Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:30): I rise, honoured to support the motion in this house, the Legislative Council, in recognition of His Majesty King Charles III and pay my respects to a life very well lived by our late Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was a life altered beyond repair when her uncle, King Edward VII, abdicated in 1936. She never would have seen this coming in her early days. Her father, King George VI, became King. One of the things that I have seen recently, looking at the television over the last few days, is young Princess Elizabeth in the service of the British army, during the dark days of World War II, with a uniform on. I feel that that gives an inkling of what she experienced through that time, that community service that she felt would have then been part of the landscape of her future duties and her resolve to commit to those duties.
We have heard her make—and I do not think it gets lost in the retelling—at the very tender age of 21 that remarkable commitment:
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service …
If we think back to our 21st birthdays and what we were doing at the time, would we have been able to carry on with that resolve, that level of duty and commitment and that strength? I think not, but you never know. That was a huge level of commitment for her. I think maybe she was anticipating and considering the challenge, and I am sure she put her trust in the future and also in her faith. Grace, dignity and forbearance come to mind. Her marriage to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, spanned seven decades, a firm partnership in the truest sense of the word.
Her accession to the throne at the age of 25 began a hectic schedule. One of those visits was certainly to Australia—57 towns and cities in as many days, ceremonies, dinners, tours, handshakes and events. On 3 March in 1954 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived by plane in Sale at the RAAF base. They travelled on the royal train—a thing of the past now in Australia—from Sale to Traralgon and toured the Yallourn power station before moving on to Warragul, showing the importance of and acknowledging the power industry in central Gippsland. Traralgon resident Suzanne Pinchen spoke to me this morning. She was three at that time. ‘Initially’, she said, ‘all I could see was colourful skirts and noise and joy until Mum lifted me up in the air’. She saw our Queen alight from the carriage at Traralgon station. I said, ‘What was it like?’. She said, ‘There was just a wonderful atmosphere of joy and happiness’. I note that the papers from that time speak about children from other schools in Gippsland towns coming to witness the spectacle. I think that was an early indication of the standard and the workload that Her Majesty set and embraced throughout her entire reign.
President, an indulgence: at the time, somewhere in the 1980s when the Queen and Prince Philip came back to Australia again, the then member for Gippsland South, Tom Wallace, invited my mother and father to a garden party at Government House. Meree was dressed in Perri Cutten; I can imagine big puffy sleeves and blue florals, because it was the 1980s. She met Prince Philip and she said he was charming, engaging and completely at ease. It was a real delight that she has held. This was the ability of both Prince Philip and our late Queen to really connect and communicate with the general public. Yes, she also met with dignitaries, kings, generals, lawmakers, presidents, commissioners, prime ministers, members of the Commonwealth and leaders of other nations, but I think her ability to connect and resonate with, if I can say in quotation marks, ‘everyday people’ was one of her greatest strengths.
Her 15th Prime Minister was sworn in only a matter of days before her leaving this earth. I can imagine that she would have wanted the last pages of her last chapter as a constitutional monarch to be in the service of her country and her community. Her Majesty was exemplary and a stable constant in our lives and in our world: dedicated, dutiful, reassuring, compassionate, knowledgeable and with a profound interest in worldwide events. She was a woman ahead of her time. She was a global icon, and we will not see the like of her again with her wise counsel. I note from listening to people and watching the television her humour. One of the things I delighted in at her platinum jubilee was the skit with Paddington Bear. It just tickled my fancy and I think the world’s also, that connection with the very British Paddington and the delight she could still hold at an elderly age.
Yesterday the Victorian Governor, Her Excellency Linda Dessau, spoke in very heartwarming remembrance of her at the proclamation of King Charles III, which I was really pleased to attend. Many people thought that she would go on or wanted her to go on forever. It is not so. Ninety-six is a wonderful age, and I think we should celebrate and celebrate long. Thank you, Your Majesty. My thoughts and prayers are certainly with the royal family at this time. We reflect on an extraordinary life, and I extend my condolences to King Charles III and all of the royal family. The late Queen was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and a relative and friend to many.
I quote one of my favourite poets, Kahlil Gibran, who wrote on service: ‘I slept and dreamed that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life is all service. I served and saw that service was joy’. I do hope throughout her life the late monarch found joy in service. On behalf of The Nationals I say vale, our Queen.