Television interview - The Today Show

12 Sep 2022
Prime Minister
Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III, Voice to Parliament

ALLY LANGDON, HOST: We are very pleased to say that the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joins us now from Canberra. PM, good morning.


LANGDON: Look, it's been a big couple of days, I think it's fair to say. Can I ask your thoughts when you saw Her Majesty's coffin leaving Balmoral?

PRIME MINISTER: It was a real historic moment. Australians are expressing their grief and their gratitude at the life of Queen Elizabeth but also at her service to our country as well as to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. When you saw the passing of the coffin and the funeral procession travelling from Balmoral, it was a real indication of how significant this moment was – the fact that every metre that it travels before she is laid to rest will be monitored by the world. Her Majesty was held in such high regard here in Australia, in big cities and small towns, right across our vast continent. Where she visited, where people felt that they were engaged with her.

CHARLES CROUCHER, HOST: At the same time as we were seeing those pictures, the new King was being acclaimed in Edinburgh, in other parts of the United Kingdom. You and the Governor-General are coming over this week to meet with the King. What is the plan for your trip?

PRIME MINISTER: We will depart Australia on Thursday evening, arrive in London Friday. There is an event over the weekend, a reception, for heads of state and for leaders of countries with King Charles III. There is a steady schedule of events up until the funeral that will be held on Monday London-time. It will be a proud moment to represent Australia at these events. This, of course, is once in a lifetime. We have known no other Monarch other than Queen Elizabeth, the vast majority of Australians. But also, yesterday, the proclamation of King Charles III as Australia's King was something that we signed off at the Executive Council meeting in Government House and then had what was a very well attended ceremony here at the forecourt of our Parliament House. But then of course there were events right around the country that were well attended right throughout Australia. Australians are marking this time with great respect and given the significance of the events, that is entirely appropriate.

LANGDON: Prime Minister, there's been so much talk over here – the BBC, I think it was third on ITV's news tonight – about Australia potentially becoming a Republic at some point. The referendum is a big deal here.

PRIME MINISTER: I've made it clear what my priority is for a referendum during this term of Parliament, which is the constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our national birth certificate. It is something that should occur. Our history goes back some 65,000 years. It didn't begin in 1788, of course it didn't end in 1788 either. We are a great multicultural nation and of course, we have that historic and important link to the United Kingdom. But it is in my view, the priority in terms of constitutional change is recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our Constitution. I've made that very clear prior to the election.

CROUCHER: Given that Prime Minister, is it still right then to have someone who is being paid to be an Assistant Minister for the Republic if there is not going to be a Republic referendum this term?

PRIME MINISTER: Assistant Minister Thistlethwaite has a number of duties, including in Defence and he also has that task. The Labor Party's position is clear on that, but we don't have a timetable and I made it very clear when that appointment was made he was of course an Assistant Minister, that goes back a considerable period of time, during the period between 2016 and 2019. We've had that position…

CROUCHER: With respect, this all before you said there wasn't going to be that referendum this time around.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, that’s right.

CROUCHER: So there's no change?

PRIME MINISTER: No change, I made that clear well before the election, so before that appointment was made. I've made it very clear. I can't have been clearer about what our priority is: the priority for government that I lead is for constitutional change during this term. We know that constitutional change is very difficult to occur in this country. The idea that you could have two debates at once – our position is clear. The Labor Party's position on constitutional arrangements hasn't changed. Now though, is the time for commemorating and recognising the life and service of Queen Elizabeth and also for welcoming our new head of state in King Charles III.

LANGDON: Mark McGowan reckons we might see the new King in WA next year. Is there something you want to share with us or is there something that he knows that the rest of us don't?

PRIME MINISTER: We will wait and see those discussions. But, of course, members of the Royal Family have always been welcomed here in Australia. But of course those announcements are made by the Palace.

LANGDON: Well there's a twinkle in his eyes. Just to clarify again the public holiday this year it will not be a one-off, it will be every year that we take this day, correct?

PRIME MINISTER: No, it's a one-off public holiday on Thursday, September 22. Good try, but it is a one-off.

CROUCHER: We appreciate your time this morning,

LANGDON: There's a long journey ahead. We will see you when you arrive here in London.