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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 1957

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:31): by leave—I move:

That the Senate records its deep regret at the death, on 13 October 2016, of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, places on record its acknowledgement of his role in the development of his nation and tenders its profound sympathy to the Thai Royal Family and the people of Thailand.

His Majesty King Bhumibol ascended the throne on 9 June 1946. He was crowned on 5 May 1950. At the time of his death he was, therefore, the world's longest-serving monarch. Upon his death, that distinction fell upon our own gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

For over seven decades His Majesty was instrumental in making Thailand the prosperous, confident nation that it is today. He was a strong and much-revered force for stability and unity and is deeply mourned by the Thai people. Those of us who have travelled to Thailand cannot fail to have been struck by the deep reverence and, indeed, love that all of the Thai people have for their royal family. For them, the death of His Majesty—the only monarch whom almost any of them can remember—has been a source of profound national grief.

From an early age His Majesty was passionate about science. Throughout his reign King Bhumibol dedicated himself to the people of Thailand through many royal projects and charitable works which he undertook, many of them with a scientific emphasis. His Majesty took a particularly keen interest in the transformative potential of technology and how it could be harnessed to alleviate poverty for those living in the rural communities of Thailand. His ambitious rural development initiatives helped to promote appropriate farming technologies, sustainable use of water resources, conservation, flood and drought mitigation, as well as to increase access to health care and education and reduce opium harvests through crop substitution.

Through these and through countless other initiatives, King Bhumibol helped to lead his nation through over half a century of immense social, economic and political change and development. His reign saw Thailand's population grow from 20 million to over 67 million and his kingdom emerge as one of the modern powerhouse economies of Asia. In recognition of his deep and unwavering commitment to human development, His Majesty was awarded the United Nations Development Program's first ever Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Under King Bhumibol's stewardship Thailand also took on an increasingly active and ambitious role in international affairs. In 1967 the kingdom of Thailand became one of the founding members of ASEAN, and has more recently contributed troops to international peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts in places as various as Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor.

King Bhumibol was a firm friend of Australia and we are indebted to His Majesty for the strong links between our two nations, which he helped foster over so many years. Together with Queen Sirikit, King Bhumibol visited Australia for 18 days as long ago as 1962, during the golden summer of the Menzies government. Their visit would serve to inspire the formation of the first Australia-Thailand associations in Sydney and Melbourne.

King Bhumibol will be remembered for his keen intellect and his gentle spirit. His Majesty reigned, as he had pledged to do, for the benefit of the Thai people, and he worked tirelessly to enhance the welfare and happiness of his subjects. It is almost unimaginable to us to think that one human being could have given so much for so long—over seven full decades—to his people and created the proud, modern nation that Thailand is today. He will be greatly missed. As I said before, he is deeply mourned because he was deeply loved.

On behalf of the government, I extend to the Thai royal family and to the people of Thailand the deep condolences of the Australian government and the heartfelt sympathies of the Australian people.