Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

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


10:34 am

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | Hansard source

tor McDONALD () (): 'A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle.' Like the ability of just one candle to light countless others, Queen Elizabeth was able to touch countless lives without ever dimming. This giving of her light—freely, without expectation—embodies the character she showed as a royal and the seriousness with which she approached her reign. The Queen knew the crown was far more than an accessory; it is an important symbol—part of the protection of the fragile and important institutions of our democracy.

For those of us who knew no other monarch, Queen Elizabeth II was a constant, and reliable, beacon through our lives—a familiar touchstone of certainty and anchor of dependability that has been lost. That loss during these changing times is felt keenly.

She was also a paragon of womanly achievement ahead of her time, providing a role model to me as a serious leader, as well as a loving wife and mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, providing an example of grace and stoic leadership as she helped shepherd the Commonwealth through some of the most tumultuous changes in world history while also dealing with her own personal tragedies.

The Queen commanded universal respect, not because she was powerful but because she was genuinely interested in people, their cultures and their goals. From a young age she showed a deep understanding of the power the royal family could have in boosting people's spirits. It's impossible not to be moved by the genuineness in the then Princess's voice as she spoke on UK national radio, encouraging children to be brave as they were sent away to escape from Hitler's bombs. These war-years experiences no doubt set her resolve to commit to the unity of the Commonwealth and the importance of the defence of strong institutions and democracy.

In 1970, she was drawn to the red earth and spinifex of Mount Isa in north-west Queensland, and my mother joined many others who had driven for hours on dirt roads for this most auspicious occasion—some from as far away as the Gulf of Carpentaria and Birdsville, both hundreds of kilometres away. I was in Mount Isa that day, in a pram, not aware of the enormity of the moment, but I am glad to say I was there.

A suite at the historic Casa Grande in Mount Isa was redecorated and refurbished especially for Her Majesty's visit, and she attended a rodeo and presented sports trophies to local schoolchildren. At the Royal Flying Doctor Service base in Mount Isa, Winifred Seaton met the Queen and was quoted in the North West Star newspaper as saying: 'I was amazed at the casual way she walked through the base and spoke to us. She was marvellous.'

The royal couple also visited Mount Isa Mines, an experience immortalised in the company's records with the statement: 'They came as guests and left as friends.' It was this willingness to travel to important regional centres to see all her people that made her such a respected figure.

That year Queen Elizabeth also visited Townsville and gave royal assent to James Cook University, of which my grandfather Sir George Fisher was the first chancellor. Research indicates that, at this time, it was the only act of any Australian parliament to have received the personal assent of the reigning monarch—a rare event indeed.

Townsville residents remember the 1970 and 1954 royal visits with great fondness. It was in 1954 that Queen Elizabeth officially and somewhat controversially declared Townsville as the capital of North Queensland and remarked how strong and sturdy the children looked, considering that Europeans had previously thought the climate too hostile for them to thrive. Annette Rowlings was in grade 2 in 1970 and said she was so excited to see Her Majesty she thought her heart would burst. Other smaller Queensland centres the Queen has visited include Longreach—twice—Cunnamulla and Cooktown.

On the Queen's 2002 visit to Cairns, local tourism pioneer Ken Chapman remarked to the Cairns Post: 'We had international publicity for the whole region. That was why she did it I suppose. Most things the Queen did, it was for the benefit of other people and it was certainly the benefit of Cairns.'

For many, Queen Elizabeth's passing was like losing a beloved grandmother, and for me it was that and more. To me, the Queen embodied the perfect example of dignified servant leadership, genuine warmth, concern for others and intelligent though understated strength. May Her Majesty be forever remembered with the same deep fondness she showed Australia and her legacy be our continuation of the values and principles for which she lived. Long live the King!


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