REMARKS AT THE RECEPTION FOR THEIR ROYAL HIGHNESSES THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE
24 April 2014
To Your Royal Highnesses, Prime Minister, distinguished guests, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we hold today's reception, and it falls to me, Your Royal Highnesses, the distinct privilege as Leader of the Opposition, to extend our welcome and to support the Prime Minister’s welcome to you both to Australia.
A couple of years ago, some relatives of mine who run a small hotel on the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland, sent me an old photograph of Prince William's great-grandfather George VI, at the launch of a ship at Newcastle upon Tyne, circa 1931. Just two guests, perhaps three guests to the right of the then Duke of York, stands a bowler-hatted gentleman, proudly watching on, my great-grandfather, a Tyneside dockside worker. It has only taken us 83 years for our families to catch up again, but it is a distinct pleasure.
I think we would all agree that the Royal Highnesses have brought new vigour to the royal family, and their visit has brought out the best in Australian goodwill and hospitality. Australians have always accepted people at face value, regardless of politics, regardless of place. But I believe all Australians have been touched, in particular by the way you've engaged with young Australians, and I appreciate that for many Australians who are doing it tough, they have been cheered by your visit, especially the families of our veterans, the people in the bush, people affected by natural disaster.
I am not sure how much of this trip your precious baby George will remember, but I promise that Australians will remember him most fondly. We admire the genuine passion that both of you have for the charitable causes you support. I congratulate Her Royal Highness for the leading role that she has taken in this area. We admire the life of service that His Royal Highness has and will continue to have, what he has given to his country including as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force. It is fitting that their Royal Highnesses will have a place of honour at tomorrow's ceremony, as Australians commemorate our most sacred national day.
Because the Australians who went to war nearly 100 years ago were, almost without exception, children of empire. Indeed, one in five of the members of that first Australian Imperial Force were born in the United Kingdom, including John Simpson, Tyneside seafarer, immortalised here as soldier Simpson with his donkey. Their loyalty was to their King and their country and their country was still growing from colony to Commonwealth, had pledged itself to Britain's cause, to the last man and the last shilling.
In those 99 years since that first fateful Anzac Day, Australian and British forces have served alongside each other in that second brutal world war to end all wars, and in conflicts and peacekeeping missions around the globe. In particular, most recently I acknowledge the bravery and the sacrifice of the British troops in Helmand Province in Afghanistan. From Anzac Cove to Afghanistan, the respect and affection between our two countries has endured.
Much more, though, has changed. Ours is no longer a relationship of need or dependence. Australia and Britain are partners in the world, and we greet each other as equals. We perhaps no longer look in Australia to Britain as the mother country, but certainly as our oldest continuous friend, and our relationship is stronger and healthier for this. Your Royal Highnesses, regardless of whether the Lions or the Wallabies prevail, regardless of who holds the Ashes or takes home the most Olympic gold, you can be assured that you and all of the members of your family will be embraced in Australia with affection and respect. I hope you will treasure the memory of your first overseas trip as a remarkable young family forever. Thank you.
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