Radio Interview - ABC Radio with Virginia Trioli

09 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: Joining you first of all, is the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, who just delivered a powerful and moving message to the country upon hearing of the death of the sovereign. Anthony Albanese, good morning, and thank you for your time.


TRIOLI: It must have been a shock to wake up to.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I was woken up very, very early, not long after I'd been asleep, with this very sad news to expect a call from the Governor-General, as protocol provides for and it was, indeed, a shock even though we've known that the Queen has had such a long reign. And that she wasn't well in recent times. She was such a constant. It was as if Her Majesty would continue on indefinitely. And so it came as a shock. And I think Australians this morning will have woken up with that shock as well. Because in our ever changing world, Her Majesty's presence was a constant.

TRIOLI: That constancy, that connectedness is something quite remarkable this morning, and a little bit mysterious. I'm hearing from so many people who say they strangely woke up very early this morning at 3am for no particular reason, and couldn't get back to sleep, which is a very odd, but at the same time, understandable thing. Did you ever meet the Queen, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I did, I had the honour of meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace. In the time when the Global Financial Crisis was on, we had the first ever G20 world leaders' meeting of the largest twenty economies, to deal with the economic crisis and Her Majesty and the Royal Family hosted the world's leaders at Buckingham Palace. And what stuck with me was that you had the formal line of greeting with Her Majesty and Prince Philip, and other members of the Royal Family. But then once the TV cameras were away, you had the twenty Prime Ministers and Presidents from around the world and other leaders. Australia was represented there by Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan as the Treasurer, and myself as the Infrastructure Minister. And Her Majesty just engaged with everyone. She made sure that she had a conversation with everyone in the room, and I think there were three people from each country there. So you're talking about 60 people at a reception. And she was engaging, she was warm, and it just was a delight to meet her, and I had so much respect. When you think about the fact that our Federation has existed for 121 years, and Queen Elizabeth has reigned for 70 years. That's quite extraordinary.

TRIOLI: It really is a remarkable reign. And as she said at the beginning, when the crown most unexpectedly fell on her head, that she would commit all of her life, whether it was short or long, to this, and so she did, every last day. So she visited this country so many times, 16 times and I guess we can kid ourselves that maybe she had a particularly strong connection to Australia. But it does seem that she did, was that your impression too Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, absolutely. And she declared that on so many occasions. And she showed that in a practical way, by the way that she reached out when Australia was not only celebrating good times, but during the difficult times that strike our island continent from time to time, with floods and bushfires and cyclones, natural disasters, Queen Elizabeth would reach out. And the time that she spent here as well, in 1954, just eight months after she became the monarch, as you say unexpectedly, remember she was in Africa when that occurred. Her first visit here, some 7 million Australians, out of a population of 10 million, went to see her, it's quite an extraordinary figure. And in today's world, they probably would have waited to see it on Facebook or engage online, but people went out of their homes and wanted to physically be in her presence. And it was remarkable how many, not just the capital cities, she went to the regional towns, small and large, right around Australia. And over the years she made many visits to every State and Territory. And she was a constant. And that was that sense of devotion to duty, which is quite exemplary and I think one of the many reasons why people had such strong respect for her.

TRIOLI: It was an extraordinary devotion to duty. We couldn't possibly list all the towns and hamlets and cities that she visited in all of those times. Her very first tour, which of course, the one that was delayed by the unexpected death of her father, Prime Minister, 58 towns and cities in 57 days. I mean, it is the most punishing of schedules, when you think about it.

PRIME MINISTER: It's twice as long as an election campaign, and those of us who know -

TRIOLI: They're bad enough!

PRIME MINISTER: They are indeed, but this was a sense of joy for the towns that she visited. And it just shows her commitment and her devotion to duty was just extraordinary, devoted to her family, devoted to her country, devoted to her duty, devoted to the Commonwealth.

TRIOLI: Comments are rolling in about the Queen memories as well. And I'm happy to take your calls. So this number works for wherever you are around the country. Virginia Trioli with you nationwide, on a special broadcast to mark the death of the Queen, 1300 222 774. Please, I'm sure you were in those towns and hamlets where the Queen visited. And I'd love to hear your memories this morning. Prime Minister, I'm getting these messages this morning as well, because the UK and of course us as part of the Commonwealth, we enter official 10 day mourning period. Questions like this, "Why is Parliament being cancelled next week?" And "I think it's excessive that Parliament is cancelled for 15 days". But what's your response to that Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's out of respect for Queen Elizabeth, these protocols have been in place for some time. Today we'll have a condolence book at Parliament House, as well as at Government House, from now is available. And there'll be similar condolence books available at the State Government Houses around the country. At 5pm tonight, there will be what is known as a death salute, 96 rounds from the front of Parliament House to symbolise every year of Queen Elizabeth's life. There will be other commemorations as well, but it is procedure that Parliament is not returned during the period of mourning. I will be travelling to the United Kingdom with the Governor-General and other protocols will be announced over the next 48 hours.

TRIOLI: The normal business of government continues, of course, but not necessarily the sitting in Parliament, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: That's right. Government will continue to function, of course, but we will be having, I've just met with, well just met again, with Prime Minister and Cabinet. We've had, of course, a number of meetings already today to make sure that all of the appropriate protocols are followed. And this is a moment in our history. And when these protocols that have been in place for some time, but of course, for the whole of my life, I've only known one monarch. Which is quite extraordinary.

TRIOLI: Finally, just before I let you go Prime Minister, and Anthony Albanese is with you this morning, at eighteen minutes to nine on this nationwide broadcast of ABC Radio Mornings. The transition of course to King Charles III will be remarkable to watch. Many of us in our lifetimes have never seen a coronation, and we wonder if there'll be a modern version of a coronation. But given that the Queen personally was so beloved, do you imagine, this in a country where we've discussed republicanism often over the years? Do you imagine that affection will be automatically transferred to him?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, I think today is a day to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, also to think about her life and give thanks. And I think that is the focus of today. Certainly not a day for politics.

TRIOLI: Good to talk to you, Prime Minister and thank you so much for taking our call.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Virginia.