Radio Interview - FiveAA mornings with Leon Byner

15 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
National Cabinet; Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

LEON BYNER, HOST: Let's welcome the Prime Minister of Australia with a very busy schedule, Anthony Albanese. Prime Minister, thanks for coming on this morning.


BYNER: Now, there's going to be a National Cabinet meeting today, but it's going to be a video conference. We don't expect that there will be a press conference. What sort of matters are going to be ticked off today?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we brought it forward to yesterday. What we did on National Cabinet was just to confirm that paid pandemic leave payments would continue proportionate to any of the restrictions that were mandated in terms of isolation. They were due to finish on September 30. We wanted to provide people with certainty going forward so we have agreed as a National Cabinet, and Premier Malinauskas participated in the video link, to continue the payments for as long as we were mandating isolation requirements, which of course have been reduced from seven days to five days. We will meet in person again at the end of this month on September 30 and that will be a chance to look at other issues including the pandemic, how it's going, but other issues about Federation reform. That will be an in-person meeting in Canberra.

HOST: Now, you're going to leave for London, as I understand it, tonight. You're going to arrive in the UK late Friday around 4:00 p.m. Do you have a chance to have a rest or you're going straight to all the engagements you've got?

PRIME MINISTER: Not really. It's going to be a very busy period. On Saturday morning I'll be going to see the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, at her estate, the Prime Ministerial estate down in Kent first thing. We have a reception at Australia House for all of the invitees to the Queen's funeral service on Monday and other prominent Australians as well. Over the weekend I will have an audience with King Charles the Third, a private audience. But also we'll be attending a reception that he will host on Sunday evening. During the weekend, as well, we will go and pay our respects to Queen Elizabeth II where she is lying in state. And there are other meetings that have been scheduled as well over the weekend, including with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada. So it will be a busy period indeed. But as well, of course, leading up to Her Majesty's funeral on Monday, which will be a very historic event, a historic gathering, an opportunity to represent Australia at what will be a service that will pay tribute to the Queen's remarkable service to Australia and the Commonwealth over 70 years.

HOST: Which other Pacific colleagues might be travelling with you on this?

PRIME MINISTER: We have invited all ten countries in the Pacific that have the connections with the Commonwealth. At this stage we will have representatives from Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and we are just confirming that at least one other nation as well will be provided with support to get there. A country like Tuvalu, obviously a very small country, doesn't have flights to the UK. So we're providing some support for people to get there so that the Commonwealth of Nations is represented at their memorial service for Queen Elizabeth. And that's part of the role that we play as leaders in the Pacific.

HOST: Now, I understand that there is a Buckingham Palace get-together where there'll be a reception hosted by King Charles. That is something that I'm sure you will be attending. Will you be having an audience with him privately?

PRIME MINISTER: I will have a private audience with King Charles separate to the reception. The reception will be on Sunday evening and that is for Heads of State and Heads of Government. So I'll be attending that along with the Governor-General David Hurley. The one-on-one audience, though, with King Charles, I very much look forward to. That will occur over the weekend, we're just finalising times. There are a remarkable number of protocols that were put in place well in advance over many years and we have been conforming to them, as I think is entirely appropriate. When the National Day of Mourning will be here in Australia was a part of those protocols, that they be on the day after the Governor-General and I return, which will be next Wednesday, Australian time. We will depart London on Monday evening and the memorial service will be, therefore, held in Canberra in the Great Hall on Thursday the 22nd at 11:00 a.m.

HOST: Can you confirm whether Robbie and Gai Waterhouse will be on the flight with you as paid travelers?

PRIME MINISTER: They will be on the flight. I'm not sure of the arrangements. They will be sorted out. I got asked yesterday, they were invited separately by the Palace to attend the funeral. They were unable to get access to commercial flights. They're pretty full at the moment going to London, particularly at this time. A number of Australians are wanting to just be there for this historic event. So they will be travelling with us and they're very welcome to do so. Of course, Gai Waterhouse trained a number of the Queen's horses. The Queen had a great love of thoroughbreds and so the Waterhouses. Chris Waller, the trainer of Winks, perhaps our greatest ever horse, was also a trainer of the Queen's horses. He will be on the flight and David Hayes has also been separately invited by the palace. He'll be travelling from Hong Kong.

HOST: As you were prepared to leave to honour Queen Elizabeth II, what are some of your reflections that you have of former Her Majesty?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I was able to meet Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace during the first meeting of the G20, the 20 largest economies in the world, during the Global Financial Crisis, that grouping was formed. I had the honour of attending with then Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Swan. And it struck me, the sense of occasion going to the Palace. There was the formal greeting from the Queen and the Royal Family. Then – behind closed doors, with the reception of 60 people, three representatives from each of the 20 largest economies in the world – Her Majesty was very informal. She made sure that she greeted and had a chat with every single person in the room. She was someone of great character and had a real sense of humour that I think we've seen glimpses of with the video with Paddington Bear and other occasions as well.

HOST: Yeah, I love that.

PRIME MINISTER: It was fantastic. But, of course, most of her life she had to be very formal. That's the nature of the Royal Family and being the monarch, not just of the United Kingdom, but of Australia as well, and many of the Commonwealth states. So it's a real insight into her character. I, of course, like other Australians, saw the Queen as a constant and reassuring presence in our lives, regardless of what people think about our constitutional arrangements and those circumstances. I think people can all be united in their respect for a life of service.

HOST: Prime Minister, have a safe trip and be aware, and you probably know this, that you'll be taking the wishes of many millions of people with you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Leon, and have a great day