Press Conference - London

18 Sep 2022
London, United Kingdom
Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s visit to the United Kingdom


It’s an honour for me to be here in London at this extremely difficult time for the people of the United Kingdom, for the people of the Commonwealth, and to represent Australia at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II that will be held on Monday. This morning I met with the new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss at her residence in Kent and it was good to have our second face-to-face meeting but our first meeting since her rise to Prime Minister. Today, also, we attended the Lying-In-State of Queen Elizabeth at Westminster and then I attended Lancaster House to sign the condolence book and to make a statement in memory of Queen Elizabeth. Just recently, I was given the honour of an audience with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace and that was a great honour and an opportunity for me to express my personal condolences to King Charles but also condolences on behalf of Australia. King Charles, of course, has not just lost a sovereign and a Head of State, for King Charles the loss of his mother is very personal and comes so soon after the loss of his father. Tomorrow we will attend a luncheon at Australia House that will include, of course, the nine Australians who have come to London with me as part of the delegation as result of the request by the Palace, and then tomorrow evening there is a function being hosted by King Charles for Heads of State and Heads of Government at Buckingham Palace. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: PM, what was it like going into Westminster for you, what was going through your mind?

PRIME MINISTER: It was a very emotional experience. The queues of British citizens and other visitors who want to pay tribute and want to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth was very momentous and you could feel the raw emotion in Westminster Hall. It was a great honour to attend with my partner Jodie Haydon, with the Governor General and his wife Linda Hurley, and also the Acting High Commissioner. We were escorted in by the Usher of the Black Rod and also I met with the Speaker of the UK Parliament. It was quite an extraordinary moment in history but also a very personal one. Queen Elizabeth touched so many Australians over generations. A monarch for 70 years who served with diligence, who served with fidelity, who served with an unrelenting commitment, who was with Australians at our times of joy – the opening of the Opera House, the opening of the new Parliament House – but also with Australians at times of sorrow, at times of natural disaster. She felt a real affinity to Australia and it was a moment of reflection on that. And it was very emotional. You could feel it in the room.

JOURNALIST: Was that what struck you, just standing there in that massive room and the coffin?

PRIME MINISTER: I've attended that room many times as a political entry point into the Houses of Parliament, and so it was a very different experience. I think the fact that I've attended there probably dozens of times, I went through there in 2019 during my last visit to the United Kingdom, I was escorted through there with George Brandis, the High Commissioner, to watch the debate about Brexit occur in the House of Commons. And so to be in that same room with such a solemn occasion was something that I will never forget.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister you've just come from the meeting with the King. What message did you share with him on behalf of Australia and did you extend an invite for him to visit Australia too?

PRIME MINISTER: I extended my personal condolences to King Charles, but also the condolences of the Australian people. He's very conscious of the connection that was there between his mother, Her Majesty, and Australia. But he also has of course a close personal connection, spending six months of his schooling in Australia, and we had a quite a considerable engagement and discussion. Protocol requires that I not discuss the detail of that and I don't intend to, but I do intend to have further discussions with King Charles. It was an opportunity to renew our acquaintance, and it was a very warm engagement. And he certainly is very conscious of the heartfelt expression of condolences that he is getting not just from Australia but from the whole world.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister for those who may not understand the protocol, how does it work with you and the other leaders in the room? Are you allocated a slot to speak to the King, or is it impromptu?

PRIME MINISTER: There was a time that was just myself and King Charles in the room. There was originally photographs taken and some video footage of us greeting each other that will be made available, I understand. But then it was a one-on-one meeting in private, a private audience, which was a great privilege for me as the Australian Prime Minister. We had a very good and constructive discussion and we will of course meet again tomorrow evening at an occasion that will be all of the Heads of State and Heads of Government who are here. So that will be a larger gathering. Prior to my meeting, he met with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, and so I was able to have a discussion with Prime Minister Trudeau as well. I'll be catching up with him tomorrow morning.

JOURNALIST: You've said it's not the time to talk about a Republic, but given that you are a Republican, do you believe that there should be a time that Australia becomes a Republic? And was that raised at all? Was it awkward?

PRIME MINISTER: Now is not the time and it was a warm gathering and I've made my views very clear on that. This is a time of respect. Respect is what is required here, and it's something that I don't find difficult at all.
JOURNALIST: It's the start of a new chapter. Do you feel an optimism, even though it's a sombre moment, do you feel optimism between us and Great Britain?

PRIME MINISTER: We have such a close connection with Great Britain and it is one of continuity and that will continue to grow, I believe. One of the things that we've seen being expressed, not just here – I just ran into some Australian visitors who are here visiting London and have made the journey because they wanted to be here at this time. And it is an important relationship that we have, it's a relationship that goes to our values as democratic nations. Of course, our democracy, a lot of it is based upon the Westminster system, and that's something that I'm very conscious of.

JOURNALIST: Have any of your experiences in the last week or your observations following the reaction to the death of the Monarch caused you to revise any views that you have about the monarchy and its value to a society, whether that's Britain or indeed Australia's?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I think this is something that is about respect for Queen Elizabeth and her quite extraordinary service over 70 years, and that's something that I've admired and respected for a long period of time. And the fact that she continued to serve with such extraordinary diligence and commitment and sense of duty is something that is reflective of her generation as well, that gave so much in the post-war period in rebuilding our societies that have been inflicted by war and continuing to be so positive in her outlook. I had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace in 2009 at the G20 meeting. There I saw Her Majesty, in her formal sense, greeting the world leaders from the twenty largest economies in the world, but also behind closed doors her engaging with people one-on-one, her showing her character and her sense of humour. And that is something that I believe is one of the reasons why she is so well respected.

JOURNALIST: Has the King given you any messages to relay to the Australian people?

PRIME MINISTER: The King and I had a very good discussion. He has a close relationship with Australia and I was asked about had I invited King Charles to Australia, as the Australian Head of State he is always a welcome visitor, as he always has been to Australia.

JOURNALIST: Just a quick question on your meeting with Liz Truss which we didn't get a chance to touch on.


JOURNALIST: I'd just love to get some insight on how that meeting went, what you discussed, any progression on a Free Trade Agreement, if you can give us some insight on that?

PRIME MINISTER: It was a very positive meeting, given the context of this weekend. It was one that didn't go into a great deal of detail. It was about the condolences, an opportunity to express condolences leader of government to leader of the UK Government. We'll continue to engage in the future. The economic relationship is very important. As you know, there was a trade agreement between Australia and the UK. That needs to be progressed through our parliamentary systems and we're both very conscious of that. And the AUKUS arrangement is important as our alliance partners along with the United States. But the defence relationship with the United Kingdom, of course, goes back a very long, long way. And I'm sure that the relationship between Australia and the UK can be strengthened even further in the future.

JOURNALIST: Did you raise Julian Assange's case with her, Mr. Albanese, which is something you've told your own backbenchers you were going to address if you became the Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I am not going into the details of the discussion that took place with Prime Minister Truss, except to say it was very positive and we discussed a range of issues.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you will be able to work with King Charles on climate and environmental issues over time?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not going to discuss any of that detail either, as protocol requires. But King Charles, of course, has been on the record on his views over a very long period of time about environmental issues and including about climate change. Thank you very much, thank you.