclones in my lifetime, I can attest to the absolute terror one feels for oneself and loved ones as the gale-force winds increase and the howling of wind and rain and flying debris escalates to a nerve-wracking crescendo, buffeting one's home as one huddles terrified, usually in a blacked-out room, almost defenceless, waiting and hoping and praying. Unlike other calamities, cyclones are entirely unpredictable and unstoppable. There is nothing you can do but try to stay safe with your loved ones and pray. And Debbie was worse than many in that it was so slow moving, meaning that the increasing terror was drawn out like some form of heinous torture.
Cyclones are one small detriment of living in the North, in God's own country, I might say, and I know that the resilience of the people will shine through, as always, and that things will get back to normal quickly. The natural beauty of the North will quickly recuperate and tourists will shortly be again enjoying one of the seventh and, indeed, eighth wonders of the world, with the reef and the rainforests. The mines will crank up again, commerce will get back to normal, the farmers will harvest, and all of the wonderful services we have in the North will be business as usual.
We do feel for those who have lost homes and businesses and other property; the farmers in Proserpine and Mackay, in particular, who would have lost crops; and the tourist places that will suffer not only from the damage but from overinflated bad news. The Commonwealth and Queensland governments will help there. Insurance companies and banks will also be doing their bit.
Tonight, I think it is important that we acknowledge all those who have helped. If you are one of those thousands who will never be named individually but whose main preoccupation in the last few days has been helping others, please accept this on behalf of perhaps all Australians as our thanks and our grateful acknowledgement for what you have done.