Queensland's agriculture minister is former Labor senator Mark Furner, so people here know him well.
He is a big and robust man. This week I've had a number of conversations with him about the North Queensland floods and the enormity of the carnage. I've been taken by the emotion in Mark's voice and the desperation in his tone. 'I saw more dead livestock than alive,' he told me, after a weekend tour of affected areas. I make that point because it's really difficult for people who haven't been there, or aren't as well informed as we are here, how terrible a tragedy this is. For a big man like Mark Furner to be shaken by it I think should be an indicator to all Australians that this is a really big event, and the enormity of the devastation is something we've rarely seen before.
The rain events in Townsville and north-west Queensland have dumped several years worth of rain in just a few short days. Mother Nature doesn't discriminate; the tragedy has fallen equally upon urban and rural areas. Our thoughts and prayers of course are with all of them. But in rural areas the impact extends well beyond the family home and commercial buildings. The carnage there can be seen over large tracts of land—ironically, large tracts of land which, only weeks ago, were suffering from possibly the worst drought in our history. Indeed, the President of AgForce, Georgie Somerset, told me of one landholder who, currently, is in flood at one end of their property and still in drought at the other—such is the cruelty of Mother Nature.
The recovery will not be immediate. Field erosion, crop losses and the impact on the herd size, already under stress, are problems that will not be solved in the short term. They will take many years to overcome. So, too, will the biosecurity threats.
So the opposition extends its sympathies and best wishes to all those affected by this natural disaster. We stand as one with the Commonwealth government and the state government as they develop a response sufficient to help those in need. And we think of our friends in local government. Our local government leaders will bear a lot of pain and responsibility over the coming weeks and months, and they will do so with limited funds—as is always the case for them. So, as I said in the House on Tuesday, nothing invites bipartisanship like a natural disaster like this and its impact on our people, and we stand with the government, ready to do anything we can to assist.