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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1958


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:37): I rise to speak on this condolence motion on behalf of the opposition. I join my voice and the voices of my federal Labor colleagues to express our deepest sympathies to the people of Thailand on the passing of their revered head of state, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His majesty had reigned since 1946. In total, his reign lasted for 70 years and 126 days. This made him the world's longest-serving monarch at the time of his death—an honour which now passes to Queen Elizabeth II. King Bhumibol was a truly remarkable unifying figure for Thailand. He was highly respected on the world stage. We know the special place His Majesty held in the hearts of the Thai people, who are grief-stricken by his death at the age of 88. We join them in mourning the passing of a significant leader in world history.

Australia has a relationship with Thailand that is positive and longstanding. His Majesty and his wife, Queen Sirikit, also have their own place in Australian history as the first non-British monarchs to undertake an official tour of Australia in 1960. King Bhumibol was born in the United States while his father was studying there. In the ordinary course of events, he would not have anticipated acceding to the throne, but at the age of 18 he found himself the leader of Thailand, becoming the ninth king of Thailand's 234-year-old Chakri dynasty. The post-World War II period was a time of great change for Thailand, as it was for many of the nations of Asia, as the shackles of colonialism were relinquished. For the next 70 years, the much-loved king unified and strengthened his country. Alongside successive governments, he guided Thailand through transformative change; indeed, Thailand is seen to be a development success story.

It was His Majesty's leadership and own philosophy of sufficiency economy that was much credited as being the potency behind Thailand's advancement, not only of its economy but of its people. As an approach, sufficiency economy calls for moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity, overlaid by principles of honesty, hard work, sharing and tolerance. It is through this approach that His Majesty delivered harmony, security and stability and, of course, greater economic prosperity to Thailand. Throughout his reign, His Majesty received much international recognition. However, it was his economic philosophy and his long-held interest in pursuing rural development that was recognised with a presentation to His Majesty of the first United Nations Development Program, Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award. Just as those of us in here who believe in the transformative power that access to education can have for our children, for all children, so too did His Majesty. And it was through his commitment to rural development and the growing economic prosperity it provided that the king was able to provide an increasing opportunity to access education for each new generation of Thai children. It is perhaps fitting that his lifetime achievement was awarded on the 60th anniversary of the King's assent to the Thai throne, for it was an award which reflected the admiration of the Thai people for His Majesty, which was so obvious in the outpouring of grief in the days and weeks following his passing.

I note that there are many Australians who have travelled to Thailand and many who have travelled since the death of the King who have shown due respect to the people of Thailand as they grieve His Majesty. I am sure this respect will be continued in the weeks and months ahead as the nation of Thailand, the people of Thailand, continue their period of mourning. On behalf of the opposition, I again convey our sincere sympathies to the people of Thailand at this time.