Prime Minister's address to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
PRIME MINISTER: Mr Speaker, I move that an address to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the following terms be agreed to.
We, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia received with great sorrow the news of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
On behalf of the Australian people, we express deep sympathy to Your Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, and give thanks for a remarkable life dedicated to service, devotion and commitment.
Mr Speaker, for almost 80 years, Prince Philip served the Crown, his country and our Commonwealth.
He was part of a generation that we will never see again.
A generation who defied tyranny, who won a peace, and built a liberal world that protects and favours freedom.
A generation who found meaning in service over self and to whom we owe so much.
Prince Philip, as consort to the Monarch, is said to have remarked “constitutionally I don’t exist”.
That, no doubt, is true. But it belies the Prince’s lifelong support of the Queen and as an exemplar of a life of service.
In Her Majesty’s own words, Prince Philip was her ‘strength and stay’.
Married a remarkable 73 years. Remarkable in any time and any context, but even more remarkable, under an unrelenting public gaze.
It was a romance that began when he was a young officer in the Royal Navy.
Prior to war, he graduated top of his class at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.
At 21 he was the youngest 1st Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
Like so many others, the war had tempered this young Lieutenant.
It forced him to confront who he was, what he valued and how he would live.
As he wrote after War’s end to his betrothed:
“To have been spared in war and seen victory, to have been given the chance to rest and to readjust myself, to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly, makes one’s personal and even the world’s troubles seem small and petty”.
The then Lieutenant Mountbatten and Princess Elizabeth married in 1947 and in keeping with the times, ration coupons were used to purchase the wedding dress.
Five years later, the Princess became our Queen and Prince Philip put aside his active military career, and took up the role of royal consort and companion.
It was a role that required another to shine, not him.
That takes a certain humility as well as a deep understanding of what service truly means.
Whilst their partnership embodied tradition and timelessness of Monarchy, their partnership in another way was one ahead of its time. A husband who put aside his career to support and affirm the work of his spouse.
The role of consort is one without a rule book.
Prince Philip put his own unique stamp on the role with geniality, good humour, a genuine interest in others and a fair dinkum authenticity.
By the time he had retired at the spritely age of 96, he had undertaken some 22,000 public engagements.
For those of us here who have been to plenty of engagements, I don’t think any of us would pretend to a number of that scale.
Again and again, he deployed his trademark lightheartedness to draw out people and put them at ease.
It was an unfaltering service.
Always walking two steps behind Her Majesty.
And what you saw is what you got.
If the photographers were taking too long, he’d tell them.
If the environment was in danger, he’d indeed say it.
And if Monarchy could encourage and inspire, he made sure it did.
Sixty five years ago, Prince Philip created the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
An award that is about young people giving their best, taking responsibility, persevering, developing skills, giving back, and making a contribution.
He described the Award as a ‘do-it-yourself growing up kit’.
An Award modelled on how the Duke himself saw life.
In Australia alone, 775,000 young people have completed the Award. Millions more have around the world.
Every one of those lives gaining a layer of texture because of that experience.
Internationally, the Prince was Patron or President of more than 750 organisations. Of those hundreds, 50 were here in Australia.
Many of them reflected his personal passions for conservation, science, industry and design, engineering, sport and, of course, the military.
Prince Philip was a frequent visitor to Australia over his life.
In fact, he first came to our shores as a midshipman aboard the battleship Ramilles in 1940. And again in 1945 aboard the Royal Navy Destroyer Whelp.
One trip that is almost lost to history, but is worth recounting today here in this place was his visit in 1967, some fifty four years ago.
In February of that year, Tasmania experienced its most deadly bushfire, Black Tuesday. A day when 64 people died and more than 7,000 lost their homes.
Less than a month later, The Duke visited Tasmania’s fire-ravaged southern region on what some dubbed ‘a protocol-wrecking tour.’
He travelled through Taroona, Kingston, Margate, and Snug.
He met with people and heard their stories.
He listened, he consoled and did his best to lift everyone’s spirits.
But that is not where that story ended.
Because a year later, he returned to visit the same sites and the same people.
He was checking in.
Over his eighty years of service, Australians saw the measure of Prince Philip.
More than the husband and partner of our Sovereign, he was an authentic man, who despite the protocol and privilege that surrounded him, sought to reach out and connect with people and good causes in his own way.
He was a genuine friend of Australia.
Today we place on record our gratitude for his lifetime of service to the Crown, to our Commonwealth and to our country.
We honour indeed a remarkable life that bore witness to almost a hundred years of history and the making of our modern world.
On behalf of all Australians, I extend our sincere condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and to the Royal Family in this, their time of grief, but especially to Her Majesty.
The image of her seated alone at her Prince’s funeral service was a very sullen one.
I know she would have been drawing, as she always has, great comfort from her very deep faith.
But let also now our Commonwealth seek to sustain her, as she continues in her selfless and devoted duty to our Commonwealth and indeed to Australia.
Let us, her Commonwealth, be her strength and her stay.
To Her Majesty, we send Australia’s love and respect and to His Royal Highness, may he rest in peace.