Radio Interview - 3AW Breakfast with Neil Mitchell

09 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Queen Elizabeth II

NEIL MITCHELL, HOST: Anthony Albanese. Good morning.


MITCHELL: Now, did they wake you to tell you?

PRIME MINISTER: They did, indeed. And I've been in the office for a very long time with my office and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I spoke with the Governor-General very early this morning and we discussed what was just such very, very sad news. The protocols have been in place for some time but it was still an extraordinary shock. It was as if Her Majesty would be with us forever.

MITCHELL: Yeah, there was that sort of feeling about you. You did meet her, when did you meet her?

PRIME MINISTER: I met her when I travelled to London for the first meeting of the G20, the twenty largest economies in the world, during the Global Financial Crisis. The Queen hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace – there was the formalities of the line to meet the Royal Family in front of the eyes of the world media, President Obama and other world leaders being present. The delegation from Australia was Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister Wayne Swan as Treasurer and myself as the Infrastructure Minister. Once the cameras went, though, there was a reception and Her Majesty was warm and chatted with every person there and was just so engaging. I regard it as a great honour to meet someone who was so devoted to her family and her duty to the Commonwealth and her duty to the United Kingdom – indeed, a great global figure.

MITCHELL: She was famous for a sense of humour. She didn't stir you up a bit or tell you a joke, did she?

PRIME MINISTER: No, she didn't. But she had a laugh. She was quite a character as well, she had that warmth. The great thing about her was that she could relate to people who she met during her visits to Australia. I think the most remarkable figure that I've seen is that when she first visited here in 1954 the Australian population was 10 million and 7 million Australians came out to see her physically – not on their mobile phones, not on Facebook, physically attended events just to get a glimpse of the first reigning monarch to ever visit Australia.

MITCHELL: What do you think she means to modern Australians now? What does she mean to the people of this country today?

PRIME MINISTER: I think the remarkable thing about her reign is that the last 70 years have been the most turbulent in the world's history in terms of change, the pace of change. The Queen represented a rare and reassuring constant figure in all of our lives. She is the only monarch that I have known and that is the case for a majority of Australians. And so I think she represented that constant figure during a period where everything changed but Her Majesty didn't.

MITCHELL: Your own mother must have admired her, your late mother. I remember you saying that she insisted on seeing the tribute to Queen Elizabeth on the way to hospital give birth to you.

PRIME MINISTER: That's right, in 1963 was yet another royal visit. My mother used to tell the story – the family did as well, they were a little bit annoyed with my mother for insisting on going and seeing all the commemorative flags and everything else that was out for the royal visit. The Queen, of course, was a regular visitor to Australia. In the year 2000, when she visited the Sydney Opera House, she said: ‘Since I first stepped ashore here, I have felt part of this rugged, honest, creative land. I have shared in the joys and the sorrows, the challenges and the changes that have shaped this country's history’. And indeed, she has. Our Federation is only 121 years old and the Queen reigned for 70 of that of that 121 years.

MITCHELL: Under your protocols, will be an opportunity for the public to pay respects, for the average member of the public to make some sort of gesture?

PRIME MINISTER: There certainly will be. We will be making those announcements over the next 48 hours. There has been substantial planning and protocols put in place. They were the protocols that played out, unfortunately, this morning where there was a formal notification by the Governor-General to myself in the very early hours of this morning, and then a statement from the Governor-General and then, one hour later, a statement from myself, then televised statements to the nation from the Governor-General and myself earlier this morning.

MITCHELL: I really won't keep you, I do appreciate your time. But by any definition one of the great leaders of world history, that would be fair wouldn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely, certainly that the longest reigning monarch in in British history. The Second Elizabethan Age is what we commemorate and celebrate today. It is worthy to celebrate what is an extraordinary life. To paraphrase the national anthem of the United Kingdom: happy and glorious but steadfast too. Her reign has been the longest of any British monarch but the second longest reign of any sovereign monarch of any state in human history.

MITCHELL: In terms of Australia now, this takes us inevitably closer to being a republic, doesn't it?

PRIME MINISTER: Today's not a day to talk about that. Today's a day for one issue and one issue only, which is to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth the Second. And to give our thanks for her service to our country, to the Commonwealth, to her family and her extraordinary contribution to our nation.

MITCHELL: Well said, Thank you so much for your time. I hope you get some sleep at some stage. Thank you for speaking with us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Neil.