Watch speech here.
Senator McKENZIE (Victoria—Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (12:18): As Nationals leader in the Senate, I would like to associate the Nationals senators with the comments from both the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I think the depth of feeling, the respectful tone and the breadth of topics covered by both of those speeches really speak to the impact that Prince Philip had on all of us, republicans and monarchists alike. We extend our sincere condolences to Her Majesty, our Queen, following the death of her consort, Prince Philip, and our deepest sympathy to her family and the broader Commonwealth.
On 9 April Buckingham Palace announced the passing of Prince Philip at the age of 99, and I think a lot of us were surprised by the depth of feeling and the reaction right across Australia, from young people to old, from all walks of life, who seemed a little rattled that someone who had been such a part of our life, our history and our future was gone.
Prince Philip loved Australia. He first sailed into Sydney Harbour on a navy ship at the age of 18, and he’d then go on to visit us another 20 times. He shared a lot of our values, and we’ve touched on his larrikinism, his hard-work ethic and his Christian values. The royal tour of 1954 was huge for country residents here; 75 per cent of Australians turned out to see Her Majesty and Prince Philip. Like Senator Wong’s father, my mum, as a young girl from a little country town called Alex, was one of them, waving her flag proudly as they drove past. They travelled to 70 cities and towns in that visit, and Australia fell in love with them as a couple and as our monarchs at that time.
Lots of Country Party leaders were privileged to meet Prince Philip. Mark Vaile said that he remembers having a great lunch with the Queen and Prince Philip and Edward. He remembers Prince Philip at that lunch having very strong opinions and supporting the maintenance of the rights of the individual, which is core to our beliefs in Australia. It was not only this belief that Prince Philip shared with National Party senators and MPs in regional Australia; he was a great outdoors man. He loved horseriding, shooting, fishing, gardening and even, in later years, decided to turn his hand to farming and sold his produce at the local store, just down the road from what I’m sure was bigger than a four-bedroom fibro.
There’s a great story on the ABC about when the Prince opened the Olympic Games in Melbourne back in 1956. He reportedly went up to the Northern Territory, Senator McMahon, and shot a crocodile at night before inspecting the uranium-processing plant at Rum Jungle. They are very National Party things to do, and he was doing them not in 2021 but right back in 1956. Very retro are we! In his time hunting, he’s known to have shot a range of wildlife, but, in typical Fleet Street style, according to the UK Express, Prince Philip is believed to have had one of the highest kill rates of the royals—I don’t know how that got in there, but that’s something they’re known passionately for.
It’s safe to say that Philip was well known for cooking up a barbecue or two in summer. He also developed a passion for horse-carriage driving later on, taking up the sport at 50. He was made a ranger for Windsor Castle, which essentially meant he was in charge of running the farm, and he would often supply shops in the nearby village with local produce. The BBC revealed that he even tried to use cow manure from the farm at Windsor to generate gas, but that wasn’t successful—it blew up! That wasn’t the only attempt at influencing energy policy. Senator Canavan, helpfully, has given me a quote from Prince Philip: ‘Wind farms are absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace. They never work, as they need backup capacity.’ As we’re rolling out batteries, we know that is absolutely the truth.
Prince Philip’s life was a testament to hard work, grit and duty, and that is an attribute that all regional Australians can relate to. It wasn’t all state dinners and fancy pants. Apparently, Prince Philip was shovelling coal into a boiler room for so long that his blistered hands, according to him, couldn’t hold a fork. This was on his way back to England, during the war, whilst he was in the Royal Navy. This was a man who knew what it was like to work hard, who understood service and duty.
He was a bit of a larrikin. Whilst conducting royal duties he often displayed a great sense of humour, something that people who knew him commented they will very much miss. He was always able to put a smile on people’s faces. Who can forget when he declared he was ‘the world’s most experienced plaque unveiler’? Yes, he was a great hunter. That is something he deeply cared about. But he also deeply cared about the environment, as Senator Birmingham has spoken about. He once said, ‘If nature doesn’t survive, neither will man.’ We commit to do all we can as selflessly and restlessly as the prince always did to fix up our relationship with nature that is threatening our food, fresh water and health supplies. Those of us who live and work out in the regions understand that we need to be very good stewards of our land and water resources.
He was also a man of deep Christian faith and he was very generous. He was patron and president of more than 800 organisations and charities, and demonstrated kindness and selflessness, showing loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen over seven decades. The Prince was the longest-serving consort in royal history, a demonstration of reliability. We can only imagine how much this constant in Her Majesty’s life will be sorely missed.
The Dean of Windsor, the Right Reverend David Conner, recently said about Prince Philip, ‘He’s a bit controversial, certainly lively, but anything but boring.’ We need a bit more of that, I think. Prince Philip also had a deep passion for helping young Australians and was committed to better outcomes. We’ve spoken about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an award which is across 130 countries and territories. In Australia, more than 328,000 young people have gone through the award, which focuses on volunteerism, a holistic approach to personal development and, importantly, the importance of duty and service. The Duke of Edinburgh exemplified courage, generosity and determination. Some would say they’re old fashioned values, but I would say that, in an era of a pandemic, they’re values that more of us need to exemplify and take on board. He was an outstanding role model for us all.
On behalf of the National Party in the Senate, we thank him deeply for leading by example, for being a very good man behind the woman, and for giving her the love, support and structure that she needed to be our Queen and, indeed, to provide the leadership she has for the Commonwealth over a very long time. We offer our sympathies and prayers to Her Majesty the Queen and her family.
Question agreed to, honourable senators standing in their places.