Friday, 21 October 2011

"Your Majesty, you are one of us"

The Queen of Australia's speech at Parliament House in Canberra, 21st October 2011

Prime Minister, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be back in Australia. I find it difficult to believe that it is already five years since our last visit. Ever since I first came here in 1954, I have watched Australia grow and develop at an extraordinary rate. This country has made dramatic progress economically, in social, scientific and industrial endeavours and, above all, in self-confidence.

The Great Hall lies at the heart of Australia’s enduring democratic institutions. It is easy enough to talk about democracy, but it must never be forgotten that it represents a compact between the Australian people to accept the wishes of the majority, while always remaining conscious, and sympathetic, to those whose voices are not always heard. It is this political freedom that leads to free expression, which encourages new development in areas as varied as the arts, sport and commercial enterprise. With this foundation, Australia has flourished and achieved excellence on the world stage. The award of the Nobel Prize in Physics to Professor Brian Schmidt earlier this month is but one example. And, in the face of a global financial crisis, Australia’s robust economic record, underpinned by the strength of its institutions, has been widely acknowledged.

In an unstable world, Australians consider themselves fortunate, however they continue to make a significant contribution to world peace-keeping. This does not come without a price, and we are all conscious of the sacrifices made by the Australian armed services in international operations. Their valour has been well recognised, in particular with the awarding of the Victoria Cross to two servicemen for outstanding bravery in Afghanistan. I also share the grief felt by those families, friends and colleagues of the 29 service personnel who have been killed during this conflict.

It has been a difficult year for this country in many ways, despite the successes.

The world witnessed the anguish of Australians as they lived through a summer of natural disasters. We saw towns battered by a cyclone; homes, businesses and families destroyed by devastating floods, and across the Tasman, in New Zealand, we saw a city utterly ruined by an earthquake. I know Australian rescue and medical teams did not hesitate to lend support to their neighbours in response to this horrific event. We were all impressed by the courage and resolution shown by those affected, in the face of crippling desolation. Prince William also saw first hand the fortitude of people during this testing time.

Next week we will be in Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. It will be an important occasion for governments to discuss the challenges they face and find new ways to bring about positive change.

I am sure they will draw strength and inspiration from their time here in this prosperous, energetic, and dynamic nation of Australia.


Address of the Honourable Julia Gillard, Her Majesty's Australian Prime Minister, at the Reception in Honour of Her Majesty, The Queen and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Canberra

On an autumn day in Cape Town 64 years ago, a remarkable address was given.

It was the speech of a young woman who knew a life of duty stretched before her.

A life she accepted with courage and with grace.

In that address, Princess Elizabeth pledged that her “whole life whether it be long or short” would be devoted to the service of the British people and the Commonwealth.

Your Majesty, You have kept that pledge with unbroken constancy of purpose.

And the life upon which you were venturing has turned out to be long, eventful and greatly productive.

So it is that we greet you on the sixteenth time you have honoured us with a visit to our shores.

Many heads of state and government are welcomed within these walls.

But in this home of Australian democracy, you are a vital constitutional part, not a guest.

Just as in this nation, you can only ever be welcomed as a beloved and respected friend.

Your Majesty is the longest-lived sovereign in British history.

And surely history’s most travelled head of state as well.

You are also the first and only reigning monarch to venture upon these shores.

Not merely to visit – but to share and understand the life of this nation.

You have witnessed our evolution from a small agricultural economy to an open, modern trading nation at home in this region and the world.

A vibrant multicultural democracy that has welcomed people from every corner of the globe.

A nation that honours its First Peoples and speaks the truth about its past.

A nation that more fully embraces the rights and aspirations of all its people, women and men alike.

And it is perhaps a sign of our progress that Your Majesty was welcomed at Canberra Airport by a female Governor-General, a female Prime Minister and a female Chief Minister.

These have been remarkable decades indeed.

My eminent predecessor once spoke of a lady passing by.

Far from passing by, you have endured.

You have endured with dignity and abiding strength of spirit.

As heir and monarch, you have walked fully two-thirds of Australia’s national journey with us.

Understanding with clarity and sympathy our growing maturity as a nation and as a people.

