Queensland Club Governor's Dinner
Kaye and I are delighted to join you again this year, in these familiar and welcoming surroundings, amid so many familiar and welcoming faces.
We are also delighted to share with you how honoured we are that, in November last year, Her Majesty The Queen accepted the Premier’s recommendation that my initial five-year term should be extended by two years to 29 July 2021.
I appreciate this regular opportunity to speak of my pride and delight in being Governor of this great State. After all, where better to praise Queensland than at the Queensland Club?
I have often on these occasions spoken of the more remote, or less well-known locations that we have visited on our travels throughout the State. There will be no respite from that theme tonight!
Regrettably, some of these small places once again gain prominence because of misfortune.
Finch Hatton near Mackay, for instance, was in the news late last year as but one location in the path of ferocious bushfires that broke out in a swathe of Queensland from Bundaberg to Mackay.
We called in at the Pinnacle Family Hotel at Finch Hatton between Eungella and Mackay on the first of February this year. The Mayor of Mackay Regional Council, Greg Williamson, said they had the best pies in Queensland. We thought we were ‘buying’ some, but the owner refused payment: I compensated him with a felt pen inscription on a plate – I think he was happy. They were wonderful pies by the way, a real challenge to those other renowned establishments at Fernvale and Yatala.
Returning to the serious however, neither were larger centres were spared misfortune. In February Townsville, with its dams at alarmingly record low levels, suffered ‘severe and historic’ flooding.
Further west, paddocks that had been bare and cracked for years were transformed into inland seas in which hundreds of thousands of stock drowned.
And then there is the slow-motion disaster that is the on-going drought.
It seemed at times as if some malevolent force was deliberately tormenting the State. But no force, however malevolent, is a match for the toughness and resilience of Queensland communities.
The great distress that all these communities suffered, the damage to lives and livelihoods, is raw and real. But even stronger is Queenslanders’ determination to overcome setbacks and to get on with the business of recovery. I have as Governor spoken so often about this over the last five years that I hope I am still listened to. I am really glad that Major General Stuart Smith leads so well with reassurance to our people in times of disaster.
But it is not only in times of stress and distress that these quintessentially Queensland characteristics of big-heartedness and resilience come to the fore.
The example of a tiny hamlet – Hungerford, on the ‘dingo fence’, the Queensland New South Wales border, more than 1000 km south west of Brisbane, is instructive. To get from New South Wales into Queensland at Hungerford, you have to unlock a gate. I did not come to know who has the key!
At the opening of a new airport terminal at Thargomindah, two women from Hungerford lobbied Kaye for us to visit their little town. Returning to Fernberg, I said we would like to do it.
There were, however, two counter-indications. First, Hungerford is by nature inaccessible – four hours by road from Cunnamulla, and a limited airstrip (we essentially solved that thanks to the RFDS conducting a field clinic); but second, the population of Hungerford is… nine!
We made it, though to a ‘field day’ with about 300 people there, and yes, we met all those nine residents, and reflecting modern morès, they agreed to a photo which we ‘Tweeted’.
To Kaye I think, and me, that was the most remarkable experience of these last five years. It was the first time a Governor had visited Hungerford – ever. Both Kaye and I and those nine residents – and the other 300 – were beside ourselves with: probably in part dismay, but overall, excitement.
These are amazing people, great examples of resilient human beings who notwithstanding continual drought, remain happy, caring Queenslanders.
To my mind, a quintessential vice-regal opportunity, contribution.
And I particularly wanted to mention it tonight because of our Club’s long-standing really genuine commitment to regional Queensland, with our having so many valued members from the West.
I have been a grateful member of the Queensland Club, and the United Service Club, since the 1970s – and an appreciative honorary member of the Brisbane Club and Tattersall’s Club over many years.
Their members show a particular devotion to the community we all proclaim.
With many of you here tonight, Kaye and I have enjoyed a close personal relationship over very many years. We are most grateful for that, and I must stop mentioning Brigadier Sam Harrison for his pivotal influence: because I acknowledge my brash candour should be trumped by his quiet discretion.
While on candour, may I disclose I have written a couple of times to the President commending him on his notes in the newsletter, which I have found very interesting – and for an older person so easy, in print form, to digest.
And so the seguè, to thank our President, this Committee and the staff, for maintaining and developing our wonderful Club: historical, stable, progressive…
Kaye and I thank you for the warmth of your welcome and hospitality this evening.
Tomorrow for us, by road to Allora which celebrates its 150th anniversary, with maybe a stop at Aratula calling at Arthur Clive’s Family Bakehouse on the way back for pre-ordered sandwiches (that is not pies); and on Monday for me, to Shoalwater Bay for Talisman Sabre – but don’t worry, observer status only.
I must say in conclusion that Kaye and I look forward very much to another two years of being surprised, delighted, humbled and inspired by wonderful Queenslanders, epitomised by all of you present here tonight. Thank you.