Friday, 23 September 2022
Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii
It is a deep honour to rise to speak on this condolence motion. In doing so, I deeply honour Her Majesty's commitment to duty, to service and to Australia, which is an inspiration to each and every one of us. The death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been a time for deep reflection. We reflect on Queen Elizabeth's service as Queen for 70 years and 214 days. We reflect on that period of service, and we remember that Queen Elizabeth's life of service began even before her coronation.
At the age of 13, in October 1940, prior to becoming Queen, Elizabeth broadcast a message to the children of the Commonwealth, many of whom had been evacuated from danger in the United Kingdom, to give them her expression of hope and a positive message. She did this at a time when Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth were standing alone against the evils of Nazi Germany. At the age of 16, in 1942, she attended her first formal engagement, becoming a colonel of the Grenadier Guards, and at the age of 18 she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the armed forces, training as a mechanic and driver.
We reflect on how Queen Elizabeth discharged her duty and performed her services with compassion, integrity, dignity and humour. We remember that this was a role that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had been born into. It was not of her choosing. She had been born into this role, this position of deep responsibility. In doing so, we should also remember that, at the same time that Queen Elizabeth II bore these onerous responsibilities, she was also a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a sister. She had to withstand the great glare of public and media scrutiny throughout her time of service.
We also reflect on how Her Majesty was the Queen of Australia not just in name but also in essence. My good friend Senator Susan McDonald referred to Her Majesty's visit to Mt Isa in north-west Queensland in 1970, when something like 20,000 Queenslanders descended on Mt Isa to capture a glimpse of the Queen and Prince Philip at that point in time. Likewise, in my own patch of Ipswich, something like 17,000 people from Ipswich turned out at Queens Park to welcome the Queen and the Queen Mother when they visited that city in the 1950s.
Our Queen was not just Queen of Australia but Queen of her other realms and dominions, and in this respect I would like to give a short personal reflection. Senators will know that I have a deep connection with Papua New Guinea, having lived and worked there for a number of years. I can remember being with a client from overseas in Government House, getting some documents signed, and she asked me, 'Paul, why is the Queen of England on the wall?' I said: 'This is not the Queen of England in this capacity. This is the Queen of Papua New Guinea.'
It is an extraordinary story as to how the Queen became the Queen of Papua New Guinea. As PNG journeyed to independence, there was a meeting of its first constituent assembly, when its first elected officials came together as an assembly. They chose. They decided. They invited Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to be their Queen. She was not imposed on Papua New Guinea. She was not retained by Papua New Guinea. She was actually invited by the elected representatives of an independent state of Papua New Guinea to be their Queen.
That touched her deeply, and she discharged that obligation from the moment of that invitation to her passing. That is reflected in clause 82 of PNG's constitution. No doubt King Charles III will continue that role with great distinction. I should note here that when he was last in Papua New Guinea he introduced himself to the Papua New Guineans in Tok Pisin, a local dialect in PNG, as 'No. 1 piccaninny belong to Mrs Queen'. With that sort of sensibility, I'm sure King Charles III will discharge his obligations to the people of Papua New Guinea with great distinction.
Of course, King Charles III is now King of Australia. In discharging those duties, the King will be inspired by the example of his mother, just as all Australians have been and will continue to be inspired by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's example of dignity, compassion and service. May Her Majesty, our Queen, rest in eternal peace.