Senate debates

Friday, 23 September 2022

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


11:27 am

Photo of Wendy AskewWendy Askew (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Today I join senators in offering my deep condolences to the royal family following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. When I stood to make my first speech in this chamber I highlighted the dedicated work of the several women who had represented Tasmania in Canberra before me. Now I stand to speak about a woman who has not only served Tasmania but our entire nation and that of the Commonwealth. Our Queen, the Queen of Australia, served with dignity, empathy and wisdom for 70 years and I wish to pay tribute to her life of service.

Like us all here today, Queen Elizabeth has been the only monarch I have known. From the coins I carry in my purse, our $5 notes, the English breakfast tea that I enjoy, to the portrait hanging beside the national flag in my electorate office, I'm reminded of Her Majesty's presence every day. The Queen has been with us through wars, the pandemic, multiple Commonwealth Games and the opening of many significant buildings, including the one in which we are right now. Her reign spanned 16 Australian prime ministers and the same number of Governor-Generals, and during this time she visited every Australian state and territory.

I was seven years old when Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Launceston in 1970. This brush with royalty when I was a young child was brief, but the experience left an indelible mark on my memory. I found myself thinking about this experience over the past fortnight. It was a big event for my home town and an even bigger event for my family. After joining the Queen for a civic luncheon at Launceston's town hall, my parents returned home and hurriedly packed my siblings and I into our car. My father drove us along the western side of the Tamar River so that we could find the perfect position to capture a glimpse of the royals en route to their royal yacht. We waved excitedly as the Queen drove past us on her way along the river from Launceston to Inspection Head at Beauty Point, where the Britannia was berthed during the royals' Northern Tasmania visit.

During her 1970 visit to Tasmania the Queen also enjoyed the bicentennial celebrations marking Captain James Cook's voyage to Australia, and she unveiled a memorial plaque in Macquarie Street in Hobart on that occasion. This royal visit also included a visit to a Longley apple orchard so the Queen could see the state's primary crop firsthand as well as ceremonial duties at the Royal Hobart Hospital and a visit to Launceston's racecourse for a horseracing meet. We all know how much she loved an equine fix, and Tasmanians were only too happy to oblige our Queen.

While the 1970 royal visit was exciting for me, the Queen's first visit to Tasmania after becoming queen left a permanent legacy for Northern Midlands farming family the O'Connors. When Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited my home state in 1954, the party stayed with the O'Connors on their sheep property, Connorville, at Cressy, in the federal electorate of Lyons. The royal couple and their staff were hosted by May O'Connor and her son Rod. In recent days, current owner Roderic O'Connor was interviewed about this historic visit, and he readily recalled some family stories. Such a momentous visit meant Roderic's grandmother and father had to extend Connorville to accommodate the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, their staff and their equipment. Roads that were fit for a visit from the Queen were also built on the property and around Cressy. While visiting Connorville, the Queen planted a golden elm with May O'Connor, and this historic tree still has pride of place on the property today. A plaque was also erected at Connorville to commemorate the event.

Besides the tours I've mentioned already, the Queen visited Tasmania six other times: in 1963, in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee tour, and again in 1981, 1988, 2000 and 2004, which was her last visit to Tasmania's shores. During several of these royal tours, Queen Elizabeth II planted trees at Tasmania's Government House to mark her visits, including an oak, a blue gum, a silver birch and a Huon pine. Earlier this year, members of the Royal Commonwealth Society planted a dawn redwood on the grounds of Government House to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. Each of these trees, along with the golden elm the Queen planted with May O'Connor at Connorville, form a living memorial to our longest-reigning monarch. They are fitting symbols of her enduring vitality and constancy.

Queen Elizabeth II will be missed by many throughout Australia and the Commonwealth. I thank Her Majesty for a lifetime of service and I acknowledge King Charles III on his accession to the throne. Long live the King.

Madam Acting Deputy President, while I am on my feet, I seek leave to incorporate two additional speeches from Senator Molan and Senator Brockman.

Leave granted.


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