Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

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


9:50 am

Photo of Nita GreenNita Green (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Today the Australian parliament sits to express condolences on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. After a historic reign of 70 years, Her Majesty was laid to rest on Monday and honoured with a memorial service here yesterday.

As the first reigning British monarch to visit Australia, Queen Elizabeth II holds a unique and significant place in our national identity. Through her reign Her Majesty visited my home state of Queensland a total of eight times. Each visit was marked by the turnout of thousands of well-wishers—particularly in regional Queensland, where some people travelled hundreds of kilometres to get a glimpse of the pomp and ceremony.

Only a year after her coronation Queen Elizabeth II undertook an extensive tour of Australia, with a significant portion of that tour spent in regional Queensland. Through Bundaberg and Toowoomba, all the way through to Cairns, Her Majesty saw vast swathes of Queensland's landscapes and communities. Thousands of people welcomed Her Majesty in Townsville, which she called a beautiful city. Similarly she addressed unprecedented crowds in Cairns—so many, in fact, that one of the temporary stands built in Parramatta Park collapsed. Her Majesty's tour of regional Queensland was rounded out with short trips to Mackay and Rockhampton, where she expressed her sympathies with communities who had been affected by recent flooding events. Reflecting on her tour, Queen Elizabeth II said she was leaving Mackay with a deeper understanding of North Queensland, its peoples and their way of life.

On her tour in 1970 Queen Elizabeth II saw more of Queensland's diverse geography, doing both an inland and a coastal tour. In her first leg Her Majesty visited inland locations such as Longreach, Cunnamulla and Mount Isa. In Townsville she was central to an important part of local history, giving royal assent to the official establishment of James Cook University—a place where Eddie Mabo would go on to study law. Of special importance: in my role as Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, I want to acknowledge that Her Majesty, accompanied by Princess Anne, visited the Great Barrier Reef and had the opportunity to see for herself the magnificent natural wonder, with a visit to the underwater observatory on Green Island. She also touched the lives of people in Cairns and Mackay as she made short but impactful visits to both these cities.

While on a shorter trip to Queensland in 2002, Queen Elizabeth made an impactful visit to Cairns. Her Majesty launched the Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft in Cairns Airport and visited the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. She also toured some well-known landmarks—the Skyrail and the Cairns Port Authority.

Over her 70-year reign Her Majesty met many politicians. She would have seen the best and the worst types of politics, of service and of duty. Politics, service and duty at its best recognises the existence and necessity of duality and compromise, and that absolutism is the enemy of that good type of politics.

We can do two things today during this period of reflection. We can pay tribute to an incredible woman who lived an incredible life and played an important role in our nation. We can also acknowledge that, in this country, sovereignty was never ceded and a treaty was never signed. We can do these two things respectfully and dutifully.

The privilege of service was bestowed on Queen Elizabeth by her birthright and it is one that she never took for granted. The privilege of service is bestowed on us as senators by the Australian public. May we never take that for granted.

As a senator for Queensland, I express my condolences to Her Majesty's family and to all of those around the world who grieve her passing. May she rest in eternal peace.


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