Press Conference - Parliament House - Canberra

13 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Uncle Jack Charles, Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral arrangements, Currency changes, Pacific Island leaders travel arrangements, NACC legislation, Diplomatic engagements, pandemic leave payments, Travel to Japan

PRIME MINISTER ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning. I want to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respect to elders, past, present and emerging. In particular, I wish to acknowledge Uncle Jack Charles who passed away today aged 79. A victim of the Stolen Generation. He was removed from his mum, sent to a mission in Shepparton then Brunswick and Box Hill Boys Homes where he was a victim of abuse his early life. He was incarcerated 22 times for burglary and drug offences, involved in establishing Indigenous theatre in the 1970s, including cofounding Australia's first Indigenous theatre group. His film career, an area will be familiar to so many Australians, began in 1979 with The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, which I studied for my HSC – many Australians are familiar with that work. He was the first Indigenous elder to speak at the Yoorrook Justice Commission. He appeared on ABC Q&A with me in 2015. He lived a very hard life but leaves a joyous legacy. He endured cruelty, he endured pain, but he uplifted our nation with his heart, with his genius, his creativity and his passion. And I pay tribute to him today. This morning, I hosted 24 Commonwealth nations at the Lodge and I was pleased to welcome representatives from countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, African nations, Asian nations as well as our Pacific family. I met again with the High Commissioner from the UK, Vicki Treadell, to discuss arrangements that will occur in London in a few days' time. All Commonwealth nations were invited to this reception and it was an opportunity for Commonwealth nations to express together our condolences, but also to celebrate the life and the sacrifice of Queen Elizabeth II, a life of service to the Commonwealth including to Australia. It was particularly a good opportunity to join with our friends in the Pacific. Today I announce the names of the ten everyday Australians who will travel with me to the United Kingdom for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral. It was a request from the Palace that ten everyday citizens who make contributions to the local communities be invited to the Queen's funeral. That will occur for all 15 realms. The Australians who have been invited embody an extraordinary contribution to our nation. We have made sure that all eight, six states and two territories, are represented, that there is an appropriate breadth of Australians as part of the delegation. They will include: Dylan Alcott AO, the 2022 Australian of the Year; Valmai Dempsey, the 2022 Senior Australian of the Year; Doctor Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, the 2021 Senior Australian of the Year; Shanna Whan, the 2022 Australian of the Year local hero who is someone who is a regional community representative; Saba Abraham, Local Hero from Queensland; Kim Smith, Local Hero from Tasmania; Trudy Lin, the Young Australian of the Year for 2022 from South Australia; Danny Abdallah, a co-creator of i4give Day and Foundation, someone who is making a quite incredible contribution, and someone who has turned a tragic loss into an extraordinary generous contribution; Chris Waller, an inductee into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame and trainer of Queen Elizabeth II’s horses, and someone well-known to the Queen and we would like to think that Her Majesty would be particularly pleased that Chris Waller has been chosen; and Professor Helen Milroy, West Australian of the Year 2021. These everyday Australians will travel alongside myself and the Governor-General, will join the acting High Commissioner Lynette Wood who is currently located in the United Kingdom. It says a lot about the arrangements that have been put in place. As I've said before, these arrangements predate, by a considerable number of years, my election as Prime Minister of Australia. For some time, I’m sure that Her Majesty had a direct input into the decision by the Palace to ask that these ten people be invited to be representative on short notice. We have put together and confirmed that all of these people will be able to travel. They will be on the same plane as me that will leave from Sydney on Thursday.

JOURNALIST: Obviously there is still a discussion to be had ,but would you like to see an Australian on the five dollar note going forward?

PRIME MINISTER: I think with a lot of these decisions and questions – to pre-empt them, I'm speaking about a funeral that will take place of Queen Elizabeth II next Monday and I'm being asked a question about her replacement on the five dollar note. I think this is a time where a bit of respect is required. We will deal with these issues appropriately, in an orderly way, in a way that is respectful. So I have not turned my attention towards that matter.

