Television Interview - ITV

16 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Passing of Her Majesty The Queen; visit to UK

DAN RIVERS, HOST: Prime Minister, thanks very much for joining us. You're about to fly to London. Just give us your thoughts ahead of this occasion.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is an extraordinary moment in history. Queen Elizabeth the Second is the only Monarch who Australian such as myself, the majority have known the only Monarch to visit Australia. And she visited here some 16 times. She was warmly embraced by Australians, and they have a great deal of affection for her. And I think that arises from the affection that Her Majesty had for Australia as well. On her first visit here, she visited some 58 cities and towns, large and small right, across our vast continent. And over a period of what is a lifetime of service, this has been an opportunity for Australians to express their gratitude. I have a sense of history, the sense of great privilege that I have in along with the Governor-General, and our acting High Commissioner to London, representing Australians at the Queen's Service on Monday.

RIVERS: I suppose, Prime Minister, you are having to walk a bit of a tightrope between your own personal views on a Republic for Australia and the wider occasion that's happening this week.

PRIME MINISTER: My job as Prime Minister of Australia is to represent Australia at this historic time. And I believe you can have different views as Australians do. A range of views over our constitutional system, but be united in respect for the life and service that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth showed to Australia, to the Commonwealth and, indeed, to the world.

RIVERS: Do you think, though, with all respect to the dignity of the Queen and the occasion at the moment, that it's inevitable that Australia will become a republic?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's a discussion for another time and as, indeed, Her Majesty said during her reign at the time of the referendum that Australia had at the end of the last century that the Royal Family would respect the decisions which Australians made at that time. So, I think that's a debate for another time. And that's a debate for Australians to have. What's important right now is that we take the opportunity to express our gratitude for the service of Her Majesty the Queen, that we have welcomed King Charles the Third as our new Head of State and our system of government, and that it's important that that be respected and acknowledged, at the same time as people will have different views about a way forward in the future. But that is a matter for future debate, not for the moment.

RIVERS: A future debate that would come in your second term?

PRIME MINISTER: We are just paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth at the present time. That's the absolute priority that Australians would expect. And in terms of constitutional changes, that is very difficult to achieve in Australia. We know that that's the case, I've said that my priority for constitutional change is recognising in our nation's birth certificate, which is what the Constitution is, the fact that our history didn't begin in 1788, with the arrival of the First Fleet, here at Sydney Harbour. What is important is that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution, we should be proud that we share this continent with the oldest continuous culture that's present anywhere on Earth.

RIVERS: Many of those Indigenous Australians, they would feel if you want to honour them, and be more inclusive, you need to start at the top with the system. And that system needs reform, and it needs a better representative at the top of the country.

PRIME MINISTER: In fact, one of the defining characteristics of Indigenous culture in this country is Sorry Business is respect for elders, is respect for elders particularly, who have passed. And that's why so many Indigenous leaders have expressed their sincere condolences at the passing of Queen Elizabeth the Second.

RIVERS: You will have an audience with King Charles the Third. He will inevitably probably ask you similar sorts of questions. What will you say to him about his future as Head of State here? Do you feel that you will have to say that, you know, it's off the cards for a number of years?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the two views that I will express to the King on behalf of Australian's is firstly condolences on the passing of Her Majesty. To remember, of course, that this is not just the passing of the Sovereign for King Charles, it's the passing of his mum, so soon after the passing of his father. So, the personal bereavement that he's feeling is something that really has to be acknowledged, I think, quite often, we take the humanity out of people who are in prominent positions, and I want to express my personal condolences for him.

RIVERS: I just wanted to ask a question about Scott Morrison's swearing in for a number of ministries and the fact that the Governor-General at the time didn't sort of block this or make this public. Does that sort of inform the debate about the system that you've got that shows that there is a flaw there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Governor-General, of course, takes advice from the elected Government of the day. And that is what His Excellency the Governor-General did on this occasion. I've been very critical of the actions of the former Prime Minister, and not just swearing himself into multiple portfolios, including Treasury, Finance, Resources, Energy, Health, for reasons that are, frankly, beyond my comprehension. The fact that he did not make that public and indeed didn't inform the heads of department in some cases, and indeed, his ministerial colleagues, that that had occurred, let alone the Australian public. I find this quite extraordinary. But I believe that is the responsibility of former Prime Minister Morrison and he needs to explain the circumstances in which that occurred. And we need to if there are any legislative changes required to ensure that can never happen again, then we will implement them after the review that is taking place, Presided over by a former High Court Justice, who will report to me before the end of the year in time for any legislative changes to occur in the last sitting work of Parliament.

RIVERS: Was it not incumbent on the Governor-General to speak up at that point?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Governor-General should take advice from the elected Government of the day. The Governor-General did that on this occasion. It's also the case that the Governor-General may have made inquiries of the Prime Minister of the day, those discussions, private discussions and we don't know, at this point in time, what those discussions entailed.

RIVERS: Looking forward, there's talk of King Charles and Camilla possibly coming to Australia next year. Can you confirm that or the year after and Prince William and Kate as well?

PRIME MINISTER: We haven't had those discussions. There have been some preliminary discussions about the now Prince and Princess of Wales visiting Australia. And of course the Royal Family have always been welcome visitors here in Australia and they would be again.

RIVERS: Last time they were here, Prince George was described as a Republican Slayer. Are you hoping they'll leave him behind?

PRIME MINISTER: I think I would hope that if they visit they bring their children with them.

RIVERS: Thank you very much indeed for talking to us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much.