The Prime Minister, John Howard, has paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who died yesterday at the age of 101.
Howard held a press conference in Sydney.
- Listen to Howard (25s)
Transcript of Prime Minister John Howard’s press conference on the death of the Queen Mother.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I know that all Australians will join me in mourning the passing of a very great and gracious lady, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. It is a time of mourning but it is also very particularly a time of thanksgiving for a quite remarkable life. A life which touched three centuries and the death of The Queen Mother removes a link with events long ago which have shaped the history of this country as well as the history of the United Kingdom and many other member countries of the commonwealth. She was a person who led a quite amazing life. It was not only very long but it was also a life governed by a loyalty and tradition and commitment to service. She embodied values of old-fashioned patriotism, of stoicism, of commitment to family and commitment to nation and commitment to an ideal. It will never be forgotten that during the darkest days of World War II, beside her husband, the late King George VI, she refused to leave London during the worst of the Nazi onslaught and was constantly with her late husband encouraging and uplifting the spirits their beleaguered people.
She was in every way, the matriarch of the Royal Family, a person who exercised very great influence, a person who had an unfailing sense of duty and sense of humour. So I on behalf of all of the Australian people, I know extend my condolences to the Queen, who of course has not only lost her younger sister but now her mother during this her golden jubilee year.
Let us give thanks for a very long and rich and special life which has traversed all of the great moments of the history of the Australian federation, The Queen Mother’s life covered the entirety of the history of the federated Australia. So, on behalf of all Australians I extend my condolences and that of my wife of the Government, and I know of the Opposition as well, to Her Majesty and to all the other members of the Royal Family.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, who will be representing Australia at the funeral?
PRIME MINISTER: I will make a decision on that when I know the arrangements.
JOURNALIST: Is it likely to be yourself or the Governor General?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ll make a decision on that when I know the arrangements. I have not yet been told of what the arrangements will be but when I do know those arrangements I’ll be in a position to take a decision and I would expect to know some of those arrangements within the next few days.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, did you meet The Queen Mother yourself?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I did. I had the opportunity of meeting her at Windsor Castle in 1997 and again at Hollyrood Castle in Edinburgh later that year. She had an immense affection for Australia. She of course visited Australia with her late husband, then Duke of York, to open the temporary Parliament House in 1927. She came again as The Queen Mother in 1958. I remember during my discussion with her at Windsor Castle over lunch she spoke in some detail of the very rural character of Canberra in 1927. She remembered her visit in 1958 and of course she and her husband had a very special regard for Australia and had it not been the ill health of her husband that ultimately claimed his life in 1952, they would have visited Australia in the early part of the 1950s. So I do remember her, she had a great sense of humour. She obviously was very close to all of the members of her family. She exercised a great deal of influence on them and it is said that she had a particular bond with her grandson Prince Charles. She was a very entertaining lady and had opinions on everything and everybody.
JOURNALIST: … London…
PRIME MINISTER: No I think she is quite a remarkable person. She belonged to an age, I mean, you remember she was born in 19th Century, a very long time ago and she was born in 1900 and she would have been around at the time of the death of Queen Victoria and she would have been probably remembers as a young child the funeral of King Edward VII which was the last great gathering of the monarchs of Europe before WWI. It gives you an idea of the length of time that her life encompassed and I think her finest hour, if you’ll forgive plagiarism which is not, because I acknowledge its obvious source, I think her finest hour was undoubtedly during WWII when she stood beside her husband and the famous remark when it was suggested to her that the two children, then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret should go to Canada to be safe and it is said that she informed Winston Churchill that the children wouldn’t go without her, she wouldn’t go without the king and the king wouldn’t go.
And I think she and her husband represented, not only to the British people, but also to the Australian people and many others at the time because it was a period in the world’s history where Britain, Australia, and a few other countries stood alone against the Nazi onslaught, there was nobody else, and I think the symbol of service and stoicism and commitment that she displayed on that occasion along with her husband was quite remarkable and it was one of the things that was deeply embedded in the consciousness, not only of the generation of Australians, now and older generation that lived through those years, but also to many other generations and will never be forgotten. And I think she’s been quite a remarkable person and it is a moment in history the passing of a person who has made such a contribution but it is also not a time for – I mean, there is a sadness when anybody dies – but it has been a very long life and her health was failing and there’s a certain blessing in the fact that her suffering won’t be prolonged.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that the fact that she was perhaps the best-loved royal has kept support for the monarchy here in Australia so strong?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, she’s certainly been a popular figure in Australia. I don’t want to have seminar on the place of the Royal Family on an occasion like this. I think she was loved and respected in her right for the person she was, for the influence she had on her family, for the obvious commitment she had to her family and the obvious devotion and dedication she had to the cause that she believed in and that was naturally the place of Britain and the place of the commonwealth in the world, and speaking as the prime minister for Australia, the very special links she had with this country which I remember with respect and affection.