JOURNALIST: Can you tell us whether any of the Pacific Island leaders have taken up your offer to go to the funeral?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, is the short answer. In terms of the details, I'm not in a position to give details today. Hopefully by tomorrow we will. I'm aware, for example, that in one nation, we have sent a smaller plane that’s available to pick someone up from one of the very small island nations, to bring them, to be able to then travel to London. But we have offered that support. We are engaging with our Pacific neighbours, they are certainly appreciative of it. For security reasons as well, I'm reluctant to go into that detail but we certainly will release the detail. We want to make sure that it's finalised, just as I wanted to make sure that the ten everyday Australians who have been invited was finalised before I make half a media announcement. We will make that either by tomorrow or Thursday morning at the latest, and will provide those details.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any bilaterals planned for when you are over there and who with? And can you clarify: did you made a mistake yesterday when you said it was just the government's commit to introduce ICAC legislation this year?

PRIME MINISTER: I was just meeting with the UK High Commissioner. When I spoke to Prime Minister Truss on Friday we agreed tentatively to have, she invited me to have a bilateral meeting that would take place this Sunday. Obviously, this is a moving feast with our diaries and getting all of the detail right. So at this stage there is a tentative agreement to meet with Prime Minister Truss. My priority has been getting these details in place, organising the logistics that are required to make sure we give appropriate respect next Thursday as well the National Day of Mourning. I will be meeting with state and territory leaders over the next couple of days as well. We will have a National Cabinet phone hook-up, we will deal with that. At the National Press Club, and you will remember that I was the leader who turned up at the National Press Club, this year on the 18 May, so just before the election, I said: “Which is why a Labor government I lead will put forward legislation for a National Anti-Corruption Commission before this year is over.” It’s a pretty explicit statement that I made.

JOURNALIST: You said you would legislate.

PRIME MINISTER: I just gave you the quote that I said three days before the election. We will have legislation introduced in September, this month. We are ready to vote for it in September, this month. We are ready to vote for it. It has been through our Cabinet process, it will go through our caucus appropriately when caucus meets on Tuesday. I look forward to Members and Senators voting for our legislation.

JOURNALIST: President Biden will obviously be there too. You say you are meeting PM Truss. Will you take the opportunity to have a meeting of the three AUKUS leaders?

PRIME MINISTER: In terms of President Biden, of course I would always be available for a meeting with President Biden. But the United States will be in the same position we are, making logistical arrangements. Other arrangements haven't been finalised yet. There is another leader of an important ally that has reached out and asked for a breakfast meeting. We are staying at the same hotel and that will happen. When that is finalised I will confirm it. The primary reason for visiting is, of course, the Memorial Service for Queen Elizabeth II. I can confirm that I will be having a meeting as well with King Charles.

JOURNALIST: There was no representative from the Solomon Islands on the guest list we got this morning to the Lodge. Have you extended an invitation to Prime Minister Sogavare to travel with you to London? Do you expect that to happen?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, we have extended invites for everyone. There will be separate travelling arrangements for the people of the Pacific and we have reached out to all of the nations with a connection to the Commonwealth.

JOURNALIST: You read a little bit of an obituary for Uncle Jack just at the beginning, but can you tell me your personal reaction for hearing the news of his passing?

PRIME MINISTER: I met him and we had a chat. Those of you who have been on Q&A, they get you there early at the ABC. They try and mic you up far too early. You are there for a considerable period beforehand. He was a great character. What a tough life. Someone taken from his mum, part of the Stolen Generations, in enormous trouble with the law. But a background not just of that but abuse as a young boy and someone who came through that to become a person of hope and someone who was a promoter of Reconciliation and bringing the country together. I found him incredibly warm and engaging, very funny, and a great character and a great loss for Australia.

JOURNALIST: On paid pandemic leave: Bill Shorten said on the radio it was costing Australians $6 million a day and $320 million in total since you extended it in July. Is that costing too much money?

PRIME MINISTER: No. We agreed to it. The figure since July 20 is $320 million. And overall since the start of the pandemic more than $2.2 billion has been paid out for paid pandemic leave.

JOURNALIST: Just on your visit to Japan for the State Funeral of Shinzo Abe, do envisage being able to meet with other world leaders, your Japanese counterpart as well? Are there any plans in place?