Visiting every corner of this Commonwealth.

And sharing great national moments like the opening of the Opera House, the Bicentenary and this very Parliament building.

Now you stand at the gate of a truly extraordinary year;

An anniversary experienced by only one other monarch in our long history: because in 14 weeks time, the people of Britain and the Commonwealth will mark your diamond jubilee.

We will celebrate that jubilee with sincere gratitude and joy.

We will honour a wise and gracious sovereign who has spent her life in the cause of duty.

And we will honour the consort who has stood so constantly

at your side, himself a true friend of this country in peace and war; an outstanding supporter of science, innovation, and the education and support of our young people; and man whose robust humour and commonsense have always resonated with the Australian character.

Your Majesty, we do not know where Australia’s path of nationhood may lead in the times to come.

We are, as you once so rightly said, “a country on the move and will go on being so”.

But we know this for a certainty: your journey of service will continue all the length of your days.

Keeping faith with the pledge made in Cape Town so many years ago.

And keeping faith with us, the people you have so long served.

And who give you, in return, our lasting affection and our very deep respect.

Address of the Honourable Tony Abbott, Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Australian Opposition at a Reception in Honour of Her Majesty, The Queen and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Canberra

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is indeed an honour to join the Prime Minister with her most eloquent welcome to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on their 16th visit to our country.

Your Majesty, while 11 Australian prime ministers and no less than 17 opposition leaders have come and gone, for 60 years you have been a presence in our national story and given the vagaries of public life, I’m confident that this will not be the final tally of the politicians that you have outlasted.

In fact, the Crown is probably the oldest continuing institution in Western civilisation, after the papacy. The Crown which we inherited in 1788 has evolved as our country has grown. Once, the Crown in Australia was personified by an Englishman representing the British government. Today, the Governor-General is always a distinguished Australian who is a representative of the people above and beyond politics.

The Crown has been a symbol of stability and continuity because it has adapted to the changing times. Australians have rejected some change because they feared that it might not be real progress; but we would welcome other change, such as the proposal to end discrimination against women in the line of succession and to allow marriage to Catholics, because it is a sign that ancient institutions need not be anachronisms.

The monarchy is an expression of Burke’s lovely concept of institutions as compacts between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to be born. Previous generations, after all, weren’t wrong about everything. This generation doesn’t have a monopoly on wisdom and insight. We should keep the faith with our forbears just as our descendants should keep faith with us and just as you pledged, your Majesty, on ascending the throne.

Your own life has been an exemplar of the ideals of duty and service that make societies strong and civilisations last. When you observed, after the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, that “grief is the price we pay for love”, you spoke not for England and not for Australia but for the world.

Although the office is bigger than any individual, the monarchy can indeed wax or wane on the character of incumbents.

To your Royal Highness, Prince Philip, may I say that you have brought humanity and irreverence to what might otherwise be a stuffy institution. When introduced to Cate Blanchett as someone who works in movies, you asked her whether she could help to fix the palace DVD. Only locals are allowed to joke about our Cate so that makes you at least an honorary Australian.

When I read, your Majesty, that this was expected to be your last Australian tour, I was reminded of an interview that Archbishop Mannix did on the occasion of his 96th birthday. At its close, the youthful reporter said that he hoped to do the same interview again next year. “I don’t see why not” said the prelate, “you look healthy enough to me”.

At the close of his best volume of memoirs, Clive James wrote: “as I type this last paragraph, it’s raining in the city of London. Below me in the street, the umbrellas are commiserating with one another. But twelve thousand miles away and ten hours from now, the yachts will be racing on Sydney Harbour under a sky of powdered sapphire on a sea of crushed diamond. The birthplace of the fortunate sends out its invisible waves of recollection. It always does and it always will until the last of us come home”.

Your Majesty, you have taken such obvious pleasure in your visits to this country and that pleasure is amply reciprocated by the Australian people amongst whom you will always be welcome. It is not necessary to live permanently in Australia well and truly to belong here. You are one of us.

1 comment:

Npinkpanther said...

Hear hear! Great speeches by both HM and Tony Abbott.