House of Representatives
7 February 1952

20th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

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Prime Minister · Kooyong · LP

– I move -

That the following resolution be transmitted through His Excellency the Governor - General to Her Majesty the Queen: - “ We, the members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, express our gratitude for the devoted life and service of our late Sovereign, King George VI., whose death we mourn. We extend our profound and most loving sympathy to Your Majesty, whose loyal subjects we now are, and to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and the other members of the Royal Family.”

His Gracious Majesty King George VI., whose sudden death we mourn at this time, reigned over us with singular distinction, unfailing courage, and the most constant devotion. He was a constitutional monarch in the grand tradition of his father, King George V., of happy memory. Possessed of great force of character, a most royal sense of duty, a keen preception of the movements and issues of his day, our late beloved King was in the vast and bitter crisis of the war, in which he served us all so well, ruler, and leader, and friend. His was no distant throne, for he sought no security and shared cheerfully every danger and every trial. All those who saw England under daily and nightly attack in the great battles of 1940 and 1941 were stirred by the spectacle of an embattled nation, normally not unacquainted with internal divisions and hostilities, in which there was unity, cheerfulness, courage, and a common resolution which ran through factory and farm, which made the King and his humblest subject feel a deep and human brotherhood. It was that superb fusing of the common will which defeated the enemy, and did so much to save the world.

King George VI. and his Queen. Elizabeth, were among the great archi tects of that brotherhood; never had the Crown been closer to the people; never had an ancient monarchy more magnificently upheld its place in a free and self-governing land. The Crown is, in the whole of our British world, our symbol of unity. It is more than that. It is the focal point of a deep and moving loyalty and love. It gives structure to the British Commonwealth. But when, as with us, the occupant of the throne has personal qualities of a humane and sensitive yet enduring kind, the Crown acquires a double significance and a double strength. It is neither by accident nor by ancient habit that the British throne has stood and grown stronger through the greatest wars and the greatest social revolutions in modern history. And so I say, “ God bless the memory of a good King”. We are shocked and sad at his death; but we shall all remain the better for his life.

Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother, is much in our thoughts to-day. More, she is much in our hearts. Never did a more sweet and wise womanly queen sit upon any throne. We send to her our deep and affectionate sympathy. She will continue, so long as we live, to have her own special place with us.

To our new Queen, Elizabeth the Second, so young, so full of loveliness and grace and character, and so informed by tradition and training, we should all like to say words of comfort and of encouragement. A cruel blow has fallen upon her as a daughter, for the Royal Family is bound together by ties of deep love and mutual understanding. But at the very instant of the blow, she became our Queen and we, in this national Australian Parliament, her Ministers and servants. As she goes through her sorrow to her great responsibilities it would be the wish of all of us to say to her that we have faith in her ; that we are her sworn counsellors in thisportion of her realm, sworn willingly both in hand and in heart ; and that, with God’s help, we are resolved to do all that we may to make her reign as rich and kind and good and memorable as that of her illustrious father.

Leader of the Opposition · Barton

– I second the motion that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has proposed to the House, the words of which are simple, clear and true. The late King George reigned throughout a period of tremendous crisis, not only in British history, but also in all history. Indeed, he ascended the throne following upon an unexpected constitutional crisis. The six long years of World War II. witnessed shattering changes throughout the world. Great Britain itself, and some parts of the British Commonwealth, at times during” that war, stood in imminent danger of physical overthrow by our enemies. That crisis did not end in 1945 with the ending of the war, and in some respects the sacrifices of our kinsmen in Great Britain are as great to-day as they were during the most critical period of the war itself. The fact is that throughout the whole of his reign His Majesty displayed supreme qualities of devotion and fortitude which he continued to show right up to the end. He proved to be a great leader throughout the course of the war and, what is more, he inspired still further his heroic people when they were so fiercely beset. It is a profound mistake to regard the royal functions as merely ceremonial or formal in character. Fortunately, constitutional develop-, ments in the British Commonwealth, including Australia itself, during the reign of King George VI. gave Ministers of State throughout the Commonwealth enlarged opportunities of coming into personal contact with the Monarch. The experience and wisdom of Kins: George VI. made him a valued counsellor and advisor of those whose responsibility it was to discharge public duties.

As the Prime Minister has said, he was a constitutional Monarch acting on the advice of his Ministers of State but, at the same time, his influence on great affairs was very considerable at all times and was always exerted for the welfare of the people. That is one reason why the great constitutional changes in the British Commonwealth and the introduction of new nations to its membership took place smoothly and with the utmost goodwill. The King himself dramatically and correctly described the British Commonwealth of to-day as “ a brotherhood of free nations “. It is not because of legal or constitutional theory that the monarchy is so strong in Great Britain. The monarchy has proved strong and enduring in Britain during a period of tottering thrones in a confused and turbulent world largely because of the personal qualities that have been displayed by the Monarch whose death we now mourn - qualities of service, leadership, wisdom and restraint.

There is not the slightest doubt that the enormous strain of the war years and the post-war years contributed to the King’s illness and, ultimately, to his lamented death. There is a simple but remarkable expression used in formal documents which the King on occasion addressed to other heads of State. It is, “ Great and good friend “. These words, regarded as a simple expression of truth and reality, describe what the King proved himself to be throughout his reign because, in truth, he was a great and good friend of all his people.

On behalf of the Opposition, I express, in the words of the motion,- “ Our gratitude for the devoted life and service of our late Sovereign, King George VI., whose death we mourn “. We extend our profound and most loving sympathy to the new Queen whose loyal subjects we now are, and to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, and the other members of the Royal Family.

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · Murray · CP

– I desire to associate the Australian Country party with the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. All Australians are shocked, as all the world is shocked, and profoundly grieved by the sudden death of His Majesty. No person in modern times has been more the embodiment of all that is admirable in one called to leadership. As a husband and father, as a King called unexpectedly to the Throne in most dramatic and difficult circumstances, as a leader of his people in the most desperate days of war, as a fellow among his people during the terrible bombing of London and as a monarch in an evolving democratic social order, His Majesty King George VI. had the affection of his people and the respect of the world. He won the admiration of all by his personal courage. His serenity and his judgment in crisis, and his influence for good were such that he will go down in history as one of the great world leaders of his day.

To Her Majesty the Queen, who shared the King’s life and work in a family partnership exhibited at its best, we extend our heartfelt sympathy in her grief. Our sympathy goes also to all the members of the Royal Family.

To the new Queen we offer our special sympathies in the distress associated with her accession to the Throne, and declare our loyalty and certain confidence that she will serve her people according to the splendid example of her father.

In a world ofrapid changes, not always for the better, King George VI. preserved an unquestioned respect for the unique British system of government. For all his peoples who are governed under this system he retained the great advantages of a Head of State who enjoyed universal respect, who exercised great influence for good and who was able to give wise counsel ; yet withal he remained completely outside and above all touch of controversy. This is a structure of government evolved out of the wisdom of British statesmanship through the ages but which calls for the most special qualities in the Monarch. Those qualities our late King had in unsurpassed degree. The great advantages of this governmental structure, which his personal qualities have preserved and developed, are enjoyed by Australians, and therecognition of our advantages is part of our grateful memories of our late King’s services to the British people.

Our new Queen, Elizabeth, thus inherits a great tradition, and the opportunity for service that it gives. She has already demonstrated promise of great qualities for her office, the heavy burdens of which she has been called upon to assume at so early an age. The loyalty and devotion of her people to Her Majesty is assured in full measure, and will support her in her great responsibilities.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

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Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn to

Tuesday, the 19th February, at2.30 pm.

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Royal Visit to Australia

Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime

Minister) [10.48]. - In moving-

That the House do now adjourn,

I desire to inform honorable members that Her Majesty the Queen, who is to be known as Queen Elizabeh the Second, has sent the following message to His Excellency the Governor-General from Nairobi : -

Owing to the sudden death of my father I have had to return home immediately. I regret that for the present my visit to Australia will have tobe postponed.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.49 a.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 February 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.