Radio Interview - ABC Radio National Breakfast with Patricia Karvelas

09 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Queen Elizabeth II

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: As we've been hearing this morning, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second has died. Tributes are coming from around the world as leaders honour the monarch who defined an era in her 70 year reign. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joins me now. Prime Minister, welcome.


KARVELAS: This is a sad day around the world. What are your reflections on the Queen?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is a sad day. But it's also a day to celebrate a life well lived; a historic reign and long life devoted to duty to family to faith and service has come to an end. But she was so loved because of that sense of duty that she exhibited. She was a constant in all of our lives. And in our lifetime, we've only known one monarch and that is quite extraordinary.

KARVELAS: It certainly is, an entire lifetime. As you say you will soon travel to the United Kingdom to meet with King Charles, what will those meetings involve?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we're working through the protocols as we speak. I've had a couple of meetings with Prime Minister and Cabinet in the early hours of this morning. Today there will be condolence books, in government houses around the country as well as here in Parliament House. This afternoon at five o'clock there'll be the formal death salute around the lake in Canberra – some 96 rounds, symbolising the Queen's 96 years in which she lived. There'll be other procedures put in place today. Tomorrow, there will be a wreath laying service at Queen's Terrace here in Parliament House. And then on Sunday is when you'll have the proclamation of King Charles the Third as our Head of State and that will be accompanied with a 21 gun salute and a proclamation on the Parliament House forecourt that will follow a meeting with the Governor-General and the Executive Council meeting to formalise those procedures. We will travel, the Governor-General and myself to London sometime in the middle of the week, on either Tuesday or Wednesday. We're waiting upon the Palace protocols to inform us of those details, they are still being been confirmed. A range of measures have been in place for some time. These are traditions, but the fact that they have not put in place – we haven't seen this occur in our lifetime – means that there aren't people around who can say this is what happens.

KARVELAS: No, that's right. Parliament was meant to be sitting next week Prime Minister but this has been suspended. So is it essentially just a suspension for that next week? Can you just explain that to our listeners.

PRIME MINISTER: There's 10 days period of mourning, that is one of the measures that has been in place. So for 10 days, the Parliament won't meet. That is similar to provisions that will be put in place around Commonwealth Parliaments. That is one of the measures that automatically occurs; I'll write to formalise that to the Presiding Officers today.

KARVELAS: In your Cabinet Matt Thistlethwaite is the Assistant Minister for the Republic, will his role change now Queen Elizabeth has died?

PRIME MINISTER: No, today's not a day for politics. Today's a day to pay tribute to the service of Queen Elizabeth as our head of state over those 70 years and to give thanks to her dedication and to her contribution to Australia.

KARVELAS: Prime Minister, I spoke to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd a little earlier and, of course, he's a Republican too. Now you say we're not going to talk about politics and I accept and understand that – today, absolutely. Just explain to me, though, the profound impact she had across the political spectrum. Even Republicans express absolute support for the Queen as an individual. The way that she did that role, she is actually quite well loved despite people's politics.

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. You can have differences with structures, which is what it is - not any personal issue. I regard the Queen as someone who is worthy of respect from every single Australian. This is someone who had leadership thrust upon them. She was, of course born into the Royal Family, but couldn't have been expected to be sworn in as the monarch at such a young age. She has been such an extraordinary figure. We're living in the fastest changing period of human history ever, where everything in our lives change. If you think about new technology and its impact, the pace of change is faster and faster. And Queen Elizabeth represented stability, someone who served and undertook her duty in such a diligent and respectful way. And I think that is why she was so admired. She's also someone who could engage with world leaders and was an advisor to 15 British Prime Ministers,16 Australian Prime Ministers, but could also engage with people who were members of the general public. During her visits to Australia she achieved great affection. Indeed, in her first visit in 1954, some seven million Australians out of a population of 10 million, went out and sought to get a glimpse of the new Queen who had had ascended to the throne just eight months earlier. That's an extraordinary figure. In today's world, people would be looking for it on Facebook or social media. But people made the effort, they went out and engaged. And there's no doubt that even though you and I weren't around then, we can imagine the coming together of the nation that that must have represented. Seven million people doing the same thing is quite remarkable.

KARVELAS: It certainly is. Prime Minister, you were only elected a couple of months ago, and this is a very big thing to happen on your watch. Of course, many plans are made, there are contingencies – this is something very well rehearsed from Buckingham Palace to all institutions. But it must have been a huge shock for you when you were informed this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: It was. I had a reception that at the Lodge – just dinner, myself and Jose Ramos Horta, His Excellency the President of Timor Leste. We had dinner last night and a very warm conversation between friends. Then I received a text message that I was would receive a call from the Governor-General, which I received in the very early hours of the morning. There are protocols in place, and one of them is that the Governor-General will inform the Prime Minister of the day before there is a public announcement and that took place. We had a very good conversation. The Governor-General was in Adelaide last night and has travelled back to Canberra. And then the protocols kicked in: for the Governor-General to make the first statement, and then that to be followed an hour later by myself as Prime Minister, we did that in the early hours of this morning as well. We then both made statements, the Governor-General being first as protocol requires, I made a statement sometime after 6am. I did a broadcast statement. We've been having meetings putting in place the measures that are required and that I think Australians will want. Australians will want to commemorate what is a very historic event. It's a sad day. But it's also, as I said, a day in which we mourn, but we also celebrate a life well lived.

KARVELAS: Prime Minister, many thanks for joining us this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Patricia.