Queen Elizabeth II: Platinum Jubilee

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Hansard

Tuesday, 8th February 2022

Queen Elizabeth II: Platinum Jubilee

Motions

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (14:09): In her seven remarkable decades on the throne, indeed through most of our lifetimes, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been a rare constant, an enduring, inspiring, growing presence of calm, decency and strength. When Winston Churchill first encountered her as a two-year-old at Balmoral, he reported his first impressions to his wife, Clementine: 'She has an air of authority and reflectiveness, astonishing in an infant'—clearly, Her Majesty started as she meant to continue. Churchill would eventually become the first of her long line of prime ministers in Britain, while Robert Menzies had the honour here.

No jubilee, no matter how happy, is without a tinge of sadness. This is her first without Prince Philip—half of a partnership so close that the tenderness could be glimpsed between the layers of formality and tradition. It is also a celebration of a reign that began with the premature death of her adored father, George VI. When he died, the young Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya, en route to Australia. The relatively carefree life she and Prince Philip had envisioned for themselves in those early years of marriage was over. Princess Elizabeth returned to England as Queen—the responsibilities of the throne on one shoulder; the sudden absence of her father on the other—not for the last time did she have to find the strength amidst her grief to measure up to the expectations of a nation, and the great weight of the institution into which she was born.

Unlike her forebears, Princess Elizabeth did not choose a new name for herself as monarch. There was no question that she would retain the name she'd had all her life. Already, she was giving a sign of the stability and continuity that she would provide—and, indeed, the continuity that royal women have provided. Over the past 184 years, the throne has been held by women for 133 of them. There have been just two women: Queen Victoria, for 63 years, and Queen Elizabeth, the first monarch to reign for seven decades.

When she fulfilled that interrupted plan to travel to Australia in 1954, she became our first reigning sovereign to visit our shores. It was also Australia's first televised event. Now, even if you discount the issues caused by thinking about something as exotic as travel during this time of COVID, her itinerary was not for the fainthearted: 57 towns and cities in 58 days. Those in charge of organising events had to synchronise their watches with a time signal from the ABC at 9 am each day.

Both here and in Britain, there have been so many prime ministers since then. Governments have come and gone. Our societies have enjoyed booms and endured hardships. Populations have grown. Television arrived and, eventually, so did colour. The faces of our societies changed. So did Australia's currency. Our place in our region evolved. Britain entered Europe, and eventually left again. Communism collapsed. The poles of power shifted and realigned. The world shrank. Opportunities grew. Space was conquered. The internet was born. Music expanded beyond vinyl, and eventually found its way back to vinyl. So many old certainties have been broken. New, more tentative ones have taken their place. Throughout it all, there has been Queen Elizabeth II. She is a queen who has let her humanity show. She has stood with us in times of hardship, even as she had endured her own.

As Queen Elizabeth once put it:

Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements.

The nature of the bond between our nations is not what it was at the dawn of her reign. No longer parent and upstart, we stand as equals. And although our systems are no longer so inextricably intertwined, the affection and the unique nature of our friendship remains. Likewise, the affection and respect in which Her Majesty is held remains. In so many ways Queen Elizabeth transcends barriers. Even many Australians who do not hold with the principle of monarchy feel regard for her. You can be a republican, as I am, and still have the deepest respect for the Queen. She has done her duty with fidelity, integrity, humanity and, as she sometimes lets slip, a sly sense of humour. On behalf of this side of the House, I offer my sincerest congratulations and best wishes to Her Majesty for her Platinum Jubilee this year.

Debate adjourned.

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Electorate Office

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Marrickville NSW 2204

Phone: 02 9564 3588

Parliament House Office

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Phone: 02 6277 7700

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
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