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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 422

Mr VASTA (Bonner) (16:24): I rise this afternoon to join my voice in commemorating this amazing watershed in our great nation's history—that is, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. As we all know, 6 February 2012 marked the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty. It was in 1952, at the tender age of 25, that the Commonwealth rejoiced at her ascendance to the throne while simultaneously mourning the death of her father, the much-loved King George VI. This tremendous milestone is underscored by the fact that the only other British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee is the Queen's great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who also has the distinction of being the longest reigning British monarch, with a 63-year reign. As such, I am sure that everyone will agree that this is a significant moment in our history and a notable occasion for our young country, being the first such event of this magnitude since we became a Federation on 1 January 1901.

I would also like to remind the parliament that, in September last year, I drew attention to the upcoming Diamond Jubilee. I had been prompted to action after being contacted by the Australian Monarchist League Queensland branch chairman, Mr Tristan Rogers, who asked me to raise this matter in the parliament to ensure that the Diamond Jubilee was recognised in Australia, even in a small way, and separately in each of the states. I absolutely agreed with Mr Rogers on his assertion that as a nation it was essential that we pay appropriate tribute to Her Majesty's longevity.

As I said at the time, it is not whether you are a monarchist or a republican; it is about respect due to the monarch, who, as UK Prime Minister David Cameron succinctly summarised this week, is always dedicated, always resolute and always respected. Yesterday, I was very heartened to see that our government has, as part of the commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee, pledged up to $5 million to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust. We are told by this government that Australia's contribution to the trust, which is chaired by former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major, will go to the development related projects that will create a lasting legacy in honour of Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

In light of this announcement, I would like to take this opportunity to again congratulate the Australian Monarchist League on their steadfast efforts in ensuring the Australian public are aware and excited about Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. I am sure as well that the rest of Australia are looking forward to the visit of their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who will visit Australia later this year as part of the wider Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

It is true in a technical sense that the British monarch has no political power; however, Queen Elizabeth as the figurehead and official head of state for the 16 countries that still form the Commonwealth of Nations embodies immense influence and power. Throughout the 60 years of her reign she has continued to play a pivotal role in giving the government and the people in both Britain and Australia a wider perspective than that of the immediate political priorities of prime ministers and governments that have come and gone. In Australia and Britain she has seen 12 consecutive prime ministers, and no doubt she will see a few more. One can only imagine the social and economic change that each of these prime ministers has brought with them. The Queen has weathered each with equanimity, wisdom and her trademark indomitable sense of duty.

As many have observed, the Queen has retained the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy yet has made it more accessible to her subjects than any of her predecessors. While what she does behind Buckingham Palace doors is still as much of a mystery as what she has in her trademark white bag, she still manages to show an unparalleled empathy with the general public. Indeed, many commentators have attributed the continuing survival and growing health of the monarchy to her personal values. She is the oldest British monarch in history. Yet, despite her age, she has never shirked her public duty and continues to maintain a rigorous schedule with hundreds of engagements a year. If only we could all have such unflagging energy and dedication to our roles. There is no doubt she rules by example, carrying out her role to the very limits of her ability. If there could be a single word that adequately encapsulates the general public's feeling towards her, it would be respect—respect that has been earned and maintained despite the tribulations of the Royal Family, most notably the death of the immensely popular Princess Diana. The Queen Mother, as we fondly know her, lived to be 101. Since the Queen seems to have inherited her mum's longevity, I have no doubt that in three years we will be celebrating her as the longest reigning monarch in British history. The Diamond Jubilee is but a prelude to that momentous occasion.

The Queen once again demonstrated her immense sense of public duty this week when she vowed to dedicate herself anew to the throne. As Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II commences her seventh decade, I would like to take this opportunity to extend on behalf of the people of Bonner our heartfelt congratulations to her. Today we also extend our thanks to her for her life of magnificent service to our country. Long live the Queen. Long may she reign.