National News

Australians pay tribute to Prince Philip

The passing of Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip has been marked with a 41-gun salute in Canberra - a tradition being followed in other Commonwealth countries.

In a solemn but loud ceremony, six ceremonial guns from the Australian Defence Force were fired on Saturday afternoon as a crowd watched on.

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's husband, died on Friday, two months before his 100th birthday and only a short time after a month-long stay in hospital.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has led Australia's tributes, remembering him as a man of candour and compassion who dedicated his life to service.

The Australian Flag has been flown at half-mast on Saturday in a sign of condolence.

Australia and the broader "Commonwealth family" would be mourning with the Queen, Mr Morrison said.

"But also, we give thanks for the life of who you described as your strength and your stay," the prime minister said.

"Memories of him will of course tell stories of his candour, and a unique and forceful and authentic personality.

"But above all, he was a man who was steadfast, who could be relied upon, always standing by his Queen."

Former prime minister John Howard said his death marked the end of a "partnership for the ages" that survived more than 70 years.

"Prince Philip was always destined to be two or three steps behind (the Queen), but he did that with extraordinary grace and flair and intelligence," he told reporters.

Prince Philip visited Australia 21 times, the first in 1940 before his marriage, as a midshipman aboard the battleship Ramillies.

Some of his trips to Australia drew international headlines for controversial comments.

On one occasion he asked an Aboriginal elder: "Do you still throw spears at each other?".

But Mr Howard said it was his so called 'gaffes' that made people warm to him, particularly Australians.

"He gave short shrift to political correctness when he encountered it, and that endeared him to millions of people," he said.

Mr Morrison said Australians had fond memories of the duke too.

"In particular in the terrible bushfires of 1967 in Tasmania, where he comforted the victims and he toured the burnt-out Cascade Brewery."

Former prime minister Tony Abbott, who was criticised for appointing the Duke as a Knight of the Order of Australia - an award no longer presented - said the world seemed "a little emptier" after his death.

"He combined great character with being a dutiful royal and demonstrated over eight decades there is no better life than one lived in service to others," Mr Abbott wrote.

Former Labor leader Kim Beazley said Prince Philip had "worked himself into" the job of consort to the Queen - a difficult task because it was so undefined.

"He made it a position of great outreach on a whole range of subjects," he said.

The Australian Republic Movement offered its condolences to the royal family, as did former Australian prime minister and republican Malcolm Turnbull.

Asked for his reflections on the man, Mr Turnbull shared how Prince Philip identified him as "the Republican fellow" and then quipped: "You should have been a republic years ago!"

Federal Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese paid tribute to the prince for establishing the Duke of Edinburgh Award in which more than 775,000 Australians have participated.

"An award scheme that my own son participated in as a local high school student. One that gave great encouragement and support to young people as they grew into adulthood," Mr Albanese told reporters.

Prince Philip had not wanted a state funeral in the UK, but will be farewelled formally in Australia.

Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley signed a condolence book on Saturday, and will on Sunday attend St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney.

Australians can visit to share their condolences which will be passed on to the Queen, he said.

More than 10,000 condolence messages have reportedly already been written.

The opportunity to write a 'hard copy' message with also be available, through local members of parliament.

© AAP 2021