PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23368

Address to the Governor-General Farewell Reception

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 25/03/2014

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 23368

Location: Canberra

I pay tribute to our Governor General, for serving this country with grace, dignity and style.

Your Excellency, you came to the highest office in our land after a long and distinguished career as a legal academic, as the federal sex discrimination commissioner, as the principal of women’s college at Sydney University and as the Governor of Queensland.

Still, you were no stuffy or aloof viceroy. During one of your visits to Afghanistan you met a young soldier who was celebrating his 21st birthday. You leant over, kissed him on the cheek and said, “Happy Birthday, that’s on behalf of your mother.” In a way only a military man could, he smiled and replied, “But Ma’am, I miss my grandmother too.” So, the two kisses that he received made this young soldier’s day as he was serving our nation thousands of kilometres from home.

Your Excellency, you have supported a vast range of good causes and community organisations. Indeed, all of the 318 bodies of which you are Patron have recorded a message for this evening. We are not going to play all of them, but we will play a selection.

Your passion nevertheless has been for the advancement of women, young people and education. On one occasion you invited Girls for Oz – a performing arts group from remote communities – to what they called a “sleep-over” at Admiralty House and the joy was so complete that they promptly danced on the harbour side lawns for the benefit of the passing sailors.

Many years ago, it is said, the then Governor-General Sir William Slim and the then Deputy Prime Minister Sir Arthur Fadden were on a tour in outback Queensland. It was a hot day so they stopped at a pub and were soon talking with a local.

When the Deputy Prime Minister at some stage excused himself the local asked Sir William Slim who exactly was their companion. “Oh,” he said. “That’s Sir Arthur Fadden, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.”

“Well, blow me down,” said the local to the Governor-General. “What a country we live in. Here is the Deputy Prime Minister having a beer with two ordinary blokes like us.”

Your Excellency, on the only recorded occasion when you have entered a pub you were much better recognised than your predecessor. It was Australia Day 2011 in the Lockyer Valley – a sombre celebration for the survivors of the inland tsunami and the local Mayor said you were “a tower of strength to our community and to me personally.”

For five years you have been with Australia in good times and bad – in our joy and in our grief. On four occasions you have held in your hands the Victoria Cross before presenting it to an Australian hero – in one case to the family of a fallen hero.

When asked what you have most enjoyed about your role you have typically answered, “today, because every day has brought me into contact with wonderful people.”

Well, Your Excellency, Australians may have inspired you but you have certainly inspired us.

Your presence and your example has helped us to come closer to being our best selves.

Last year, particularly, your year of three Prime Ministers, I suspect that Australians may have fixed their gaze on Yarralumla and thought “thank God there is at least one adult left in our system of Government.”

Your Excellency, you have been magnificently supported by Michael, one of our country’s finest architects and the principal design adviser to the Sydney Olympics. But with the family instinct for duty and service, indeed, I understand that on some Vice Regal occasions in Brisbane Michael could be found directing traffic in the uniform of the State Emergency Services.

Your Excellency, you have had a life of exemplary public service.

Your new office at the Queensland University of Technology suggests more teaching and more encouragement for young Australians.

It is typical, entirely typical, that you requested support for the Clontarf Foundation rather than a farewell gift.

Ladies and gentleman, Australia’s first female Governor-General has added mightily to the lustre of this great office.

Dame Quentin Bryce, I salute you.


Transcript - 23368