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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 607

Ms FLINT (Boothby) (12:05): I rise today, as my colleagues have risen, to congratulate our head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on reaching yet another great milestone, that of her sapphire jubilee—her 65th year on the throne—on Monday 6 February. While five British monarchs have reigned for over 50 years, Her Majesty is the only monarch to reach this sapphire jubilee milestone.

She assumed the throne on 6 February 1952—after the passing of her father, King George IV—at the age of the age of 25. I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been for her in a family context but also at such a young age to assume such responsibility. I think in this respect, to my mind, Her Majesty is one of the best examples for women around the world in terms of a leadership role, in terms of her community service, in terms of raising a large family and doing so whilst being one of the most important and powerful women in the world with some of the greatest responsibilities.

I mention that she was and has been a working mother, because her work output is widely known to be unrivalled, I suppose, in terms of what she does. It is often said that far younger people would not be able to do what she does each and every day. Over the past 65 years, for example, she has made nearly 300 official visits to Commonwealth countries, she has answered over 3.5 million pieces of correspondence. As members here know, that is quite a task and we certainly do not deal with, I am sure, 3.5 million pieces of correspondence in our working lives. She received over 120,000 cards, letters and gifts—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12:07 to 12:19

Ms FLINT: As I was saying before we had to attend the other chamber, I believe Her Majesty the Queen is an excellent role model for women everywhere—young women and older women. She has had an incredibly long career and she has raised a family whilst working harder than most of us could possibly imagine. As I mentioned, she has answered over 3.5 million pieces of correspondence in her career, passed more than 3½ thousand acts of British parliament and, in an average year, she hosts more than 50,000 visitors at lunches, dinners, receptions and garden parties at Buckingham Palace—

A government member: How many tweets?

Ms FLINT: I am not sure about how many tweets she does, but she is also the patron of more than 600 charities and organisations. That is a remarkable work output, and I am sure there is so much more that she does behind the scenes. In her 65-year reign, she has conducted more than 300 official visits, including 22 to Canada, 10 to New Zealand and 16 to Australia.

Her Majesty has taken a special interest in Australia. She was the first monarch to ever officially visit us and her first visit was in 1954. Whilst Australia is a very different country to what it was 65 years ago, Her Majesty has provided much-needed stability and continuity, which is one of the reasons I am a staunch supporter of our constitutional monarchy. It is more than just about Her Majesty the Queen; it is about our institutions and our traditions and the wonderful stability this has provided to our nation. I do strongly believe that our constitutional monarchy is responsible for our great freedoms, our democracy and the stability that we enjoy. Our constitutional monarchy is a vital part of our system of government.

Of course, our Governor-General is primarily responsible for conducting day-to-day responsibilities on behalf the Queen. When you look at the Constitution, you realise how entwined the monarchy is with the government and governance of our nation. The Queen is mentioned as 'part of the parliament' in section 1, she 'is empowered to appoint the Governor-General as her representative' in section 2 and 'The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and exercisable by the Governor-General as her representative', as per section 61.

The Governor-General performs a large number of functions that are outlined in the Constitution, but what I think is particularly important—and is one of the reasons why I am vehemently opposed to us becoming a republic—is that the Governor-General has a number of responsibilities known as 'reserve powers' that are governed by convention. They are not written down. They are part of the tradition, practice and protocol that has developed over many decades since we became a Federation in 1901. What really concerns me is how those conventions would be codified. I do not think we need more regulation and legislation in this country. I do not think we need to encourage a position, such as our head of state, to become subject to laws that may well be challenged in the High Court. I think that the role of tradition and convention in our nation is very important. I will be fighting very hard to see that continue, because I do believe that our constitutional monarchy has provided great stability to our nation.

I want to touch on an article that I came across in The Spectator. The Spectator is the first publication that ever published me as a columnist and it was responsible for starting my career as a writer of opinion pieces. They made a number of important observations on 9 September 2015, when they wrote about Her Majesty becoming the longest reigning monarch by overtaking Queen Victoria.

They observed that, really, we are living in a golden age of prosperity—the second Elizabethan Age—and they give some very good reasons for claiming that this is the case. Over the now 65 years that Her Majesty has reigned, life expectancy for women has increased by a dozen years. We live very comfortable lives with the best of technology available to us. The Spectator gave the example that the Queen now has a team of 12 people needed to send out royal telegrams congratulating her subjects celebrating their 100th birthday. There are so many people who are living to see a century that the Queen has to have a very large team of people to help her congratulate their 100th birthday. This, to my mind, was a particularly lovely quote that indicates the type of leadership that we have seen from Her Majesty—I quote from The Spectator:

In a speech to the UN five years ago, she observed a truth that few politicians acknowledge: the greatest achievements are not guided by leaders, but by people being left alone to achieve what they can. 'Remarkably, many of these sweeping advances have come about not because of governments, committee resolutions, or central directives — although all these have played a part — but instead because millions of people around the world have wanted them.'

The Spectator reflects on the Queen's patriotism, her love of Britain and the Commonwealth and its countries—of which Australia is one—and her long career being marked by service and, in the context of her being such an incredible role model for women, says, 'Her daily schedule would alarm and exhaust someone half her age.'

Her Majesty 'has succeeded in persuading so many former colonies to maintain an alliance with Britain because she is one of the world's most accomplished diplomats.' The Spectator continues:

Stability is one of the greatest arguments for monarchy, and one to which republicans tend to blind themselves. … Even the US, which can claim to be one of the world's finest democracies, might benefit from having a non-political head of state—

which is something interesting to reflect upon. This is another lovely anecdote:

The hopelessness of the republican cause in Britain was underlined when, two decades ago, an opinion poll asked the public whom they would like to be their first—

(Time expired)