Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Accession of His Majesty King Charles III – Address

Mr CLARE (BlaxlandMinister for Education) (09:33): We talk a lot in this place about service—in the past few years often about the frontline workers who have protected us and shielded us and served us in the face of fires and floods, and, in the teeth of the pandemic, nurses, teachers, bus drivers, truck drivers, firefighters, the SES, cleaners, supermarket workers, doctors, pharmacists and a multitude of volunteers. Service comes in many forms. And, in all of the commentary since the passing of the Queen, it’s the one word that consistently rings out. She was a woman who was not necessarily destined to be Queen, but, standing here at the end of a 70-year reign, it is difficult to imagine her not being there. The Queen was a constant in most of our lives. She reigned for more than half the life of this Federation. Winston Churchill was born in 1874; Liz Truss was born in 1975—101 years apart. Both were her prime ministers. That gives you an idea of the sweep of time and the generations through which she lived. Throughout all that time, in good times and not so good, the defining feature of it all was service. You don’t have to be a monarchist to admire that, just a human being.

In 1980 the Queen visited my local community in Bankstown. She came to declare it a city and she left impressions that have lasted till this day. It was a really big deal. Thousands lined the route from Bankstown Airport to the council chambers. The Queen was loved by my community, then and now.

As education minister, I also want to mention some of the other places she visited. I asked the Parliamentary Library for a list of the schools, TAFEs and universities that the Queen visited in her 16 visits to Australia. It’s a long list—everywhere from Broome state school to Bourke Primary School, from Bridgewater High School in Hobart to the School of the Air in Alice. She talked to students over the phone and she listened to their speeches. And they came to her, in their thousands, everywhere she went. She visited apprentices in dockyards in Newcastle and workshops in Melbourne. She visited teachers’ colleges from Wollongong to Townsville, opened the medical school at the University of New South Wales and had a buffet lunch with female students at the University of Sydney. She attended a banquet to mark the centenary of the University of Adelaide and gave royal assent to the bill that created James Cook University. Along the way, she also awarded a few Duke of Edinburgh awards.

The Queen understood the power of education and wanted to see it for herself, and, with her passing, she becomes the lesson—a life dedicated unflinchingly to duty, to family, to faith and to the service of others. For all of us here who aspire to serve others, that is a life well lived. May Her Majesty rest in peace.