The Queensland Club Governor’s Dinner 2017
Ladies and gentlemen, Kaye and I are delighted to join you once again for this year’s instalment of the highly enjoyable ‘Governor’s Dinners’. I thank our President, and Mrs McLay, and the highly professional Queensland Club staff, for the characteristically warm welcome afforded us this evening.
President, you and your Committee do a wonderful job in support of members. Congratulations and thank you, and a special welcome tonight to our new General Manager, Mr Steve Bovey.
In my present role, I am necessarily a little detached from the Club, but I think nostalgically almost every Thursday as, often in the Rolls Royce, we pass by en route to Executive Council at now 1 William Street or Parliament House. Dropping off for lunch these days is just a bit logistically difficult.
But I know that with many Club members, as with luncheons, I share an impassioned devotion to sport.
These past few weeks have been wonderful for Queensland sport.
The Sunshine Coast Lightning won the Super Netball Grand Final. Jeff Horn won the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title fair and square – yes, I was there. And what more is there to say about Queensland’s State of Origin success – and for all that, the Cowboys’ success in Cairns on Sunday – and yes, Kaye and I were there too!
But there is an even bigger Queensland sporting moment on the horizon – the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April next year.
This Club endures!
Many of us here tonight will recall the 1982 Commonwealth Games, with the winking Matilda; and the school children’s map of Australia absent Tasmania – the former was a triumph which beguiled even Royalty, the latter was a lapse soon and better forgotten.
Those games were an absolute triumph for Queensland. And here they are again.
These Games will be an opportunity to demonstrate our wonderful sporting prowess, and how professionally we manage such a large and complex event. Post our very own G20, absolutely incident free, we may have every confidence.
The Games will also be a time for the people of the Gold Coast, and of Queensland, to shine – to show our visitors from all over the Commonwealth what naturals we are at putting friendship and fun into the Games experience.
In a sense, the Games are already underway. Her Majesty The Queen launched the 2017 Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace on Commonwealth Day, the thirteenth of March, this year.
Kaye and I were honoured to be there for the ceremony. And the next day we were privileged to have our second audience with Her Majesty since I became Governor.
It is of course important to remain grounded in reality. I will never forget the reception at Fernberg a couple of years ago when having been announced in and having delivered my 3 minutes speech from the lectern, when moving around the room a couple of women very politely inquired of me: “and who are you?”
On its long journey to the Gold Coast, the Baton is currently travelling through Caribbean countries, creating an even stronger web of Commonwealth friendship, and a growing sense of excitement, with every country it visits.
Naturally, the last leg of the Baton’s journey will be in Queensland, to arrive on 24 December, with visits to large, small and tiny communities in around seventy locations. The Minister last Friday vaguely invited me to carry the Baton as it passed down Fernberg Road.
We have a small gym at Government House these days: could I be up to it?
Most of the places the Baton is visiting are, so importantly, in regional, rural and remote parts of the State.
This is recognition of just how important these communities are to Queensland, and to the true spirit of a Commonwealth Games held here.
For similar reasons, Kaye and I have become inveterate travellers in Queensland in the – almost – three years since I was sworn in as Governor. Can it be three years already?
I am confident that a map of our travels around the State would give the Baton Relay’s journey around Queensland a very good run for its money!
For us, these travels honour the enormous contributions that regional Queensland has made, and certainly still makes, to our State’s identity and character.
The visits fulfil the undertaking that I made on my first day as Governor to be a Governor for all Queenslanders.
And they mean that we have faithfully acted on the advice of the Queen during our first audience in 2014, when Her Majesty noted how decentralised Queensland is, and where we discussed that it might be advisable not to focus too much on the southeast corner.
People often ask Kaye and me whether we are enjoying this vice-regal role. I am usually surprised by the question: I thought the answer would be self-evident from our demeanours, perhaps too self-evident.
It is rightly a busy role. Take just the last week for example: Friday a St John’s Investiture at Government House, a Commonwealth Games meeting, followed by an Opera Queensland performance; Saturday night the State school’s musical extravaganza at the Convention Centre; Sunday to Cairns for the Indigenous Arts Fair, and then completely coincidentally the Cowboys versus Rabbitohs game; Tuesday launching a new “Queensland Rose” at Government House; Wednesday a tour by students from Eaton’s Hill State School, and meeting the new Chinese Consul General;
Thursday Executive Council, a senior’s tour of Fernberg and the annual Business Hall of Fame presentations at the Convention Centre; and earlier today, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. Busy, yes, and rightly so.
We regard our filling this role as an extraordinary privilege – for the opportunity to interact with and hopefully enthuse so many Queenslanders all the time, right around our wonderful State, and to be involved with such an array of community endeavour throughout the State, this last year from Hope Vale to Coolangatta, Fort Lytton to Charleville, and countless places in between.
Indeed, as a small sample, our most recent visits have been to Lowood, St George and Charleville and, at the other end of the State, to four communities on Cape York: Cooktown, Lockhart River, Aurukun and Hope Vale.
We have met so many wonderful people. As always, the school visits on the Eastern Cape were particularly memorable.
We saw many of the students we met in Hope Vale and Aurukun perform last weekend in Cairns as part of the Cape York Instrumental Program, just prior to the closing ceremony of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair.
I am proud to say that we have taken this idea – of a travelling regional Governor – one step further by moving the operations of Government House to a regional centre for about a week at a time: Cairns in 2015, Longreach in 2016 (with eight outlying towns), and Mackay next month.
We are gratified to see how much the communities value these visits.
In the regional centres, we visit places of community delivery, the hospitals, the police, the ambulance, the schools… in Jundah last October Kaye and I visited the Jundah State School – a most heart-warming experience for us – all eight Jundah students were present, yes, eight of them. And their numbers had been swelled for the day in “our honour” with the four boys from nearby Stonehenge.
How privileged we are: we will always remember that occasion, and I suspect those students will as well.
These regional events especially, lift community spirits and encourage a sense of connection and inclusion, like the stand-out commemorative regional shows like the Lowood 110th on 17 June this year, and to come, the Wondai 100th in September – not to forget our intervening Ekka.
These experiences emphasise the importance of a Governor who travels, who should travel, who must travel, whose travel reflects the quintessence of this role, representing the people of our State so broad, so vast, so diverse.
While I am on the subject of warm hospitality, I extend our great appreciation to the Queensland Club, once again, for this opportunity to share some vice-regal thoughts about our marvellous State, in distinguished and convivial company.
This great and enduring Club, with its State-wide membership and the State-wide sympathies of its members, indeed itself represents the State which Kaye and I are privileged separately to reflect and support.
We all, all of us in this room tonight, deeply appreciate our kinship with all our fellow Queenslanders, and the importance of advancing all of our diverse interests.
It is an honour, as always, to be with people stoutly interested in advancing the interests of their fellow citizens of Queensland. You have Kaye’s and my very best wishes.