Radio Interview - Ben Fordham Live, 2GB

13 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
National Day of Mourning to honour Queen Elizabeth II; Public holiday; King Charles III

BEN FORDHAM, HOST: The Prime Minister is live on the line this morning. PM, good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. Good to be with you again.

FORDHAM: I think everyone acknowledges your heart is in the right place in announcing the public holiday, but would you acknowledge that there are a lot of unintended consequences of this?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course with every public holiday, but I noticed that your words were 'might be', 'could be'. They weren't definite. The truth is that operations occur every day of the year, for example, this isn't a declaration that no one's allowed to do anything on Thursday, the 22nd of September. What it is, is a declaration agreed to by myself and every Premier and Chief Minister, that Thursday the 22nd of September should be a National Day of Mourning. It's when we will have the National Remembrance Service in the Great Hall of Parliament House. And it is appropriate that this is a one-off, a one in 70-year event, it is important that we acknowledge the contribution of Queen Elizabeth II over such a long period of time.

FORDHAM: Just on the public holiday, you say that they're hypotheticals, but that's not what the medicos are saying. You've got the Australian Medical Association saying that staffing issues will impact public hospitals and that will impact surgery bookings. You've got a Melbourne doctor, Eric Levi, who says, imagine if your chemotherapy was meant to be delivered that day, and now there's not enough doctors and nurses in the clinic. Now these are not people who are prone to exaggeration. They're saying the reality is they won't be able to do these jobs.

PRIME MINISTER: Ben the day after, in Melbourne, for the Melbourne doctor, the day after is a public holiday because it's the day before the AFL Grand Final.

FORDHAM: So what does that mean?

PRIME MINISTER: Well think about it, the AFL Grand Final happens every year. They have a day off every year, the day before on the Friday before, this is a one in 70-year event. And I'm sure that these issues, with a bit of common sense, can be worked through. If someone needs chemotherapy on that day, of course they should receive it.

FORDHAM: Don't get me wrong, Prime Minister, I think most Australians love having a day off. And if you told them they had a public holiday every week they'd embrace it. But I have been surprised by the level of correspondence I've received from people saying, 'this is going to muck us around'. So what about those business owners? And they haven't had time to plan for this, all of a sudden they find out there's a public holiday next week. We've got to pay our staff extra on those days. So some of them are thinking well, we can't really afford that after the two years we've had, we'll have to shut for the day.

PRIME MINISTER: Ben, on the day, if you're a small business owner in hospitality, there will be an enormous amount of activity on that day, I should imagine. Just as there is on days like Boxing Day or indeed on Australia Day, which are both public holidays as well. What we see is Australians out and about, and Australians will be out and about that day, they'll be talking about the contribution, the life of service that Queen Elizabeth has given to Australia, to the Commonwealth and indeed, to the world. This morning I'm receiving 26 High Commissioners here at The Lodge. They're coming to pay their respects and to commemorate the contribution of Queen Elizabeth to the Commonwealth. This is a major global event. It's important that you consider the counterfactual, which is the opportunity that this will give people who want to celebrate and commemorate the life and service of Queen Elizabeth II.

FORDHAM: Just out of interest, why not have the public holiday on the Monday or the Tuesday? I mean, we're going to be watching the funeral service on the Monday night. Why are we waiting until next Thursday for the public holiday?

PRIME MINISTER: Because the protocols that have been in place for decades, indicated that the National Remembrance Day should be the day after the Governor-General and myself return from London. These aren't things that were put in place under my Prime Ministership. This has been worked out over many, many years. And Ben, one of the things that I've done, as Prime Minister, is respect our institutions, respect our traditions, and respect the processes, including these processes that have been in place for a very long period of time. They began tragically on Friday morning, and I have followed the protocols to the letter that have been established, and consulted, of course, with the palace over a long period of time, just as measures were put in place in the United Kingdom.

FORDHAM: I'd also acknowledge that if you didn't do something like this, you'd probably cop criticism. But that doesn't take away from-

PRIME MINISTER: There is no doubt that that would happen, Ben.

FORDHAM: Sure, it doesn't take away from the fact that you know, and I'm getting the notes now from people saying, okay, if I've got to work in the cafe, or if I'm expected to work in the hospital on the day, it means my kids are home from school or preschool and I've got to pay for someone else to look after them. But as you say, it's a once in a lifetime event. Will you be offering an official invitation to King Charles to come to Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Certainly, King Charles will have a standing invitation to come to Australia as our Head of State. He of course is very familiar with Australians and he'd be very welcome here.

FORDHAM: We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you for jumping on the line. I know you've got a busy morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Ben.

FORDHAM: Good on you. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joining us from The Lodge.