Friday, 23 September 2022
Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii
I rise to give my condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and to extend my sincere sympathies to her family and those who knew her personally. Elizabeth Windsor became the Queen of Australia in 1952 and reigned for 70 years. During that time, extraordinary changes occurred in our nation and in her empire. Many colonised nations sought and achieved independence, and many more signalled their intention to break from the United Kingdom.
Australia has made significant progress in the past 70 years, but many things remain unchanged. We still have no treaty with First Nations people, and we remain constitutionally wedded to a foreign power with an obscenely wealthy, legally immune head of state who is not Australian, a position entirely inherited and unearned.
The Queen was by all accounts a friendly, hardworking, determined, diligent and charming person, and her passing is felt keenly by many. But, as my colleagues have noted, she was still the head of an empire that violently colonised much of the world, including the First Nations people of this continent. First Nations people have never ceded sovereignty over their lands, seas and waterways. They were massacred, their lands and children stolen and their connection to country denied. Elizabeth Windsor did not personally commit these crimes, but her empire and her country did, and she accumulated vast wealth from the historical and ongoing exploitation of country. The office of head of state is not without blame for the colonisation of Australia.
Australia now has a king. Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor, a 73-year-old Englishman, has become King Charles III, King of Australia. We had no say in this. The hereditary powers of the monarchy simply transferred from one person to another. We have been told that critiques of hereditary rule at this time are inappropriate, that it is disrespectful to suggest that Australia seriously consider its independence from the empire during a period of mourning, but now is the perfect time. Throughout the Queen's reign, many nations achieved independence from Britain, some peacefully, others fighting against colonial forces to achieve it. Now that the Queen has passed away, the time is right for Australia to have a full and frank conversation about the kind of nation that we want to be.
While Australia chose not to pursue independence 23 years ago, it is time for us to have that conversation once again. Australia should have its own head of state. We should have a head of state who is representative of Australia and its people. Their office should be respected and remunerated but should not be lavished with public funds which are then turned into private wealth, as it is with the monarchy. Australia should have a treaty with First Nations people. We should have a treaty that, as my colleague Senator Thorpe has said, finally ends the war against First Nations people and moves Australia forward as a nation together.
The passing of Queen Elizabeth marks the end of an era and represents a moment of opportunity for Australia. We can choose to remain tethered to a foreign country, pledging fealty to an unelected monarch presiding over a dying empire, or we can act with the kind of courage and dignity for which many praised Queen Elizabeth II and seize this chance to chart a new course. Treaty now, republic now.