The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

JOHN HOWARD

- FOR­MER PRIME MIN­IS­TER

When the then Princess El­iz­a­beth was pro­claimed Queen El­iz­a­beth II on Fe­bru­ary 6, 1952, Bob Men­zies was Prime Min­is­ter of Aus­tralia; Win­ston Churchill Prime Min­is­ter of Bri­tain; Harry Tru­man Pres­i­dent of the United States; and Joseph Stalin was still dic­ta­tor of the Soviet Union.

Com­mu­nist China was barely three years old in Fe­bru­ary 1952. China is now the sec­ond largest econ­omy in the world and, im­por­tantly, Aus­tralia’s largest ex­port mar­ket. The Soviet Union is no more. The Cold War was in­ten­si­fy­ing in 1952. It ended more than a gen­er­a­tion ago. To re­call this as we mark the oc­ca­sion of the Queen be­com­ing the long­est-serv­ing Bri­tish monarch in history is not only to ac­knowl­edge the longevity of her reign, but also the ex­tra­or­di­nary trans­for­ma­tion of the world in the time she has been on the throne.

Con­stancy and com­mit­ment to duty have been the hall­marks of the Queen’s reign. She has ad­justed to the myr­iad changes in at­ti­tudes and fash­ions dur­ing 63 years on the throne, with­out ever be­tray­ing the fun­da­men­tal tenets of her role.

El­iz­a­beth II has been an im­pec­ca­ble con­sti­tu­tional monarch. She has al­ways demon­strated that her priv­i­leged po­si­tion de­rives from the con­sent of those who recog­nise her as Queen. This has con­trib­uted to her pop­u­lar­ity.

As Queen of Aus­tralia she not only cares deeply about our coun­try but re­mains fully ac­quainted with what is hap­pen­ing here. I have ex­pe­ri­enced this on many oc­ca­sions over the years and most re­cently dur­ing a lun­cheon with her at an Or­der of Merit gath­er­ing held at Wind­sor Castle in April of this year.

Un­like other Com­mon­wealth na­tions of which the Queen is Head of State, Aus­tralia has voted to re­tain the monar­chy. The Queen would PM John Howard and have fol­lowed clos­ethe Queen in 2006. ly the process of the repub­li­can ref­er­en­dum in Aus­tralia in 1999. Yet in ev­ery way she re­spected to the full that this was a mat­ter for the Aus­tralian peo­ple to de­cide.

The place of the monar­chy in Aus­tralia will re­main the sub­ject of de­bate — as it should. It is part of our demo­cratic con­sti­tu­tion, and that con­sti­tu­tion can al­ways be changed by the peo­ple.

Some see it as anachro­nis­tic. Oth­ers, such as I, see it as a valu­able part of our con­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments which has played a role in en­sur­ing that Aus­tralia has re­mained one of the most sta­ble democ­ra­cies in the world over the past 100 years.

Re­tain­ing the Queen as our Head of State does not de­grade our in­de­pen­dence. Dur­ing the al­most 12 years that I was Prime Min­is­ter and thus in­ter­acted with many na­tions and their lead­ers, I never once felt that Aus­tralia’s sovereignt­y or free­dom of move­ment was in any way di­min­ished by our con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy. Rather, I have long seen the place of the Crown in Aus­tralia as link­ing our na­tion to what is ar­guably the sec­ond-old­est in­sti­tu­tion in Western civil­i­sa­tion.

What­ever may be our views on a monar­chy or a re­pub­lic, we should pay an un­con­di­tional trib­ute to a re­mark­able woman.

We wish her good health in the years ahead, and thank her for be­ing faith­ful to the vows of her of­fice and such an ex­em­plar of public ser­vice.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia