Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (16:18): I move:

That this council—

1. Congratulates Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla on their coronations; and

2. Affirms our steadfast allegiance to the throne and trusts that His Majesty's reign will be filled with great happiness for His Majesty and the Queen and be an era of peace, unity and prosperity across the Commonwealth of Nations.

We have now entered the third Carolean era. The first Charles reigned from 1625-1649, with the second Charles from 1660-1685. We have had the great Elizabethan eras between then and now, and it would be remiss of me not to mention again our late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who epitomised the head of state and embodied all that a constitutional monarch should be.

Our Queen ruled for longer than any other British monarch, affirming the declaration she made on her 21st birthday in 1947, which was:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

For over 70 years, Her Majesty was a steadfast and remarkable uniter of over two billion people across the commonwealth. Her Majesty was dedicated to serve the commonwealth and, as a member of her parliament, I was honoured to serve in her name.

King Charles III is the oldest British monarch to ever be crowned. His ascension to the throne meant that in doing so he witnessed the death of a phenomenal monarch, who also happened to be his own mother. How much of a sobering moment that must have been for our King.

The coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla was widely celebrated and audiences across the globe were able to watch and take part in the hugely successful and historically significant ceremony. It was something that I watched and celebrated from my home in the Riverland. My children were fascinated by the pomp and ceremony and it was a great opportunity to share with them some of our history and explain the stability and governance that our head of state provides.

The monarchy continues to capture the hearts and minds of young and old across the globe. There is something truly magnificent and magical about the history, tradition and stability that the constitutional monarchy represents.

Coronations have taken place in Westminster Abbey since 1066, the first being that of William the Conqueror, held on Christmas Day, following the Battle of Hastings. They are a ceremony steeped in tradition and meaning. The monarch swears an oath to rule with honour, wisdom and mercy, affirms in the church and is anointed. It was indeed a celebration worldwide, and not just by His Majesty's government right here in South Australia.

It is especially disappointing that to have the coronation mentioned or even acknowledged in this chamber of His Majesty's parliament, I, the opposition leader in this chamber, needed to move a private member's motion. The fact that this Labor government have decided to remain silent and make no formal address to His Majesty the King's coronation and that of his Queen Camilla is a break from protocol and tradition. It demonstrates that this government places little value on our chamber's history and the role our head of state plays in ensuring stability and continuity.

Understanding and respecting the importance of remaining a constitutional monarchy and the networks and protections that being an integral part of the wider commonwealth provides seems to be lacking in this Labor government. It is not lost on me that as a member of the South Australian parliament I serve in His Majesty's parliament and, as such, I think it is important that we celebrate and commemorate our head of state and appreciate all that our rich and diverse history embodies, and all that His Majesty provides and represents.

Australia was settled by the British in 1788. Like many civilisations, the British conquered faraway lands and were continually defending and expanding their empire. We should not forget that the English were actually conquered by the Normans. Over 1,000 years ago, the first ever Norman King was William the Conqueror, who commenced the now long-held tradition of Westminster coronations.

In speaking about our nation's history, it is important to acknowledge our First Nations people in Australia and note that they were here long prior to British colonisation. We have come a long way since that time and, whilst we still have a long way to go, I believe continued reconciliation will come from being focused on what unites us as a nation and not what divides.

The monarchy has played an important role in Australia's history, and the coronation of the new monarch is a significant event that should be celebrated. By not marking the occasion, the South Australian government missed an opportunity to show its support for the monarchy and its role in Australian society and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Whilst the constitutional monarch in Australia is largely ceremonial and symbolic, it serves as a unifying figurehead for our country. It represents the continuity of the Australian state and its institutions and provides a sense of stability and tradition. It also serves as a check on the power of the government, as the monarch has the power to dissolve parliament and call for new elections. This power is rarely used but it serves as a safeguard against abuses of power by the government of the day. Additionally, the constitutional monarch provides a link to the wider Commonwealth of Nations, of which Australia is a member. The monarch serves as the head of the commonwealth and this connection helps to strengthen ties between countries under this banner.

Retaining a constitutional monarch in Australia is seen by many as an important part of the country's political and cultural identity and as a way to maintain that stability and that continuity in the face of ever-changing political, geopolitical and social circumstances. An hereditary monarchy is not perfect. There are challenges in the unfairness of a birthright that is for the chosen few, but it is important to consider the alternatives to a constitutional monarchy.

An elected head of state has the potential to create division in its very nature. I say this because it would likely be a former political figure who would be elected by the people, a system which from the outside appears to represent a somewhat more democratic and fairer proposition. There is, however, one glaring issue: modern politics, as you know, Mr President, by nature is often divisive, and we would be naive to believe that a contested vote for a head of state would be any different. It would be politicised and the very independent, unbiased and agnostic approach to matters of state would likely be eroded. This hardly symbolises or represents what should be a unifying role.

It is difficult to articulate what His Majesty represents better than Stephen Fry, who said, 'A king is everybody's and nobody's which is the genius of a constitutional monarchy.' I am yet to hear a sufficient articulate argument to counter his wise words. Society progresses and times change but one could argue that it would be unwise to swap something that works for something that is unknown and has the potential to be far worse.

In lieu of this government's failure to commemorate what is a joyous occasion, it is my great privilege to congratulate Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla on their coronations. May their reign be long, peaceful and prosperous for all of the commonwealth. Long live the King.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.T. Ngo.