Television interview - Sky news UK

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

HOST: Prime Minister Albanese, you have announced a public holiday to mark The Queen's death. Why was that so important to you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINSITER: I think it's important that we commemorate the remarkable life and indeed the service that Queen Elizabeth gave to Australia as our Head of State for 70 years, the longest serving British monarch ever, but also the great deal of affection from Australians towards The Queen. And on Thursday, September 22, protocol requires the National Remembrance Day to be the day after myself and the Governor-General, the now King’s representative in Australia, return from the service in London. So here that will occur in Parliament House at the Great Hall. I’ve declared it a National Day of Mourning. And together with the States and Territories we agreed yesterday to have a national one-off public holiday.

HOST: The Australian relationship with the Queen appears enduring. What do you think it was about her reign that achieved that special connection?

PRIME MINISTER: I think The Queen was with Australians during times of celebration. The opening of this house, Parliament House, in 1988, the opening of the Sydney Opera House, during our great historic events, but was also with Australia at our times of difficulties. This is a land of cyclones, of floods, of natural disasters. And Queen Elizabeth always reached out to give that comfort to Australians at our time of need. And she was such a respected figure. Regardless of where people stand on the political spectrum, that 70 years of public service, that devotion to duty, is something that holds her in such high regard.

HOST: How do you think the dynamic will change under the reign of King Charles?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course, it's the end of the second Elizabethan era and the beginning of a new one. King Charles, of course, is very well known to Australia. He did some of his studies as a student here, he was in Victoria. He's someone that has been a regular visitor to our shores. I think on a range of issues as well that King Charles has expressed opinion on over the years, not party political opinion, but opinion about humanity's direction, the need to take action on climate change, the relationship with the built environment and its relation to our natural environment. King Charles, of course, is very familiar to all of us. And today, we have proclaimed him the King of Australia.

HOST: Part of the success of Queen Elizabeth’s reign here seems to be that people perceived her as being politically neutral. Do you think her son will be able to achieve that too?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure he's very conscious of the need to be above politics. And he certainly has always been that in terms of Australia. But he's someone who has a deep relationship with Australia. I hope that he is able to visit here on an occasion as soon as possible. But he's been a regular visitor here and we're very familiar. This, of course, is substantial change. The only monarch that we have known in my lifetime, and in the lifetime of most Australians, has been Queen Elizabeth. So this is a change. One of the reasons why I think Queen Elizabeth is held in such affection is that if you think about the last 70 years, it's been an era which has seen more change than any era in human history, the nature of technology and the way that it's transformed the way that our society functions. Queen Elizabeth was able to change with that time in terms of her interaction with the public. And King Charles will, I’m sure, do the same.

HOST: It's reignited a debate about a republic. Do you think in this moment that that is appropriate? Or perhaps even opportunistic?

PRIME MINISTER:  Well, I am of the personal view, and I've made it clear, that now is the time for us to pay tribute to the life of Queen Elizabeth II, to give thanks for her service to Australia, to the Commonwealth and to the world. And that is the focus that I have.

HOST: You've talked about the need previously to have an Australian Head of State but you said you won't commit to a referendum in your first term. Is that still the case?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. My priority, and I said this before the election and I've maintained it since my election as Prime Minister, is the recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution. Our Constitution at the moment would have you believe, if you read it, it's our nation's birth certificate, that history began in 1788. And of course, that was an important part of our history. But we are home to and share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on the planet that goes back some 65,000 years. That should be a source of national pride. And we should recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution. That is absolutely my priority.

HOST: When it comes to the monarchy, do you think though Australians want to see the institution evolve?

PRIME MINISTER: Well of course, and it has evolved, and it will continue to evolve. It will need to continue to move with the times. But the bigger questions about our Constitution are not ones for this current period. This is a period in which we are showing the grief that so many Australians are feeling at the moment, showing our deep respect and admiration for the contribution of The Queen to Australia. And today, of course, the transition formally here to recognise that, with The Queen's passing, King Charles automatically became the Head of State of Australia. But today we've formalised that with the ceremony. One of the things about, I think, The Queen's affection that she was held in as well, is that there is that tradition, and we've gone through those processes here in Australia in the last few days. It's a sad time, but it's also a time to celebrate what is a long life well lived.

HOST: You will be attending The Queen's funeral. You'll be meeting with The King. How do you want to see your relationship with him?

PRIME MINISTER: I look forward very much to meeting King Charles. I've met him before in his previous capacity. And I've had the honour of meeting Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. And Prince Charles was there on that occasion at the first meeting of the G20. And I look forward to, on behalf of Australia, expressing face to face, person to person, my condolences and the condolences of our nation for the loss not just of course of Queen Elizabeth as the Head of State but as his beloved mother. And I thought it was a beautiful statement that King Charles made in his first statement as our new Sovereign.

HOST: Do you think this moment, this pause for reflection internationally, might actually consolidate people's belief in the power of the Monarchy?

PRIME MINISTER: We will see what occurs. I think the important thing is I think to commemorate the moment that we're in now. And it is a moment of reflection about an extraordinary life. And one of the videos that I saw this morning, I remember seeing the joke video that The Queen did with Paddington Bear recently. And that says something about her character as well. That's one of the reasons why Australians who, we’re a pretty relaxed lot, can really relate, I think, so well to the life of Queen Elizabeth.

HOST: And she certainly had a powerful connection, and we've witnessed that firsthand, to Australia. Just to confirm then, no referendum in your first term?


HOST: That's great. Thank you so much.