Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii


9:27 am

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party, Shadow Minister for Water) Share this | Hansard source

Well how do you condense 70 years into five minutes? Indeed, the Queen's service goes beyond her reign as monarch. It began the minute she became heir at just 10 years of age, and it continued, still undertaking formal duties, right up to two days before her unfortunate passing. Indeed, that is why her passing was such a surprise to many.

She was Queen of Australia, and her links to Australia and her attention to Australia started very early in her reign. She was the first and only reigning monarch of Australia to have set foot on Australian soil. Her father was yet to become king when he visited Australia to open the first Parliament House. From her first visit to her 16th, and her last, visit in 2011 she made sure the regions were as integral to her itinerary as the capital cities. Her acknowledgement of all of Australia and all Australians is why she was so widely loved and respected throughout the nation. The outpouring of grief and the enormous sense of loss has been felt by Australians from all walks of life, from those who merely saw her passing by to those who had the honour of meeting her.

Her first tour in 1954 set the standard for her future visits, starting in Sydney and finishing, 58 days and 57 towns later, in Fremantle. During that tour she visited every state and territory across the country by train, plane, ship and car, and much of it was spent in the regions. In New South Wales alone, she visited Casino, Lismore, Dubbo, Wollongong, Bathurst, Lithgow, Katoomba and Wagga Wagga. In fact, Her Majesty toured the northern New South Wales rivers region just days before the horrific 1954 flood disaster. Thousands stood in the rain to see her. When she left the region turned into survival mode—as they have been in during much of this year—as the Richmond River peaked at 13.4 metres. Her visit to Bathurst in 1954 lasted just 75 minutes, yet it is still heralded as one of the greatest days of that town, such was her enduring presence. Her visits often coincided with great events: the 1970 royal tour, at the time of the bicentenary of James Cook's voyage; the 1973 opening of the Sydney Opera House; the 1988 opening of this building. Her visits recognised our economic drivers in Australia. She toured mines, steelworks and farms. She spent days inspecting and learning about the Snowy Mountains scheme. She visited the Great Barrier Reef, one of our tourist meccas. In fact, the Queen probably visited more cities, towns and institutions than most Australians.

Of all of her enduring strengths and commitment is her commitment to service. Here was a woman who understood that to lead was to do. I was especially in awe of her keenness to contribute to the war effort, even as a teenager, first speaking to children of the war via the BBC radio's Children's Hour, before enlisting in the Auxiliary Territorial Service—the women's branch of the British Army—when she turned 18. She trained as a mechanic and vehicle maintenance worker, and it is said she kept that keenness for driving engines throughout her life. I vividly remember when I saw photos of a young Queen, our Queen, in army greens, changing tyres on a military vehicle, I knew if she could do it I could do it, so when I turned 18 I joined the Australian Army Reserves.

I was also lucky enough, as a young backpacker in London working in the banqueting section at the Dorchester Hotel, to work at a state banquet attended by the Queen. She made a point of acknowledging and personally speaking to every member of staff at the event—something many other celebrities who I served during my time there never did.

She was our Queen, our head of state, but she was also a wonderful mother, a grandmother, a wise counsel, a leader dedicated to service for over seven decades. We are all truly blessed to have been part of this period in history—the second Elizabethan era—and she will be warmly remembered, respectfully and sadly, for generations to come. May she rest in peace, and long live the King.


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