Hon George Christensen MP
Hon George Christensen MP, Photo Parliament PalView

My electorate in North Queensland is bounded by Townsville in the north, the home of the remarkable Johnathan Thurston, and Mackay in the south, the home of two-try hero Dane Gagai. Often in Origin games it comes down to the final minutes, or seconds, and the game is there for the taking. And cometh the hour, cometh the man: Johnathan Thurston. His sideline conversion in the final minutes never looked like missing and Queenslanders never doubted that outcome.

Thurston had the opportunity to steal the game away from the Blues at the last minute because Dane Gagai scored his second try of the match. Gagai’s contribution to that victory and to Origin in the past three years is a source of great pride for Mackay. Dane Gagai was born in Mackay in 1991 to Indigenous Australian and Maori parents, which means he could play for Australia or New Zealand at test level. He got his NRL start at the Broncos in 2011, but he has spent the past five years playing for the Newcastle Knights. Two years ago, he scored a try on debut in State of Origin game 3, helping Queensland win—again—52-6. Last year he cemented his place in the side, playing in all three Origin matches. He scored Queensland’s only try in game 1—a victory again—and scored three tries in game 2 to win the series.

These origin stars are part of a great sporting tradition in North Queensland. Like many other regional centres, the towns in North Queensland produce more than their fair share of sporting stars. In the Burdekin, Karrie Webb, born in Ayr, became not only Australia’s best female golfer but also one of the greatest players in the world in the history of women’s golf. The small town of Proserpine in the Whitsundays is home to dual Paralympic gold medallist David Nicholas, a cyclist who won gold medals on the cycling track at London in 2012 and Rio in 2016. One of the toughest competitors in the north is 26-year-old professional bull rider Beau Willis, from Bowen. Before he was seriously injured last year, he was riding in the US with a world ranking of 70. I believe he got even higher than that.

The sugar city and mining service centre of Mackay has produced an array of sporting greats: runner Cathy Freeman; swimmers Geoff Huegill, Linda Mackenzie and Susie O’Neill; hockey players Stephen Lambert, Tracey Belbin and Baeden Choppy; NRL’s Dale Shearer, Daly Cherry-Evans, Wendell Sailor and Martin Bella; and racing royalty in George Moore—one of the greatest jockeys and trainers in the world. Townsville has its own greats: swimming sensation Libby Trickett; beach volleyball gold medallist at the Sydney Olympic Games Natalie Cook; and Gorden Tallis and Sam Thaiday—both from the NRL. While Johnathan Thurston was not born in Townsville, he has spent the past 12 years with the Cowboys and led the team to the NRL premiership in 2015 in one of the greatest matches in NRL history. Townsville and North Queensland embrace their football team like never before, and that fervour was a driving force behind the push for a new stadium in the city. This government is committing $100 million to the construction of a new stadium in Townsville, recognising the importance of the Cowboys and sport in general—and the fact that this will deliver construction jobs, and other jobs in the future.

We are also delivering on other major sporting infrastructure projects throughout North Queensland: $10 million for a sports precinct at CQ University campus in Mackay; $1.9 million to develop a sports park in the Whitsundays; $1 million to relocate the junior football grounds in Mackay for better lighting—we have already granted that—and a further $350,000 for turfing and irrigation; $250,000 for new a netball court and resurfacing of the existing netball courts in Mackay; and $250,000 for a multipurpose stadium in the Burdekin, which will principally house basketball. There is a great investment from the federal government, from this Liberal-National government, going into sport so that there can be more sporting greats in North Queensland.

The government recognises the importance of sport in North Queensland and the benefit it brings to individuals and communities. It recognises that participating in higher levels of sport can be difficult for young people in regional areas. In addition to good infrastructure, we continue to support the Local Sporting Champions grants to young people for travel costs for playing at state and national level games. We continue to back sport in the north because we want to ensure that the Maroons keep on kicking the butts of the Blues in every origin game in the future.

Chamber Federation Chamber on 22/06/2017 Item Federation Chamber – ADJOURNMENT – Queensland: Sports Speaker: Christensen, George, MP. Parliment of Australia Website Copyright: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/au Transcript used for Reporting News.