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.

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