Australians were glued to their televisions on Saturday night to watch our new King and Queen crowned.
It was a wonderful occasion – historical, heartening and happy.
As we watched on, I must say, we were all proud to see the Prime Minister and Governor-General there on behalf of our nation.
Prime Minister, I want to acknowledge you, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley, and the entire Australian delegation.
Each of you represented Australia with grace and dignity – and it was a great credit to each of you.
Most of us have only ever lived under one Monarch.
Such was the extraordinary seventy-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Thus, the crowning of our new Sovereign – King Charles III – and the Queen at his side – Camilla – was a truly momentous occasion.
It was a momentous occasion for the British people, for Australians, and for all citizens of the Commonwealth.
It was a moment when an age-old tradition brings with it both a sense of reconnection to history and regeneration in our times.
A moment of celebration which resonated around the world.
Charles was the longest-serving heir apparent in British history.
He was the boy who waited.
The prince of patience.
The king seven decades in the making.
No other royal has journeyed longer to sit on the British throne.
No other royal has been so prepared to wear the crown.
Succeeding her father on the throne aged 25, Elizabeth was the Queen that we came to know.
Succeeding his mother on the throne aged 73, Charles is the King we already know.
And we know that he will be a decent, dedicated and well-disposed king.
In his biography of Charles, Christopher Andersen recounted Elizabeth’s coronation day.
The newly crowned Queen emerged onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace, cheered by a crowd of a million Britons.
Next to her of course was her four-year-old Charles.
In that moment, the boy first understood how much his mother was loved by her people.
In that moment, the young Charles first grasped the importance of the bond between the people and their monarch.
A bond which held the country together.
A bond which kept the Commonwealth united and strong.
In his first speech as King on the 9th of September last year – as the Prime Minister referenced earlier – Charles said that his beloved mother was an ‘inspiration and example’ to him.
In that address, Charles’ renewed promise of lifelong service echoed the promise his mother made on her 21st birthday.
The King went on to say, and I quote:
‘Wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the Realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.’
In his Commonwealth Day address on the 13th of March, the King described the Commonwealth as a ‘constant’ in his life.
As an association of ‘shared values’, ‘common purpose’, ‘joint action’ and ‘extraordinary potential’.
‘The myriad connections between our nations have sustained and enriched us for more than seven decades.
Our commitment to peace, progress and opportunity will sustain us for many more.’
Our Sovereign has a great affinity, as we know, for Australia.
In many ways, it was Charles’ first trip to Australia which transformed the boy into the man.
The Queen and Prince Philip arranged for young Charles to attend the Geelong Grammar School on an exchange program in 1966.
Particularly to attend the remote Timbertop campus in the foothills of the Victorian Alps.
There, students receive traditional classroom lessons combined with activities in the bush to develop resilience, self-reliance and strength.
If Prince Philip had hoped the experience would test the young Charles’ mettle and ‘put some steel in him’, he was right.
For soon, the 17-year-old Prince was hiking, cross-country running, fishing, chopping wood and supervising younger students. He learned about natural history.
He encountered every Englishman’s worst nightmare:
Huntsman spiders, tiger snakes, dragon lizards, leeches, fruit bats and bull ants.
Meanwhile, under the guidance of history head, Michael Collins Persse – with whom he would develop a lifelong friendship – Charles worked away at his A-levels.
And in his public appearances – like meeting lifesavers at Bondi Beach – the Prince would learn to conquer his paralysing fear of crowds.
Collins Persse later reflected:
‘Everybody sooner or later discovered that… they had in their midst not only an inevitable celebrity, but a human being of extraordinary warmth and worth.
… the resulting affection and understanding between him and Australians at large is a bond much appreciated by many.’
The Charles who left our country was transformed.
He was a very different figure from the shy boy who, only six months earlier, had skipped down the airstairs of a Qantas Boeing 707 in Sydney to nervously meet Governor-General Casey, Prime Minister Holt and their wives.
In 1988, when Charles was in Australia for the bicentenary celebrations, he would reflect on that first trip down under.
He described it as ‘far the best part’ of his entire education.
And something he would ‘always cherish’.
