Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I thank the Prime Minister for his moving words and second the motion. It’s a great honour to be here in this chamber, and appreciate the opportunity to reiterate and build upon my remarks at yesterday’s solemn National Memorial Service.
On the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I said:
“Never in modern history has there been a more dignified monarch, a more dutiful leader, or a more decent human.”
The past fifteen days of tears and tributes from around the world are testimony to the truth of that sentiment.
We have been moved by the flowers laid, the wreaths placed, notes left, speeches delivered, condolences penned, candles lit, prayers said, salutes fired, and silences held.
No more so than by that poignant, final farewell – Her Majesty’s State Funeral.
If ‘grief is the price we pay for love’, then the outpouring of global grief for our dearly departed Sovereign speaks to just how much she was loved.
Queen Elizabeth’s rule was extraordinary, the like of which we will never see again.
A reign spanning 70 years with tens of thousands of public engagements.
It’s a legacy the little ‘Lilibet’ could not have imagined.
That sweet and shy child – who loved horses, adored corgis, and liked to keep things tidy with a dustpan and brush – wanted to be ‘a lady living in the country’.
But a king’s abdication and her father’s reluctant accession in 1936 brought an end to the idyllic family life spent at 145 Piccadilly in London and the Royal Lodge in Windsor.
Ten-year-old Elizabeth, heir to the throne, was appalled to hear she would be moving into Buckingham Palace ‘for ever’.
Fate thrust a life of duty upon Elizabeth, but to duty Elizabeth would dedicate her life.
For only four years later, in 1940, the teenage Princess, matured by war, made her first radio broadcast, reassuring evacuated children that ‘all will be well’.
Indeed, eighty years on, in one of her last broadcasts, she would echo those sentiments of comfort to those isolated and separated by COVID-19 – ‘We will meet again’ she said.
After turning 18, she contributed to the war effort as an Army mechanic and learnt to drive trucks.
Aged just 25-years-old, she succeeded her father on the throne, inheriting a shrinking Empire and a country trying to carve out a new patriotic identity in the Cold War world.
Upon one young person, so much was expected by so many.
Elizabeth neither yearned for a return to Empire, nor sought to reinstate it.
She had the ‘strength to venture beyond the safeties of the past’ knowing that the path to modernity must be forged differently.
An emphasis not on the people serving the monarch, rather, on being a monarch who tirelessly served the people.
She set a new course, giving herself, her heart, and her soul to the Commonwealth.
To champion, as she described it, that ‘equal partnership of nations and races’ built on ‘friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.’
That commitment saw her travel the world.
She covered more than one-and-a-half million kilometres, visited more than one-hundred countries, met many thousands of people and hundreds of leaders.
With characteristic humility, she greeted all those she met with courtesy, treated them all as equals, and offered an attentive ear.
It was however, Churchill, Reagan, Obama and Mandela who left a lasting impression.
She said of the latter that ‘the most gracious of men has shown us all how to accept the facts of the past without bitterness.’
Her historic trip to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 exemplified that spirit of reconciliation.
Our Sovereign had a deep affection for Australia, visiting on sixteen occasions between 1954 and 2011.
She opened our new Parliament House and the Sydney Opera House.
Attended the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and in Melbourne.
Lit the Eternal Flame at the base of the Cenotaph at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.
And met construction workers in a tunnel of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
Beyond our capital cities she visited places in every state and territory.
Alice Springs and Albany, Dubbo and Devonport, Mackay and Mildura, Tamworth and Townsville, Whyalla and Wollongong, and more besides.
She looked forward to meeting people from remote locations who, she said, ‘have been such a distinct and enduring part of the Australian way of life.’
The Queen would admit that she ‘always felt a special bond with a people whose creative energy and collective ambition is leavened by genuine warmth, generosity and humour.’
She admired that Australian trait ‘to honour those who go about their essential business without fuss or media attention.’
But of course, wherever The Queen went, crowds choked the streets – cheering, clapping, and waving flags to express their adoration.
As of course, did Prime Minister Menzies.
His fulsome and awkward tribute in 1963 – quoting English poet Thomas Ford – perhaps now strikes a different chord:
“I did but see her passing by
And yet I love her till I die.”
Queen Elizabeth lived through the pivotal events of the 20th and 21st centuries:
Wars and conflicts, depression and recession, decolonisation and independence, the race to the moon and the attainment of civil rights, the brilliance of Olympic Games and the barbarity of terrorism, the sorrow of natural disasters and the solitude of pandemic.
She was a realist and an optimist, stating:
“I have lived long enough to know that things never remain quite the same for very long.”
“The future is, as ever, obscure. The only certainty is that it will present the world with new and daunting problems. But if we continue to stick to our fundamental ideals, I have every confidence that we can resolve them.”
Elizabeth presided over an era of remarkable technological change.
In 1983 she reflected:
“In the year I was born, radio communication was barely out of its infancy; there was no television; civil aviation had hardly started, and space satellites were still in the realm of science fiction. When my Grandfather visited India in 1911, it took three weeks by sea to get there. Last month I flew back from Delhi to London in a matter of hours.”
1957 saw her first televised Christmas message.
Year-after-year, that inviting, warm and familiar face of our Queen with her radiant smile, it would beam into our living rooms.
Most never met her of course, but felt they knew her.
