Shortly after the 1999 republican referendum, Queen Elizabeth recalled that she had reigned for over half of the life of the Australian Commonwealth. Most Australians have known no other.
On Friday, 21 December, 2007, she overtook Queen Victoria as our oldest sovereign. Although coming on to 82, she continues to undertake her many duties, with no sign of her slowing down.
As with many other organisations, ACM is involved in fund raising. Once or twice people have said, “but doesn’t the Royal Family fund you?” “No,” I say, “that would be improper. Her Majesty just does not get involved in political campaigns.”
After the referendum, The Queen said that whatever had been the outcome, the Royal Family would have retained their deep affection for Australia and Australians. The future of the Australian Crown was for us, the Australian people.
When the referendum results were announced – a landslide –The Queen declared she would “continue faithfully to serve as Queen of Australia under the Constitution to the very best of my ability, as I have tried to do for the last 48 years."
She has never put a foot wrong. Few people are aware that she took a leading role in bringing home our constitutional system, something which had until 1986 had eluded our warring prime ministers and premiers.
Some years ago a German born relative told me we should become are republic. “Why?” “Because of all the money we send to London.” “What money? “ He replied “What about all that Crown Land?”
We pay the Queen nothing, while the British government makes a very handsome profit out of the Royal Family.
The Queen, who is also the Head of The Commonwealth, is the essence of our oldest institution, the Australian Crown. Its powers are principally exercised by the governor-general and governors, whose loyalty is to the people through her, and not to those who recommended their appointment.
The Crown is thus above politics. It is an important check and balance in the parliaments and our governments, the courts, the armed forces, the honours system, the public service, and as a constitutional guardian and the lynchpin of the federation. Its removal would result in a completely new constitutional system, and yet, ours is one of the most successful. Just look at the annual UN Human Development index.
The thing that drives The Queen is duty.
It’s only now that people are beginning to realise that when, at the age of 21 she declared to the people of the Commonwealth that her whole life, “whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service,” she meant every word of it. She inherited this from her father King George VI.
As Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, said when she was asked whether their young daughters would be sent to Canada during the Nazi blitz of London, “They would never leave without me, I would never leave without their father, and he will never leave.”
This is the essence of The Queen’s character, the same sense of duty as her parents, the same strong faith.
In an age when religious declarations are unfashionable, she says the teachings of Christ and her own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which she tries to lead her life.
Her service to the nation has been impeccable.
[Published in the Sunday Times, Perth, 23 December, 2007]