Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese has used the occasion of the Queen’s platinum jubilee to declare Australia’s relationship with Britain is now one of “equals” rather than “parent and upstart”.
Albanese also used the event to commit himself to advance reconciliation with First Nations peoples.
The new Labor prime minister marked the platinum jubilee milestone by lighting a beacon at Regatta Point in Australia’s national capital Canberra on Thursday night. He reflected on the British monarchy as a female service and achievement story.
After committing his government to implement the Uluru statement from the heart “in full” and noting he looked forward “to advancing reconciliation as prime minister of this country,” Albanese paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s “remarkable seven decades on the throne”.
“The Queen has been a rare constant, an enduring, inspiring … presence of calm, decency and strength,” Albanese said Thursday night.
“Unlike her forebears, Princess Elizabeth did not choose a new name for herself as monarch. There was no question that she would retain the name that she had for all of her life. Already she was giving a sign of the stability and continuity she would provide, and indeed the continuity that royal women have provided”.
Australia’s prime minister noted that during the past 184 years, “the throne has been held by women for 133 of them. There have been just two women, Queen Victoria for 63 years and Queen Elizabeth, the first monarch to reign for seven decades”.
He said Australians continued to hold Queen Elizabeth “in respect and affection,” but the relationship between Australia and Britain had changed over the past 70 years.
Albanese said the bond between the colonial power and the former colony “is no longer what it was at the dawn of [Queen Elizabeth’s] reign”.
“No longer parent and young upstart, we stand as equals,” Australia’s prime minister said. “More importantly, we stand as friends.”
The new Labor prime minister shared a personal anecdote, noting his birth had been “somewhat potentially delayed” during a royal tour in 1963 because “my mother insisted on seeing the tribute to Queen Elizabeth on her way to the hospital, she insisted on going via the city [of Sydney] to ensure she saw all of the commemorations at that time.”
He said Queen Elizabeth had been a good friend to Australia, visiting the country on 16 occasions “always to an ecstatic welcome”. Albanese also praised the Queen’s service, dignity, grace under pressure, and “lively sense of humor”.
Albanese has promised the new Labor government will prioritize a referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament – the central recommendation of the Uluru statement from the heart – and pursue constitutional recognition for First Nations people in its first three years.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was issued to the Australian people in May 2017 and developed after two years of deliberative “dialogues” around the country. Broadly, it calls for constitutional change and meaningful, structural reforms based on justice and self-determination for Indigenous peoples.
It also called for a First Nations voice to parliament enshrined in the constitution and a Makarrata commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling.
Albanese won the federal election on 21 May and appointed his new ministry this week, including a new minister overseeing Australia’s transition to a republic.
On Wednesday, Matt Thistlethwaite, a New South Wales right-winger, was sworn in as assistant minister for the republic by the Queen’s representative in Australia, the governor-general, David Hurley.
Labor’s 2021 national platform says the Australian Labor party “supports and will work toward establishing an Australian republic with an Australian head of state”. Albanese has spoken at events held by the Australian Republican Movement, telling a 2019 dinner, “a modern Australian republic is an idea whose time has come”.
But the new Labor government is not proposing accelerating a transition to a republic during the current parliamentary term.
In an interview this week with Guardian Australia, Thistlethwaite said his role over the next three years would be to educate the Australian people about the current constitutional arrangements and the English monarch as the head of state.
Thistlethwaite said as Queen Elizabeth came, “the twilight of her reign, it’s a good opportunity for a serious discussion about what comes next for Australia”.
“Hundreds of Australians could perform the role, so why wouldn’t we appoint an Australian as our pinnacle position under the constitution? It will take time, but if you want to do it properly, we should begin the discussion now, so we’re ready to go in a second term of an Albanese government.”