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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15597


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) (3:19 PM) —by leave—I move:

That:

We, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, express to Her Majesty The Queen our warm congratulations on the 50th Anniversary of Her Coronation.

We express our ongoing respect and regard for the dedication She has displayed in the service of the Commonwealth and Her deep and abiding commitment to Australia and its people.

This is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the Queen, and I think it is appropriate that the parliament pause for a moment to convey its respects to the Queen for the way in which she has discharged her duties over the last 50 years. The world in which we now live is a very different world from what it was 50 years ago. It would be unthinkable, for example, that 50 years ago there would have been serious debate in either Australia or the United Kingdom regarding the place of the monarchy in our society.

The world has changed a great deal over the last 50 years. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that over that period of time the Queen has displayed a remarkable consistency of commitment to her duties and her responsibilities, has displayed an amazing commitment to duty and has acquired an experience and understanding of world affairs that would, I believe, enable her to equal or indeed better the experience and understanding of world affairs of most of the people who have exercised political office and power in different countries over that period of time.

In 12 years, the Queen, if she is still on the throne, will be the longest serving monarch in British history. She now is one of the longest serving monarchs and, given the extraordinary longevity of her mother, it must be a reasonable expectation that she will in fact turn out to be the longest serving monarch in British history. It is, of course, remarkable to reflect that, when she became Queen, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Robert Menzies was Prime Minister of Australia. Over that period of time, she has been sovereign to 10 British prime ministers and the same number of Australian prime ministers.

She has displayed a remarkable interest in the affairs of the multiracial Commonwealth. Other members may well have heard a very interesting program on Radio National this morning which involved a discussion with, amongst other people, that very famous and I think very talented British author, William Shawcross, who had some very interesting things to say about the Middle East roadmap being a road through Baghdad—but I will not allow that to intrude any more. He made some very interesting observations. One of the more interesting observations was the very relevant one that, in the time that she has been on the throne, the Queen has displayed a very strong, consistent and genuine interest in the multiracial Commonwealth and has displayed a commitment to achieving solutions to Commonwealth problems which has been at all times quite persistent and quite determined.

It is fair to say that, over the period that she has been on the throne, the attitudes of the public towards the monarchy have changed. There is legitimate debate within Australia about the role of the monarchy in our community, and that is part of the democratic process. In 1953, when she was crowned, it would have been unthinkable that the party I now lead, the Liberal Party of Australia, would have allowed its members a free vote on the issue of whether or not this country should become a republic. It is an indication of how things have changed, but I think it is also an indication of how one thing has remained the same—that, despite the different views within the community and within political parties regarding the role of the monarchy, the respect and regard for the Queen herself as an individual and her personal popularity and the personal belief of so many people not only here but in other parts of the world that she is in every sense a talented and dedicated person who has a very strong sense of duty and a very strong commitment have remained very consistent and strong.

I am reminded—if I can digress for one moment on the attitude of people holding different views on the role of the monarchy—of a report I read some years ago of one of the early meetings of the Republican Movement in Sydney, where it seemed to have some of its origins. This meeting was attended by the former Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, who was a very strong republican and a person whose political views I did not share but whose political skills I quite respected. As the time over lunch wore on and as discussion turned to how the republic would be brought about, he warned all those gathered around him that one of the things that would make the battle difficult, no matter what people's views were on the institution, was the personal regard in which the monarch was held by different generations of Australians. I think that is but one of many indications of the extraordinary regard and affection in which Her Majesty the Queen is held by people, whatever their political views and constitutional views may be.

Mr Speaker, as you reflect upon the experience that the Queen has had in her time as monarch and you reflect upon the history of the British monarchy, you are perhaps reminded—in touching on some debate we have had in Australia in recent weeks—that the institutions are remarkably resilient and remarkably durable. I think many people will know from their reading of history—not many in this room from their own personal experience—that at the time many people regarded the abdication crisis in 1936 as being likely to herald the end of the monarchy. In reality, the two monarchs that followed the abdication of Edward VIII have proved to be two of the most popular, two of the most dutiful and two of the most well-regarded monarchs that have sat on the throne in the history of that institution—which does remain the second oldest institution in Western civilisation after the see of Rome.

The links between Australia and Her Majesty the Queen are, of course, very extensive. She has visited this country on 13 occasions and she has always been accorded a warm and, I think, very genuine welcome. Although, inevitably, with the passage of time and the more blasé attitudes towards institutions, including the monarchy, within our community, the reaction of people has been different, it has, nonetheless, been the case that, on every occasion, she has been seen in this community as being a person who is very genuinely interested in and committed to and who has very great affection for the people of Australia. In any conversations that one has with her, she has a remarkable interest in and knowledge of affairs in this country.

I think she has been a person who has carried out her duties with remarkable dedication, great good humour and consistent commitment to duty. Through all the changes and through all the challenges of the last 50 years, she has continued to impress the people of the United Kingdom and the people of this country with her commitment and her dedication to duty. In those circumstances, I think it is welcome, appropriate and entirely spontaneous that we should express our regards to her, convey our congratulations and to wish her well on the 50th anniversary of her coronation.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!


The SPEAKER —Is the motion seconded?