Commemoration Speech – Queen Elizabeth II

House of Representatives 23/09/2022

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (13:37): My maternal grandfather, George Kamal Guirguis, was an Egyptian auxiliary soldier in the British Army in Egypt and North Africa in World War II. Apart from stories of taking out Italian artillery units in the desert, two things came out of his experience, which he impressed upon me as I was growing up: his passion for the Liverpool Football Club, which he must have learnt from some of the Pommies he served with, and his deep, abiding respect and admiration for the monarch King George and then later Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. This wasn’t shared by my dad or his side of the family, who came from a generation which was far more antagonistic to the British occupation of Egypt. But, nonetheless, my maternal grandparents, who migrated to Australia in 1971, had, in their modest housing commission home in Preston in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, a portrait of Her Majesty, which hung in the lounge room and looked over us as little kids running around in the seventies, as teenagers in the eighties and as younger adults visiting—perhaps less so—our grandparents in the 1990s and 2000s.

My grandfather passed away in 2009, but my nana is still alive. She’s 96 years of age—or young. She’s the same age as the Queen, and she shed tears last week at Her Majesty’s passing. My nana, just like Her Majesty, has been the constant in our lives—constancy which we’ve heard a lot about today, in service; holding fast to duty; and constant commitment to faith and family: I’m mindful of these remarkable qualities and the example they present to us. On behalf of the people that I represent in my electorate, the people of Wills, I also pay respects and express condolences at the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

We often in this place reflect on service. All of us here, regardless of what side of politics we’re on, are sent here by our constituents to serve, and that duty to serve, I think, is also a great privilege within our democracy. Despite the day-to-day rough and tumble of politics, I know we all come to this place with that firmly in mind because it’s not just what our community expects but what they demonstrate themselves in their day-to-day lives.

When I’m not here in Canberra, I’m in my community in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. I’m sure all of my colleagues do the same back in their electorates—spend time with local organisations, sporting clubs, Scout groups, schools, mosques, temples, churches and so many other groups. All of them are bound by that common theme of service, the theme that the Deputy Prime Minister talked about earlier today, that binds us as a democracy and that Her Majesty placed such store in as the critical ingredient to the success of a democratic society, the service to others that she so amazingly embodied for seven decades—service to each other, service to worthy causes and service to the community. To represent my community in this place is to represent that very spirit that drives them, the spirit of service. We might say that this is the Australian spirit, one of looking out for others, a fair go and gratitude, in some ways, for all the great privileges and fortunes we have here in Australia.

It has been eloquently said by many speakers that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth dedicated all of her own life to the service of others. ‘The little girl who was never meant to rule’ we have seen her referred to as in recent weeks. Events, of course, would prove otherwise as she would go on to take the throne at just 25 years of age. Yet even well before all of this, her commitment to the service of others was clear. I think that’s probably why the Queen’s passing and loss have been so profoundly felt. It’s because as Australians I think we can understand and really appreciate the selflessness of service and duty. No matter our background, we can all serve our community in some way.

One of the great privileges I have as the member for Wills is celebrating annual honours named as part of the Queen’s birthday celebrations, and these past ones will be the last of her reign. They were given to people who served their communities, who gave something of themselves for others. That is the very best of our community. I wanted to recognise that here today as well in paying respects to Queen Elizabeth because, with her passing, she would expect everyone to remain focused on that commitment to service. May she rest in peace.