We drew on the wisdom of her words and on the comfort of her voice.
As technology evolved, she embraced its changes.
As we got to see more of the Queen, we saw more of her cheeky humour and sense of fun.
Her joy at the racecourse.
Her quip at the G7 leaders’ photo shoot, with her dry sense of humour – “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourself” she said.
Her Olympics cameo with Daniel Craig, delivering a perfect “Good evening, Mr Bond.”
And most magically, her tea with Paddington Bear, confessing that she, too, hid marmalade sandwiches.
Despite being royal, The Queen was rarely ostentatious.
Many of her habits, as we know now, were frugal: eating Corn Flakes out of Tupperware, turning off lights to save electricity, and using two-bar electric heaters instead of lighting grand fireplaces.
Like us, she had her own television show favourites: Downton Abbey, Dad’s Army and Doctor Who.
Churchill was right in his assessment:
She was ‘a Lady whom we respected because she is our Queen and whom we love because she is herself.’
Each year, The Queen took a summer break at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
There, she fleetingly lived out her alternative life as a country lady.
Her dedication to duty rarely saw her down tools in paving the royal road of service.
Indeed, her service was grounded in regimented routine.
Each day she would receive the red box, judiciously going through its contents of briefing papers and legislation.
A diary full of official meetings, engagements or visits would follow.
The Queen found joy in reading and responding to correspondence from the public, saying:
“Every day hundreds of letters come to my desk, and I make a point of reading as many of them as I possibly can… I value all these letters for keeping me in touch with your views and opinions.”
Just as people from all walks of life were inspired by The Queen, so too was she inspired by them
“We hear much of ‘public life’ – the hurly-burly of Parliament, the media, big business, city life. But for most people their contribution, at whatever age, is made quietly through their local communities… To most of them, service is its own reward.”
“There are all sorts of elements to a free society, but I believe that among the most important is the willingness of ordinary men and women to play a part in the life of their community, rather than confining themselves to their own narrow interests.”
Above all else, what made Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II tick was the importance she placed on family, faith, democratic institutions and values – those constants were permeated throughout her reign, which was characterised, of course, by great change.
The Queen saw the family as the ‘focal point of her and our existence’; ‘the core of a thriving community.’
In her duty to country and Commonwealth, Elizabeth did not neglect her responsibilities as a daughter, as a sister, as a wife, as a mother, a grandmother or a great grandmother.
Yes, her own life, of course, was not without family controversies and tragedies:
Her annus horribilis of 1992, Princess Diana’s death in 1997, and the losses of her mother and sister in 2002.
But for a Queen admired for her almost transcendent qualities, those events would reinforce just how human she was.
The Queen suffered her greatest loss in 2021: the death of her beloved husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.
Gone was her ‘strength and stay’ of all those years.
The man she so admired for his irrepressible ‘sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation’.
In her last Christmas message, The Queen spoke about the joy of family, of death and birth.
Her dedication to duty and family was linked with devotion to her God.
For Elizabeth, the ‘teachings of Christ’ and her ‘personal accountability before God’ provided a ‘framework’ in which she tried to lead her life.
“At the centre of our lives… must be the message of caring for others, the message at the heart of Christianity and of all the great religions.”
The Queen spoke often about the Good Samaritan parable – how we are all neighbours who depend upon each other, no matter our race, creed or colour.
That ‘we all have something to learn from one another, whatever our faith… whatever our background, whether we be young or old, from town or countryside.’
Throughout her reign, The Queen recognised that parliamentary democracy was a ‘compelling ideal’ but a ‘fragile institution’.
She valued the lessons of history, counselling us to ‘have the good sense to learn from the experience of those who have gone before us.’
As the beneficiaries of a remarkable inheritance, she encouraged us to ‘hold on to all the good that has been handed down to us in trust.’
We remember her profound words of 1957:
“… trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery. They would have religion thrown aside, morality in personal and public life made meaningless, honesty counted as foolishness and self-interest set up in place of self-restraint.”
And she stated in 1990 that:
“Nowadays there are all too many causes that press their claims with a loud voice and a strong arm rather than with the language of reason.”
Mr Speaker – the record attests to the achievements of the second Elizabethan Age.
She left the monarchy in a stronger position than the precarious one she inherited.
But perhaps Her Majesty’s greatest triumph will be a renaissance of the virtues and values she embodied in life.
Virtues and values which we still admire, but which are often wanting in a more retributive, revisionist and self-entitled world today.
Those of duty, of service, of sacrifice, of fortitude, of stoicism, of grace, of humility, of generosity, of forgiveness, and empathy.
May our dearly departed Queen inspire the very best in Australians for generations to come.
Mr Speaker, over the course of the last fortnight, Australians have been glued to their television sets, to their devices, where they’ve embraced the story, the recounting of the many interactions that The Queen has with people in the United Kingdom, here in Australia and of course, abroad.
It is a time to celebrate our connection with our British heritage, I acknowledge the presence in the chamber today, of the High Commissioner – a very dear friend of our country and a great ambassador for her own country.
The way in which the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and the delegation that they led represented our country in the United Kingdom, over the course of the celebration of The Queen’s life and the commemoration services that were conducted in London, was a great credit to each of them and was a great moment of honour for our country
Today, we say with heartfelt gratitude, good night to The Queen.
May she rest in eternal peace.
Long live the King.