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Address on the occasion of reception to celebrate the 81st birthday of HM the Queen, Canberra.

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20 APRIL 2007

. High Commissioners of our Commonwealth . Distinguished guests all

Marlena and I wish to extend a very warm welcome to you all this evening as we celebrate the 81st birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.

It is on occasions such as this that we have the opportunity to reflect on what an extraordinary person The Queen truly is.

What must it be like to have known every British Prime Minister since Winston Churchill? What must it be like to have met almost every head of state around the world and their ambassadors to the UK for more than five decades? What must it be like to hold such an office during times of such remarkable change? Ladies and gentlemen, so much has happened over the course of the Queen's 81 years. A world war has been fought, television has been invented, man has walked on the moon, the Berlin Wall has been built then razed to the ground, and the Commonwealth of which she is head now contains around 30 per cent of the world's population.

Throughout it all, Her Majesty has presided over her subjects with a dignity and relevance second to none, and has been a source of stability and inspiration for her family.

I know of no other current world leader in the public gaze who is as loved and respected. The Queen has withstood adversity, constant media scrutiny, personal tragedy, terrorism and global disruption, extraordinary social and cultural change, yet has remained steadfast through it all.

It seems to me that our Sovereign Lady has succeeded because of her life-long dedication to her people, to service and to noble principles; and because of her capacity to accommodate changing times and to garner strength from such changes. This is perhaps most particularly exemplified by our Commonwealth.

What an incredible thing that so many former colonies under British rule elected to stay within its structures. What testimony to Her Majesty's leadership that it continues with 53 nations and 1.8 billion people representing African, Asian, Caribbean, European and Pacific countries.

In her Silver Jubilee speech in 1977, The Queen herself noted that the Commonwealth represented "the transformation of the crown from an emblem of dominion into a symbol of free and voluntary association. In all history this has no precedent".

Ladies and Gentlemen, towards each of these Commonwealth nations and their peoples, Her Majesty has shown an unswerving commitment and a quiet, steady and powerful influence.

Towards Australia, this commitment now spans more than half of our existence as a federated nation.

And this commitment was sealed so memorably during her first visit to Australia in 1954, for a royal tour which covered thousands of kilometres.

I recall my own excitement at being her flag orderly in Western Australia when I was a school cadet.

Indeed, we all have our own special memories of that time, and of the 14 subsequent visits our Queen has made to these shores.

The most recent visit was only last year for the opening of the 18th Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Marlena and I were honoured to host a lunch during that time to renew friendships with Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh attended by all her current Vice-Regal representatives from the States and Territories and most of her former living Governors-General. I believe every one us at the occasion was moved by Her Majesty's genuine warmth and the depth of her continuing interest in the achievements and aspirations of Australia and Australians.

And each year Her Majesty continues to share her own concerns and aspirations with us in her eloquent messages at Christmas and on Commonwealth Day.

Those messages reveal great experience, sound judgment and active guidance, not just to Australians but to the world, as she highlights the critical importance of young people and their role in such a technologically advancing world; or the need for a global response to the plight of people living with HIV/AIDS; or the call for a more integrated response to global inequalities of poverty and deprivation.

Such concerns reveal true insight, humanity and compassion. Such concerns bring an underlying hope for the future.

As I said at the outset; a truly extraordinary person.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Queen has provided an unrivalled example of service, of wisdom and dignity to succeeding generations of Australians and to the Commonwealth family.

And with these reflections in mind I ask you to join Marlena and me in wishing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 a most happy 81st birthday. Would you please join me in a toast to Her Majesty, The Queen.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Queen.