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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 8

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:36): On a matter of an entirely different nature and one that is a cause for celebration amongst those of us gathered here today, I move:

That an Address of Congratulation be presented to Her Majesty The Queen, as follows:

Your Majesty. We, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, express to Your Majesty our warm congratulations at this time of celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of your accession to the Throne. We express our respect and regard for the dedication you have displayed in the service of the Commonwealth and your deep and abiding commitment to Australia and her people.

Since Australia became a federation in 1901, we have had just six monarchs. And for more than half of those 111 years there has been only one: Elizabeth II, whose accession to the throne 60 years ago we honour in this sitting today. As third in line to the throne behind her uncle and father, the young Elizabeth was never expected to become Queen. But with the abdication in 1936 the 10-year-old princess became heir to a mighty empire. Even then, Princess Elizabeth could reasonably have expected decades of time to prepare for her future role as sovereign. But it was not to be. Her father, George VI, died at just 56, exhausted by illness and the accumulated stresses of the abdication and the war years. So today, as we honour the Diamond Jubilee, we also join Her Majesty in remembering a good king.

On 6 February 1952, the Queen took over the burden carried by her father: the task of guiding a nation through the painful work of postwar reconstruction; of adapting the monarchy to a new, less formal era; and of addressing the needs of an empire impatient for change. From the beginning, she never appeared troubled by the burdens of office. Indeed, her very first decision set the course for all that was to follow. She was in Kenya when she heard the news of her father’s death and, even whilst coming to terms with that news and all that it meant in those most difficult of circumstances, when asked what name she would take she answered quickly and calmly: ‘My own, of course.’ It was the crisp, practical, no-nonsense approach we have all come to know and admire—an approach which also embraced, and perhaps sometimes hid, a warm and generous heart.

For Australia, the 60 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign have been years of remarkable evolution for our society and our economy. The Australia of 1952 was a small agricultural nation whose fortunes were tied to its traditional trading partners on the other side of the world. Her Majesty has seen us grow to be the robust, dynamic multicultural country which proudly takes its place in the Asian region and on the world stage. It has also been a period of remarkable political evolution.

Today we recognise the monarch as Queen of Australia. The power of the British parliament to legislate for our nation and our states has been abolished. The High Court has been affirmed as the pinnacle of our nation’s judicial system. We have created our own system of honours, adopted our own national anthem and appointed Australians to all our vice-regal posts as a matter of course. And throughout all that change and maturation, Elizabeth II has been a wise and encouraging guide, always wanting the best for our nation and its future, ready to allow Australia’s democratic journey to take us where it might. If Australia ever chooses a different constitutional path, it will not be for any deficiency on behalf of our monarch or her predecessors.

Of course, the people of the UK and the Commonwealth want to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, and they will certainly have that opportunity. Celebrations will be concentrated in the United Kingdom in the coming northern summer, and that is appropriate. There will also be a number of initiatives that will enable Australia to share in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Last October, I joined British Prime Minster Cameron in announcing the establishment of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Trust, which will support charitable organisations and projects across the Commonwealth. The trust will be chaired by a former British Prime Minister, Sir John Major, and will be funded by contributions from Commonwealth partners and private donors. I am proud to announce this week that Australia will contribute up to $5 million to the trust, which will provide a lasting legacy of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. I can also advise that Her Excellency the Governor-General will represent Australia at ceremonial events in London in June. One of the key events will be the lighting of a national beacon by Her Majesty on 4 June, part of a Commonwealth-wide event where beacons will be lit on a chain of hilltops all around the UK and the Commonwealth. That will include Australia, where I will light a beacon on top of Parliament House here in Canberra in support of this celebration.

In addition, Parkes Place, here in the Parliamentary Zone, in accordance with historical protocol, will be renamed Queen Elizabeth Terrace to complement the names of the adjacent streets, Queen Victoria, King Edward and King George terraces. Other commemorative activities will include: a jubilee stamp and coin issued by Australia Post and the Royal Australian Mint respectively; an essay competition for Australian students; and the creation of an annual scholarship or bursary which will focus on women’s leadership and related themes such as service and duty.

Finally, I can also advise that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will be visiting Australia in the last quarter of the year as the Queen’s representative for the jubilee celebrations accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall.

There is nothing valedictory in our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, nor should there be. As we saw here, in the Great Hall of Parliament House, on the streets of Australia and then at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth last October, the Queen retains a remarkable vigour and appetite for hard work. This is, however, a moment to dwell upon records broken and milestones reached, because the Queen is the longest lived monarch in British history, the second longest reigning monarch in British history and only the second to have enjoyed a diamond jubilee.

But beyond the statistics of this reign lies consideration of its quality and character. Today we honour a woman who has conducted herself with utmost propriety and dignity, who has served her people with wisdom, fidelity and an unfailing sense of duty. Elizabeth II has made history and become part of history. Today we honour her indelible place in the story of our nation. And we express thanks for the sense of loyalty and service she has shown as our monarch but also as our friend. On behalf of this parliament and our people, I offer Her Majesty our sincere congratulations and best wishes for this Diamond Jubilee year.