Charles has visited our nation on 16 occasions spanning 10 different prime ministers.
Notably, he attended the funerals of Prime Ministers Holt and Menzies on behalf of the Queen.
He celebrated the 200th anniversaries of both James Cook’s and the First Fleet’s arrival in Australia.
He inaugurated the Anglo-Australian Telescope at Siding Spring in New South Wales.
He visited towns and cities across the country.
He opened the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Unexpected moments have stayed with us too:
The Prince being interviewed on Countdown by Molly Meldrum.
His emerging from the surf at Cottesloe beach to be kissed by an audacious Jane Priest.
And his cool-headed return to the lectern on Australia Day after being shot at by a student with a starter’s pistol.
Our Sovereign appreciates – all too well – our harsh and unforgiving climate.
Never has Charles been remiss in sending wishes to Australians besieged by bushfires, floods and other natural disasters.
At an Australian bushfire appeal in London in 2020, he said:
‘Amidst the horror and the sorrow, I have… felt the greatest possible sense of admiration for the extraordinary determination and resilience of the Australian people.’
Over many years, King Charles III has got to know Australians.
And Australians have got to know him.
We’ve come to know the philanthropist who has established more than 20 charities and is a patron of hundreds more.
The aviator who flew planes for the RAF and helicopters for the Royal Navy.
The conservationist who has passionately campaigned for environmental protection and sustainability since his first public speech aged 21.
The enthusiastic spectator and sportsman who has dabbled in many sports and is a very keen and fierce advocate for the Arts in all their forms.
At the 1988 bicentennial celebrations, Charles said:
‘There is no point now in trying to gloss over the circumstances in which the country of which you are rightly proud began.’
He spoke of our nation’s ‘harsh beginnings’ and the hardship for all:
For Indigenous Australians – ‘the original people of this land’.
For the convicts sent ‘against their will’ to an unknown country which would have felt like another ‘prison’.
But Charles also spoke of the Australian achievement.
Of the ‘intelligence and courage of brave men and women’ who, in an astonishingly brief time – in a ‘heartbeat’ of history – created a ‘whole new free country’.
He spoke proudly of Australia being ‘its own creation’ – ‘a democracy which has become a model for the world.’
And how that creation came from the British gift of the Rule of Law.
Profoundly, he said:
‘The true celebration of this nation is in its Constitution.
In those dry-sounding but hard-fought-for rules and regulations, every family in this remarkable country has its rights protected and cherished.’
With our Sovereign and his Queen crowned, we celebrate change.
But we also celebrate our historical connections with Britain and the British inheritance:
The Rule of Law.
The Separation of Powers.
The English language.
Freedom of speech, of association, of the press.
And much more besides.
May we never take this British inheritance for granted.
May we continue to be its custodians and defenders in the spirit of our own unique Australian creation.
And may we always be proud of our British origins along with our Indigenous heritage and migration and multicultural success – the three strands of our national story.
King Charles is our Head of State.
In the crowning of a new king – and all that the monarch symbolises – we remind ourselves of those British institutions and values which our forebears drew upon to forge a modern nation.
Just like his mother, King Charles does not yearn for a return to Empire.
He understands that it is a vestige of the past – that Empire has ‘receded into history.’
Importantly, our Sovereign respects the right of the peoples of the Commonwealth to define their own destiny.
In a speech on Australia Day in ‘94, the Prince said:
‘There are those who would wish to see such a rapidly changing world reflected by a change in Australia’s institutions…
… it is also not surprising that there are differing views – some people will doubtless prefer the stability of a system that has been reasonably well-tried and tested over the years…
The point I want to make here… is that this is something which only you – the Australian people – can decide.’
The Prince went on to say he will ‘always have an enormous affection’ for our country, whatever course Australians ultimately decide upon.
And that in the meantime, all his family will ‘continue to take a close personal interest in the welfare and fortunes of this country.’
Those words, I think, show the humility, the grace, the generosity and the understanding befitting a modern monarch.
Our new King’s virtues and values echo what we saw in our dearly departed Queen.
Today, on behalf of the Coalition – and joining with this House – I congratulate His and Her Majesties.