“TWO queens came to Sydney yesterday and their loyal subjects lost their heads,” Linton Besser and Ben Cubby wrote in their excellent report in The Sydney Morning Herald on 20 February 2007. “Crowds swarmed, roads were clogged and buses stalled late into the night as the Queen Mary 2 prepared to leave the harbour after a rendezvous with its sister vessel the Queen Elizabeth 2. The scenes were reminiscent of the heady days of the British Empire, when ocean conquest was often followed by a spot of tea.”
Mischievously, they added: “Perhaps fittingly; in a city founded by convicts and their jailers, there was even a bit of pilfering. Most of the 2,620 passengers trying to disembark for a day in port were delayed in the belly of the ship for hours, after several were caught trying to make off with the family silver…There were items in the luggage that were not supposed to be there… artworks, glasses, plates…”
The QM2’s master, Captain Christopher Rynd, said the ship’s first voyage into the harbour was one of the best arrivals at any port he had visited. "We were way out to sea and we could see the profile of the Heads and the hundreds of small boats there to escort us," he said. "It was just like a magic carpet spread out before us."
The visit of the two Queens created as much excitement and near euphoria as the public’s almost complete disinterest in the visit the next day of the US Vice President, which led to planned chaos, in contrast with the unplanned chaos of the day before.
In a letter to the Daily Telgraph on 26 February,2007, J.A. Graham, of Faulconbridge, NSW asked: “Don’t the Americans wonder why the Queen can walk the streets, meeting people, without needing foreign agents carrying guns in someone else’s country, talking into their sleeves, closing down CBDs and airports?” And Harold Scmaulze of Carnegie in Victoria hoped that “…the senators and other critics who had been so upset about the Queen’s 2006 inauguration of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne will find out what Dick Cheney’s visit to Australia cost the taxpayer.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, letters, 26 February, 2007.) As they add everything to the “cost” of a Royal Visit, what was the cost of closing the Harbour Bridge – both ways – for the Vice President? I remember years ago being caught at the height of the morning peak hour while the road to the airport was closed to allow a convoy of cars carrying dignitaries from the Peoples’ Republic of China to sail through. There were no questions in Parliament, nor stories in the press about that.
The sad thing about the Royal Rendezvous was that the ultra republican politicians who run New South Wales did not even foresee that this would interest, and much less touch the hearts of Australians. The republican politicians probably did not think that many still recall, and told their young about the earlier Royal Rendezvous of the great liners’ namesakes during those dark days of the Second World War, when our way of life was under threat and Britain, Australia and the Commonwealth, united around their beloved King and Queen, were almost alone as the Nazis sought world domination. Those great liners were converted in Australia into troop carriers, and brought thousand of Australians to distant battlegrounds. Too fast for the U-boats, the Nazi fuehrer is said to have offered a ransom for their destruction. I could not help wondering whether today there would be the facilities in Australia to do this now, or whether our republican politicians and the carpetbaggers who surround them have abandoned that capability too?
Once again, we saw the magic which only monarchy and our heritage can radiate. What a pity then that the ultra republican politicians in New South Wales completely mismanaged the day, making no preparation whatsoever for the visit. The traffic was in gridlock from the earliest hours, there were no police to direct it, one tunnel and a train line were closed for maintenance, the Botanic Gardens closed punctually at 8pm locking thousands, including children, in darkness, and the ferries finished at normal times stranding thousands.
You would have thought this would have been noticed during the day as things got progressively worse. Perhaps the reason was they could not see what was happening. You see, according to one report, the republican leadership was at lunch… on the Queen Mary 2.
Perhaps this mess is but a foretaste of what life would be like under a republic.