The Cook Society (Queensland) Luncheon
Thank you, Mr Craig, for your kind introduction, and for your invitation for Kaye and me to join you today.
We are delighted to once again be here at the Queensland Club – a Club integral to our State’s historical and contemporary social fabric; thank you to our President, Mr Wehl (pron. Wheel), who joins us today.
Today’s luncheon serves dual purposes.
Firstly, it provides a much anticipated opportunity for me, as the Society’s Patron, along with Kaye, to meet you all (or, for some of us, to reacquaint ourselves) in this new Patron capacity.
We recall that The Cook Society had auspicious beginnings in 1969, as the initiative of Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Sir Robert Menzies. I am impressed that the Queensland chapter has more than 80 members, members interested in promoting British-Australian relations at a high level.
And we must not overlook the great continuing importance in many respects of the UK/Queensland relationship, including of course trade, culture and mutual support; and indeed heritage, from which we here in Queensland have been such beneficiaries, beginning with the Westminster system of government.
Today is also a highly beneficial opportunity to share some relevant observations from the first 12 months of this 26th governorship, and to briefly speak in support of the Society’s endeavours.
In October, Kaye and I visited the UK where we enjoyed a most absorbing audience with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen – who, on the 9th of September, is set to become our longest serving monarch – was most engaging, and evinced a genuine warmth for all aspects of our vast State.
I mention today Cook’s discovery of this island continent. Phillip was another notable contributor to what we have today.
We also on that trip visited the village church of St Nicholas at Bathampton and the Admiral Arthur Phillip Memorial Globe in Bath itself, across the street from his final residence. This was significant during what was then the 200th anniversary year since Phillip’s death. He ended at Full Admiral rank, even more senior than Nelson; and living out his days in Jane Austen’s Bath (the city of Bath that is).
Governor Phillip remains enormously relevant to contemporary Australia, as we have been reminded recently by Michael Pembroke’s highly readable Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy and the similarly named ABC documentary Governor, Sailor, Spy (incidentally, for those who missed it, I am told you have until 9.30pm today to watch this on the ABC’s online i-View platform). The current Agent-General kindly gave me a copy of Pembroke’s book when we were in London. I have not myself watched the ABC production.
Phillip is also greatly relevant to Queensland.
He was, well before Sir George Bowen, the first Crown representative in the lands which now make up our vast State. His seventeen eighty-seven Instructions designated the territory of New South Wales as including “all the islands adjacent to the Pacific Ocean”, westward to the 135th meridian.
It was Phillip who effectively ordained a system of government which provided for the later separation of colonies – in Queensland’s case, fulfilled by Queen Victoria’s June eighteen fifty-nine Letters Patent, which also appointed Governor Bowen. Bowen was himself effectively a benevolent dictator on arrival here, unilaterally, or almost so, setting in place the basics of the system of government we enjoy today.
Both memorials to Phillip – the armillary sphere and the one also unveiled last year at Westminster Abbey, attended by some of you here today – are appropriate, if not well overdue, benedictions of a man many refer to as the founder of our modern Australia.
There is of course a strong affiliation between The Cook and Britain-Australia Societies – the latter the driving force behind those memorials; I was pleased in this respect to also meet their Chairman, Mr Peter Benson, in London in the course of those travels last year. That meeting occurred in Australia House, constructed with Australian stone shipped to London from Australia during the First World War. And what a remarkable achievement that was.
Through this close affiliation between the two societies, The Cook Society has been instrumental in ennobling Phillip’s legacy, and in enhancing British-Australian relations more generally.
Both are linked. Britain and Australia, and of course the wider Commonwealth, seek, as Phillip arguably sought, to head-off conflict by promoting knowledge and good relationships. In that, we also have for decades now been inspired by Her Majesty’s example.
And while we importantly emphasize these days our place in the Asian/Pacific region, we do not forget our parentage, and the continuing importance to us of UK links which are not just confined to the familial.
As Governor and Patron, I commend you all for playing your part in enhancing our two nations’ bedrock, kindred relationship.
Kaye and I look forward to future engagements with you all, and to returning, in an equally convivial atmosphere, the fine hospitality you have so admirably afforded us here today. Thank you.