Mr KING (Wentworth) (12.09 p.m.) —I welcome the opportunity to join with other honourable members in marking Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee and in supporting the Prime Minister's address of congratulations to the Queen on this occasion. It is appropriate that the parliament, in a spirit of bipartisanship, considers the address which extends our warm congratulations at this time of celebration of the Golden Jubilee of her accession to the throne and expresses our respect and regard for the dedication she has displayed in the service of the Commonwealth and her deep and abiding commitment to Australia and her people.
The Queen's reign has been, by so many measures, a remarkable period. As the Prime Minister noted in his address, just three other British monarchs have reigned for longer and she will overtake all their records in just 13 years time. The Prime Minister also noted that 10 British prime ministers have come and gone in that 50-year period and, as our head of state, she has seen 10 Australian prime ministers in office and has appointed 11 governors-general. The length of her reign is particularly poignant to me because I was born in the year the Queen commenced her reign. To think of the commitment and dedication involved in fulfilling her responsibilities over a period equivalent to my lifetime marked by extraordinary social, political and economic change is quite remarkable.
It is not just the longevity of the Queen's reign that is significant. She has had to meet many personal and other challenges in that time. One not often appreciated is the change in the nature of the Crown itself from that of an imperial head of state to leadership of a significant group of like-minded states that form the Commonwealth of Nations. At the same time she has watched, if not encouraged, Australia to grow to the strong, independent nation we have become today, not just by her visits but also by her advice and her example of tolerance and virtue. Many have commented on the changes that have occurred around the world during the course of her reign. Part of her success is that, perhaps like the great passenger liner that bears her mother's name, she has moved with the currents of time and evolving attitudes while maintaining a steady course as the centre of those traditions that typify Westminster's democracy. Is it any wonder that she has been described by His Honour Justice Kirby as the most successful female politician of the 20th century.
The Golden Jubilee has been an occasion for celebration around the Commonwealth of Nations and also, especially and understandably, in the United Kingdom. I suspect that both those who support the monarchy in that country and those who would prefer a different system have been taken aback by the extent of the public support for the Jubilee that we all observed during that almost tumultuous weekend earlier this month. The size of the crowds and the resounding sounds of hundreds of thousands of Britons joining in one voice to their various national anthems and songs were clearly not just the result of pageantry and pop stars. They reflected the enduring respect that the peoples of the United Kingdom have for their Queen and for the institution that she represents.
I have heard first-hand reports from some of those that joined Britons for that celebratory weekend. My friend and constituent, Peter Cavanagh, was one of those in the crowd representing the Australian Commonwealth society. He has told me of the genuine excitement amongst the populace in London that day and the dizzying levels of patriotism and national pride. He also mentioned his pride in attending, as a guest of our high commission, the raising of the flags of the Commonwealth of Nations in the grounds of Marlborough House, the Commonwealth headquarters, in the hours preceding the commencement of the celebrations.
It is interesting to reflect on the level of support that the Queen and the royal family continue to receive in the United Kingdom. Clearly, part of it is British admiration for tradition and an institution that has been at the apex of the United Kingdom's political and cultural life for so many centuries. But it is more than that. A constitutional monarchy, by its very nature, relies more than any other system of government in the maintenance of support for the individual who occupies the throne. Support for Britain's monarchy has waxed and waned over the centuries, most frequently as a reflection of British society's respect for the monarch of the day.
Of course, that is not entirely so. There are those in Britain who, for ideological reasons, will always advocate different forms of government no matter how highly they regard their king or queen. Perhaps in time that sentiment may change, but it is hard to see following the support demonstrated for the royal family during the course of this year. That very personal nature of the monarchy and the fact that it remains held in such high respect in the United Kingdom is perhaps the greatest testament to the service that has been given by the Queen. She has steadfastly devoted her life to public service and acquitted her responsibilities with great dignity, compassion and commitment and she has performed her responsibilities as constitutional head of state with great tact and respect for the democratic processes of that country.
In Australia, we have not seen mass outpourings of celebrations for the Jubilee. While some have seen that as a reflection of a republican spirit, I suspect it is just as much a sign of the different and mature attitude that we have towards the Queen and our great respect for her. I have no doubt of the affection in which the Queen is held in this country and the respect Australians have for her service as both our constitutional head of state and her role as head of the Commonwealth of Nations. That respect transcends the borders of the republican debate. The fact that the Queen was never a part of the republican movement's campaign for change reflects the admiration in which we all hold her for the service she gives to our country. I wish the Queen and her family well during the course of the celebrations that she well and truly deserves for her half-century of dedication to those vows she took at her coronation 49 years ago.