Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (12:45): I am a senator for Queensland. I represent the whole state of Queensland and am a very proud Queenslander. I hope that, over the years, I've done things in this place that will help my state. But I am passionate about northern Australia, and particularly North Queensland—the part of my state where I live and have worked for all of my long years in this parliament. I'm proud to say, although a bit unhappy to say, that I am now the only senator of any political party currently residing and working in North Queensland.
So, it is perhaps fortuitous that this week, in this parliament, I am helping to host over 80 people from the capital of North Queensland, which is Townsville, who are in the building at the arrangement of Townsville Enterprise Limited to promote Townsville to those here in Canberra who have power over the money. I'm delighted that that group of community and civic leaders from Townsville has been able to meet with a wide range of ministers who are able to assist in their portfolio areas with some of the desires and aspirations of Townsville—including the Townsville region, I should emphasise.
I'm delighted that the delegation has been led by some old friends of mine, the five mayors from that area: Alf Lacey, mayor of Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council; Ramon Jayo, mayor of the Hinchinbrook Shire Council; Jenny Hill, mayor of Townsville; Liz Schmidt, mayor of Charters Towers Regional Council; and Lyn McLaughlin, mayor of the Burdekin Shire Council—a council that I spent 11 years on as an elected member before I came to this parliament almost 30 years ago. It was great to hear the mayors and their passion, and the passion of all of those who came with them. I've been delighted that Mr Phillip Thompson has joined me and the delegation in meeting with any number of ministers, including the Prime Minister later today. Phillip Thompson is the LNP's candidate for the electorate of Herbert at the next election and is an Afghanistan veteran. He was blown up in Afghanistan and has spent the last few years helping those with mental trauma—particularly those who have suffered in the way he suffered—as a result of wars that Australia has been involved in. For that, Phillip Thompson was selected as the Queensland Young Australian of the Year this year. Congratulations to Phillip on that particular award.
It's great to have these people here who are passionate about the north. As I often point out, northern Australia has less than five per cent of the population of Australia but already contributes about 50 per cent of Australia's export earnings to our nation. As the theme of the Townsville delegation states, a stronger north means a stronger Australia. I totally support them in what they've done.
As part of my passion for the north, just last week I jumped into my car and, with Mr Frank Beveridge, the LNP candidate in the electorate of Kennedy, drove for 2,500 kilometres around the electorate of Kennedy, first of all going to Charters Towers, where we met up with Mayor Liz Schmidt again. We were able to make an announcement on behalf of the Turnbull government of a $4 million grant to cattlemen and pastoralists in the north-west who are doing it tough with the drought and other difficulties, to help them better manage their properties.
From Charters Towers we drove up the Douglas Development Road to the Goldfield's Tavern at Forsayth. We stopped in there for a beer, but really it was to see some of the locals. The Goldfield's Tavern is always a good place to meet the locals. Then it was on to Georgetown and my old mates in the Latara Motel. The next day we went to Normanton and out to Karumba, where all of the local authorities in the north-west were meeting at their rock meeting at Karumba. It was great to catch up with all of those mayors, with Frank Beveridge, to hear their concerns and to again offer my assistance for the good work they are trying to do in those remote parts of Australia.
Then we went back to Normanton. One of the purposes of going out there was to join Normanton during its 150th year anniversary. Normanton is nowadays a very small town, about 500 people on the Norman River up in the Gulf Country, originally established in Burketown a bit further west. There was a disease there—they went over to Mornington Island and eventually came back to Normanton, where they set up what was 150 years ago the entree into the rich agricultural Gulf Country and gold mining area at Croydon.
They had a wonderful party. We joined them in the street party that day. I was privileged to join Mayor Jack Bawden and the deputy mayor, Ashley Gallagher, to bury a time capsule in Normanton, which will be opened in many, many years time—long after I've departed this earth, I'm afraid. It was good to be part of those celebrations and to have the honour of helping to bury the time capsule.
It was also good to catch up with people there. I had been in Normanton not all that many weeks previously, opening the Gulf Christian College up there because the Turnbull government is very keen on promoting education—quality education—even in places as remote as Normanton. That's a great school. I was delighted to catch up with people I'd met a couple of weeks before at the opening of additional buildings at the Gulf Christian College in Normanton.
After that, we went down the road through Charters Towers and on to Mount Isa, where I had the honour of opening, on behalf of the Prime Minister and the minister for regional development, the Mount Isa Rodeo Hall of Fame, which recognises the heroes of the Rotary rodeo in its 60th anniversary rodeo event. The rodeo was started 59 years ago but it was celebrating its 60th rodeo. Why? Because one year they had two rodeos. The acceptable reason for that was that Queen Elizabeth II was able to attend a rodeo that year, and already in those earlier days the rodeo was recognised as the biggest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere, so obviously Queen Elizabeth had wanted to see it. And the rodeo continues today. Congratulations to the Rotary Club who have run it for the last 59 years. With our work done on the Thursday, with Frank Beveridge I was able to go along to the rodeo as the guest of the rodeo committee. We really enjoyed some of the fabulous sporting events at the rodeo. It's a unique sport and very, very exciting to watch.
As we moved around, there were two questions that were always asked of me. One was, 'Senator Macdonald, how can we vote for you at the next election?'—more about that some other time, some other place. But the other question was, 'How can we encourage people to move to these remote parts of Australia?' They are aware that I've promoted to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer a proposal to review and upgrade the zone tax rebate scheme, which, when introduced in 1945, actually compensated people living in remote parts of Australia a little bit for the additional costs of living remotely, far from our capital cities. They're very keen to look at that, and I'm going to be urging my government and the parliament to seriously review the zone tax rebate scheme.