Radio Interview - 6PR Perth Live with Oliver Peterson

16 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral; Prime Minister’s visit to the UK with Australian delegation; King Charles; National Day of Mourning; Meetings with Canadian and UK Prime Ministers; Unemployment figures and cash rate; Foreign investment

OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, good afternoon.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon Olly, good to be with you.

PETERSON: You're about to take off and head to the UK, has it registered and sunk in with you yet the significance of this event, the Queen's funeral, and in all the textbooks going forward, you will be there as the Australian Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is an extraordinary occasion in commemorating a life well-lived, but a sad occasion. But also a celebration of Queen Elizabeth's contribution to Australia and to the Commonwealth. The longest ever serving British monarch, the second-longest serving monarch anywhere in the world in in human history. It's quite an extraordinary achievement.

PETERSON: How important is the presence of the ten everyday Australians with you next week at the funeral?

PRIME MINISTER: What's interesting is just the level of detail that clearly the Queen was engaged herself in thinking about what would occur when she passed on and that the Palace has been directly involved. These arrangements have been in place for many years, and the choice of ten everyday Australians who are indeed people who've made a contribution across our vast continent. There's someone from every state and territory, there's a very wide range of people, from volunteers in St John's Ambulance, through to the first ever Indigenous doctor of course from WA, to a horse trainer who was known to the Queen herself and trained some of Her Majesty's horses. And of course, Dylan Alcott, the Australian of the Year. It's a very wide cross section and I think it is a good thing that such a thoughtful process was gone through. And I regard it as a great privilege of my life to be attending the funeral of Her Majesty as Australian Prime Minister, along with the Australian Governor-General and the acting High Commissioner.

PETERSON: We know that you've offered transport to our Commonwealth Pacific country neighbours, I think we're up to four or possibly five, who is travelling with you this evening?

PRIME MINISTER: The leaders or representatives from Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Tuvalu, and there's potential of a couple of others who have accepted. There is also Gai and Robbie Waterhouse were invited separately by the Palace, and they were unable to get a commercial flight across, so they'll be travelling with us this evening as well.

PETERSON: You mentioned some of those representatives or Governor-Generals with you. Are you surprised that the leaders are not accompanying you, or will they be making their own way to London to be at the funeral next week?

PRIME MINISTER: Many are making their own way to London, this will be a gathering of world leaders. And certainly I think it will be the largest gathering that perhaps we've seen ever, quite an extraordinary occasion. The Queen was widely respected, not just in the Commonwealth, but across the world for her contribution to public life, for the dignity in which she conducted her activities, for her diligence, and that brought incredible respect from people, both in the Commonwealth but right across the world. And there will be so many of the world's leaders there to attend the funeral on Monday.

PETERSON: It is a busy schedule that you have while there in London, and I know that you have a private audience with King Charles, do you know what happens in that setting? What do you talk about, apart from condolences?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think it will be important to convey Australian condolences, from the people of Australia. That one of the things about Her Majesty is that it is of course, the passing of the sovereign, but for King Charles it's also the passing of his mum. And we shouldn't forget that, that at the end of the day, these people are humans as well as being members of the Royal Family. And that comes very soon after the passing of his father, so it will be a difficult period for King Charles. I'll convey that to him, but also our respect for his rising to the throne. And as Australia's Head of State, and I believe I have a responsibility to respect that and to convey the best wishes of the Australian people to King Charles. No doubt we'll also talk about the relationship with Australia. He has a strong relationship, he finished his high schooling in Victoria, and has had many visits here to Australia.

PETERSON: You're also going to have the opportunity to meet the new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have you packed a couple of additional South Sydney Rabbitohs jerseys to present to them?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I haven't finished packing yet though, there is always the possibility. I had a discussion with the new Prime Minister Liz Truss last Friday. I was fortunate to be on the same panel as her at the NATO Summit, talking about the challenges facing security in our uncertain world. And I look forward to a strengthening of the relationship between Australia and the UK. We're important allies, of course through AUKUS, but we have such a strong relationship, not the least of which is through our people to people relations. There are so many Australians, including myself, who can trace some heritage back to the United Kingdom. We have an important economic relationship as well. But we both are very strong democracies and ours, of course, was founded as the Westminster System with a little bit of the US system added on. So we have very similar traditions. And it will be important to strengthen the relationship in the future. I look forward to that meeting, and I also look forward, I'm having breakfast at this stage on Sunday with Prime Minister Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, who of course is also a very good friend of Australia, and we have such similar economies, similar challenges, but also similar opportunities going forward.

PETERSON: What would you like to see Australians doing on the National Day of Mourning next Thursday?

PRIME MINISTER: I think taking a moment to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's contribution to our nation. There of course will be the national commemoration in the Great Hall in Parliament House in Canberra, but I know already of some local government, local commemorations that are taking place around the country. It is an opportunity to give thanks for what is 70 years of extraordinary service.

PETERSON: Just on two other matters, unemployment numbers out today, it seems just a little higher to 3.5% nationally. Will that be enough do you hope for the Reserve Bank to press the pause button in October when it considers the cash rate? Don't Aussies deserve a break instead of six consecutive hikes?

PRIME MINISTER: Well they of course are independent of the Government. But there are mixed messages, of course, coming through from the United States as well, with potential speculation about a further increase. But what we know is that Australians are doing it tough at the moment. And we have had a slight increase by just 0.1% of the unemployment rate. There are more people looking for work, and many Australians are being able to work more hours, get more of the hours that they want and that they need. But wages are still really not keeping up with inflation. And we know the pressure which is there on living standards. We're going through a tough period, and inflation has been added to by these international events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine which is having an impact.

PETERSON: And how is it Prime Minister, that British billionaire Joe Lewis can buy up the majority shareholding of Australia's oldest and largest national beef producer, Australian Agricultural Company, it's basically the size of Tasmania. Was the Foreign Investment Review Board and the Treasurer consulted, or are we selling the farm?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Australia will, of course, examine any potential sales. They have to go through the Foreign Investment Review Board and we examine the national interest. Foreign investment is important in Australia, it has played a role but we also need to make sure that the Australian national interest is protected and we'll be doing that.

PETERSON: Is this one on the radar?

PRIME MINISTER: Certainly, a purchase such as this is substantial and that requires examination under the regulations that are in place.

PETERSON: Prime Minister, we will leave it there. Safe travels to the United Kingdom for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral. We certainly appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Olly. It's always good to talk with you and through you to your listeners.