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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 64

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (16:04): Those who have sung and prayed 'God save the Queen' over the decades have had their supplications richly answered and rewarded, for yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the unexpected accession of a quietly spoken young lady—indeed, a princess—to the throne. The untimely death of King George VI saw Princess Elizabeth become Queen Elizabeth II.

Imagine a world without Prime Minister Gillard or, for that matter, Leader of the Opposition Abbott, a world with no computers or iPhones, indeed a world into which most of us have not yet been born. Imagine the world in the year when the ANZUS Treaty came into being, Qantas Empire Airways commenced their first service between Australia and South Africa, Joan Sutherland debuted at Covent Garden and Lang Hancock discovered the world's largest iron ore deposit in the Hamersley Range. That is the world in which Her Majesty became our Queen.

During the ensuing 60 years, the world has seen immense change—immense social change, immense technological change and immense political change, including the collapse of communism. In our own country we have seen 12 Australian prime ministers come and go, and one wonders how many more may come and go during the Queen's reign. Fourteen governors-general have come and gone and so have even more leaders of the opposition. Through all this change Australia and the Commonwealth of Nations have been blessed with one constant, one certainty, one source of stability: Her Majesty the Queen. I cannot help but recall that at Balmoral some 18 years ago a former prime minister told Her Majesty that most Australians regarded the monarchy as an 'anachronism' which had 'drifted into obsolescence'. Eighteen years on, that prime minister has long departed the political stage himself, drifting into obsolescence, while the Queen is still standing—and standing exceptionally strongly.

Queen Victoria is the only other monarch to have celebrated a diamond jubilee. This is therefore the first diamond jubilee in the history of Australia as a nation. As a nation we are 111 years old. Our Queen has been our Queen for well over half of our life as a nation, and she has served us with distinct­ion, style and genuine concern. I detect that, while support for our monarchy may have waned for a time some decade or so ago, the enduring symbolism and value of our monarchy and monarch are resonating yet again, especially with the young. There is a clear resurgence of support for the institution of the monarchy. A part of that resurgence is undoubtedly because people do seek anchors and constancy in institutions, especially in an era of an ever rapid increase in the pace of change. I also venture that Her Majesty has been the main cause of the resurgence. Sixteen visits from 1954 onwards have clearly helped.

Her Majesty is clearly a standout exemplar of the benefits of a constitutional monarchy. Having had the privilege of meeting her on a number of occasions, I have witnessed firsthand her genuineness, her graciousness and her sense of service. Whilst huge privilege attaches to our monarch, so too does the countervailing obligation which Her Majesty performs with such a strong sense of service to community.

I recall Her Majesty's visit to a work for the dole project in my home state. One participant, overawed by the occasion, did very well to try to make himself inconspicu­ous—but not well enough for Her Majesty not to notice. With a beaming smile, she deliberately sought the participant out and spoke with him. He was touched by our Queen's sensitivity. That work for the dole participant is just one of thousands of Aust­ralian lives that our Queen has personally touched. Her Majesty's support for charities and communities all around the world, inclu­ding here in Australia—in a non-political, unifying manner—has done much good for our people and the peoples of the world. On taking the oath of office, the Queen swore to, among other things, serve her people—and she has done so impecca­bly. No other person in living memory has been held with such high regard for such a period of time, according to David Murray. I agree.

Apart from domestic obligations, Her Majesty is an international Queen, a genuine world leader and an international figurehead held in high esteem for many decades now—a reputation that no other world leader can boast. This well deserved reputation and respect that Her Majesty enjoys is not a result of slavishly following a blueprint. As Prince William has said: 'I think she's carved her own way completely. She's not had a blueprint.' This makes Her Majesty's achievements all the more remarkable.

In recognising our monarch's achieve­ments, it would be remiss not to acknowl­edge the wonderful role and support of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, who brings an earthiness and a great sense of humour to our monarchy. His longevity is of course a cause for celebration as well.

The occasion of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee is a good, a right and a proper time for us to give thanks for our constitutional arrangements and the wonderful current holder of the office to celebrate her longevi­ty, both personal and as monarch. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the benefits of our monarchy as part of our constitutional arrangements. Our monarchy and its heritage has provided stability, certainty and numer­ous advantages. One such advantage is that the monarchy's tenure reposes outside of the political cycle. It is a monarchy whose role is above the cut and thrust of daily partisan politics, a monarchy which acts as a unifying focus in times of national trouble and indeed international strife, a monarchy that is genuinely inde­pendent and a monarchy that is genuinely supportive of our community.

The strength of our constitutional arrange­ments is found in their longevity, having been tested over time, and in their gradual forging over the centuries. The monarchy is an integral and central part of those arrangements. Her Majesty has lived up to the obligations put upon her some 60 years ago in a manner for which all Austra­lians—and indeed all members of the Common­wealth of Nations—should be thankful.

As we congratulate Her Majesty and celebrate and give thanks for our Queen's long and successful reign of service, we do well to recall the second verse of God Save the Queen, which is the coalition's prayer for Her Majesty:

Thy choicest gifts in store,

On her be pleased to pour;

Long may she reign:

May she defend our laws,

And ever give us cause

To sing with heart and voice

God save the Queen