Radio Interview - ABC Brisbane

15 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II; Relationship with United Kingdom

REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Prime Minister, good morning.


LEVINGSTON: You've got a full weekend ahead of the funeral service for the queen on Monday. What will you be doing once you arrive in London?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we arrive tomorrow night and then it is a busy schedule that is still being finalised. But Saturday morning, I'll travel to Kent for a meeting with the new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss. I will host a reception at Australia House in London at lunchtime for the King, invited guests and other prominent Australians who are based in London. That will take place with other meetings that will occur over the weekend. I will have an audience with King Charles the Third. And there are some formal receptions as well, including one hosted by the King for world leaders and heads of state that will occur Sunday night. On Sunday morning, I'll be catching up with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada. And then, of course, the funeral will take place on Monday.

LEVINGSTON: That's an extraordinary schedule, Prime Minister. I wonder how you are feeling: the sense of occasion and history, relationships between Great Britain and Australia, a new King for us. Personally, Prime Minister, how are you feeling about the next couple of days?

PRIME MINISTER: I feel a real sense of history here. And a sense of privilege in representing Australia along with the Governor General and the acting High Commissioner. The Queen was the only head of state that has been in place throughout my lifetime. The only sovereign to ever visit Australia and she visited here some 16 times. I think that sense of history and the longevity of service and the dedication to service that Queen Elizabeth had over those seven decades is one of the reasons why there is an outpouring of emotion. And regardless of people's views about other issues, the Constitution and our system of government, I think it's impossible to not respect the extraordinary job and dedication to service that Her Majesty showed over that period.

HOST: Prime Minister, what changes between Australia and the UK with a new King?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think one of the things that is occurring is that Australians are now more conscious of our system of government. There have been people who've expressed surprise to me about how King Charles has ascended to the throne automatically. And it is a chance, I think, for us to reflect on the system that we have over a period of time. But it's also a time of continuity. King Charles, of course, has been preparing for this role for a long period of time. But we also must remember that not only has he lost the Sovereign in Her Majesty, he's lost his mum so soon after losing his father. So it's a time of personal bereavement for King Charles and for the royal family as well. The royal family and these traditions are important in that they are able to commemorate in such an extraordinary way. Some of these schedules have been in place for a long period of time. I was briefed as the incoming Prime Minister, but I was briefed before the election campaign as well about what might occur. And that all kicks in, there's a schedule, protocols that has been worked out for a long period of time, including Her Majesty's request of ten people representing the broad range of the Australian community to be invited to the funeral.

HOST: We've spoken to a couple of them over the last couple of days, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. I'd say you won't be able to avoid Val Dempsey, who we had on yesterday, who should probably bowl up and give you a hug. She's that kind of a person, the Senior Australian of the Year.

PRIME MINISTER: She's a remarkable person. I have met Val as a great St. John's Ambulance person and she's dedicated a life to volunteering. It is terrific that that was a part of Her Majesty's own involvement in what would occur, the protocols that have been established.

HOST: You're listening to the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who flies out tonight for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth the Second. Saturday morning, he'll meet with new British PM Liz Truss. He will have a meeting with King Charles the Third. Of course, the Queen and the King, Prime Minister, are very much in touch with contemporary issues and you touched on the Republican discussion that's bubbled along in the country for years. Respectfully, you say there'll be a time and a place to have that conversation. But what is your sense of what the Queen and now King Charles the Third want for Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: King Charles, of course, has a close relationship with Australia as well. He attended senior high school in Victoria, and he has visited here many times. He has a very broad interest in issues like climate change, our built and urban environment and how that relates to the natural environment.

HOST: Do you hope, Prime Minister ,he’ll be known as King Charles the Third, the climate King?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that of course will be a matter for him. And it's important that the monarchy distance from party political issues. But there are issues like climate change where I think if he chooses to continue to make statements in that area, I think that is perfectly acceptable. It should be something that's above politics, the need to act on climate change.

HOST: What changes between Australia and the UK with now Liz Truss as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the relationship between our two countries is much bigger than the relationship between individuals. I met Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, I had breakfast with him in Madrid during the NATO Summit. And on the very next day, I shared a platform with Liz Truss, who was then the Foreign Minister, talking about the global challenges which are there: the challenge in our own region with strategic competition with China; the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the land war that's occurring in Europe that we thought was something of the past, but which is occurring. Australia and the UK have common values of support for democracy and support for the rule of law. Our system of government is of based upon the Westminster system with a little bit of a hybrid with the US Senate tacked on as well. But we have close relations. The AUKUS alliance is very important to us. We had a brief discussion last Friday about that, and I look forward to that strong relationship that we have. It is an important economic relationship as well. We have a free trade agreement with the UK. And of course, so many Australians have historic links to the United Kingdom, including myself.

HOST: Yeah. And it also sort of demonstrates how globally interconnected the world is now PM. I mean, people listening to you in Brisbane this morning are gearing up for very expensive petrol come the end of the month because of the situation the conflict in in Europe.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s right

HOST: And of course while you're in the UK, the Queensland Premier will be holding a roundtable looking at the housing crisis. Have you got time to think about what the Federal Government can do to assist those people in Brisbane and beyond who are struggling to pay the bills and put a roof over their head at the moment? They're watching the Palaces and the pomp and, respectfully, the admiration for the Queen. How are you juggling all of that?

PRIME MINISTER: We're focused between now and next Thursday, the day after we return will be the National Day of Mourning. That was also in the protocols that it be the day after the Governor-General and I return. We'll have Parliament sit on the Friday to have a motion of condolence recognising the contribution of Queen Elizabeth. Then the following week, Parliament will sit to deal with challenges including the need to have cheaper childcare; we'll have our legislation to fulfil the commitments that we made at the election. We'll also be introducing legislation on the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and on the range of other business. We will, as soon as possible, catch up on the sitting days that would have occurred this week. But I have observed the protocols, and I think it's important that we've been able to do that whilst ensuring that no parliamentary sitting days have been lost.

HOST:  Prime Minister a busy day for you. Thank you very much for your time this morning. And please give the regards of the people of Brisbane to King Charles the third

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much. And of course I was reminded the other day, Queensland isn't named after Queen Elizabeth the Second, but the fact that we have states of Queensland and Victoria, and indeed New South Wales, is a reminder of the heritage which is there in this country. I've said that the priority I have for constitutional change this term is to recognise that that our history goes back some 65,000 years by recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our national birth certificate as well.

HOST:  Very much appreciate your time this morning, Prime Minister. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Rebecca