JOURNALIST: … represents for Australians, do you think that will change?
PRIME MINISTER: I think a lot of people will remember her for a long time with a great deal of affection and respect.
JOURNALIST: Do you feel there are….
PRIME MINISTER: I don’t think it has any effect at all on that. I don’t think it is an occasion to talk about that. It is irrelevant to it. I mean, whatever their views are on our constitutional future, people can respect the genuine article. They can respect somebody who was dedicated to the sort of values and the kind of life that she believed in, and she certainly was.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to the Queen at all today?
PRIME MINISTER: No, I wouldn’t in the circumstances such as this, but I did see the Queen only a few, two or three weeks ago and we did talk about her mother and I did enquire about her mother’s health and remembering that she was not with her father when he died, she was in East Africa I think when her father died. Given that her mother’s health was failing it is good that she was back in England when her mother died.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of what happened in Woomera?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I condemn unreservedly as Mr Ruddock has, any breaches of the law. I want to make it very plain that no amount of demonstration, no series of breaches of the law is going to in any way alter the government’s policy in relation to illegal immigration. Our policy will not be intimidated into change by this kind of behaviour. The steps that are needed to deal with it are steps that will be decided upon as operational matters by the police authorities. We don’t, Mr Ruddock doesn’t, give moment to moment instructions about police matters, they are in the hands of the Australian Protective Services, the managers of the Woomera detention centre, the Federal Police and South Australian Police. But I want to make it very plain that that kind of behaviour will not for a moment alter the approach the government takes, has taken, is taking, and will take to this issue.
JOURNALIST: … Woomera?
PRIME MINISTER: We are not going to alter our policy in relation to Woomera or any other aspect of illegal immigration under threat or under pressure or under duress from this kind of behaviour. I just want to make that very plain. We won’t be succumbing to any kind of intimidation…
JOURNALIST: Just on that behaviour…
PRIME MINISTER: I think it is unlawful, it is counterproductive. If anything it will strengthen the resolve of the Australian people to support even more the government’s policy. It is quite aimless, it is quite unproductive, but more seriously than that it is dangerous to the safety of police officers. I mean, I always have a sympathy for police officers in a situation like this, they are cast in a very difficult role and they’ve got to do their job.
JOURNALIST: Where you surprised that it happened….?
PRIME MINISTER: Nothing surprises me in this area, nothing.
JOURNALIST: … Middle East?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think what is happening in the Middle East is tragic beyond belief. I join the President of the United States and many other world leaders in effect pleading with those in authority and in control to do everything they can to reduce the scale of violence. It is particularly poignant that it has taken place at Easter at a time when our thoughts are for other reasons centred on that part of the world when the birthplace or the centre of the great religions of the world. I think it is terrible the deterioration in the violence and it is hard to understand how any nation or any collection of nations can come to terms with people as young as 16, 17 and 18 who will destroy their own lives in the process of destroying the lives of others. I mean, this is the ultimate terror. It is very hard, indeed well nigh impossible to take adequate precautions against that kind of behaviour and you can only imagine the sense of terror that must be in the hearts and minds of people in Israel but equally I have to say that everybody in the Middle East has to have a place in the sun if we are to have a lasting peace. There has to be respect for Israel’s position and an understanding of what Israel has had to put up with, but there must be a renewed affirmation of the right of the people of Palestine to have a homeland. They’ve got a right to have a homeland. I think it is an appalling tragedy what has happened over the last couple of years. I remember well visiting Israel and going down to Ramallah in May of 2000 and people were full of hope that we were going to achieve something. They were hopeful that we could have peace and it is a terrible tragedy and a terrible indictment of the lack of leadership of the Palestinian cause that the offer of peace made by Ehud Barak which involved 80-90 per cent of what the Palestinians wanted was not taken up in May 2000 when it has to be said that he offered them 80-90 per cent of what they asked for and that ! was rejected and sadly it is hard to see how any Israeli leader would have the authority now to make the kind of offer that Barak made in 2000 and yet that offer made then was rejected.