PRIME MINISTER: Again, it will be a relatively short visit. I will be meeting with Prime Minister Kishida there and there is a possibility, not confirmed yet because the events of this week means that people's schedules have changed. But it was envisaged that I would be meeting with Prime Minister Modi during that visit as well. And Prime Minister Marape from Papua New Guinea will be travelling with myself and the former Prime Ministers, from Australia up to Japan. That is after the Sunday, there is a game between the Prime Minister's XIII and the Kumuls. That will be an official guest of government visit from Prime Minister Marape. It will be the first time he has had an opportunity to visit Australia since his re-election. It will be an opportunity for us to congratulate him on his re-election. The relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea is about many things, but one of the things it's about is Rugby League, and I know Prime Minister Marape is very much looking forward to that visit. So I took the opportunity to offer the Prime Minister a lift up to Tokyo to facilitate his attendance at the memorial for Shinzo Abe.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the paid pandemic leave payments, will there be discussion at National Cabinet tomorrow about scrapping it? It was foreshadowed at the last National Cabinet that States and Territories would receive advice in relation to scrapping the payment.

PRIME MINISTER: We've made a decision to extend the leave. That was the decision that was made. I’ve got to say that the National Cabinet hasn’t been the focus of this week's activities. We will be meeting, though, and we’ll make announcements appropriately.

JOURNALIST: Yesterday you said you would announce the new UK Ambassador in the fullness of time. There’s obviously been a lot of controversy about politicians being appointed to these sort of roles. Are you able to give any clarity? Is it going to be a politician or is this going to be more of a diplomatic posting?


JOURNALIST: Was any consideration given to the diversity of viewpoints on monarchy of the delegation of everyday Australians to go to the funeral to show that it's possible to respect Queen Elizabeth II while still being a Republican?

PRIME MINISTER: No. We didn't do a survey. Seriously, we didn't do a survey. We are paying respect here. What we did was, in very short notice, appoint people who objectively – you can see it wasn't a political decision, it was people who had served their country and had been given significant recognition as either Australians of the Year or volunteers or Senior Australians of the Year. We did come up with in very short notice, an appropriate list. Nor do we know what way they vote in elections either.

JOURNALIST: On paid parental leave and the meeting tomorrow: the leaders from New South Wales and Victoria are arguing for a further extension in paid parental leave. The health advice appears to be that you should isolate, so there will be people who will want a paid parental leave payment if they do have to isolate, they don't have sick leave. There hasn't been any material change in circumstances, has there, since the last decision? So do you – sorry, paid pandemic leave – do you accept the view from New South Wales and Victoria that paid pandemic leave should be extended further?

PRIME MINISTER: I accept my own view. My own view is that while governments place or impose restrictions, then governments therefore have responsibility as a result of those decisions.

JOURNALIST: I'm wondering what your message to the many First Nations Australians who, given the history of colonisation on our island, this won't be a period of mourning for. And you've spoken about the need for respect: what place should their views have in public discussion in the next few weeks?

PRIME MINISTER: There are a range of views amongst Indigenous Australians. Queen Elizabeth is a source of much mourning. One of the things about the culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is that Sorry Business plays a really important role. It's something that Linda Burney, Malarndirri McCarthy, Pat Dodson have all pointed out, and when I met with Indigenous leaders here in Parliament House on Friday, it was certainly something that the Indigenous leaders were very, very conscious of. We should not underestimate the importance of Sorry Business and respect as well. Now, just like other parts of the community, people will have different views. We all have different views about the Constitution, about the form of government. My views on that are clear. They're on the record. My views have not changed. But I am of the very firm view, that I believe aligns with the views of the overwhelming majority of Australians, that this is a time in which people are both giving with grief, but also they are giving respect for the life of service of Queen Elizabeth II. That is something that is, in my view, above what people's views about other issues may or may not be. And similarly, I think it is a time whereby I want this to be an occasion of national unity. I see no reason why that can't be the case, regardless of what people's views are about the system of government.

JOURNALIST: Just back on the National Integrity Commission. Some of the independents, because of the delay caused by this week, think it would be a good idea to release the draft publicly so that people could start getting their heads around it. Is it a case of process that it’s preferable for you to show it to the caucus first before you show it to third parties?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course it'll go to the caucus first. But let's be serious here, Helen Haines and people on the crossbench, Helen Haines in particular, has had multiple of meetings with the Attorney-General about this. I have had meetings with members from across the political spectrum about this as well. There is no delay here. There is no delay here. Legislation that is introduced in September that I'm confident that there will be at least 77 members of the House of Representatives who will vote for that legislation. They are Labor Members, so that's a majority. If there is any delay, it won't be because of the Labor Party. It will be because of non-Labor members of the House of Reps and of the Senate. We've been talking about this for a long period of time. I'm absolutely committed to getting it done and that is what my Government will do. Thank you very much.