Subject: The death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen has had a very strong relationship, as we all know, with Australia’s governments and Prime Ministers over the decades. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton joins us now.
Richard to you first of all; 70 years on the throne, a remarkable moment, your thoughts?
Well, hers has been a life of unparalleled service. She has marked our time; and you really feel that as I’ve been listening to your packages over the last few minutes. There’s a sense in which her life has marked our lives and for most of the population, we’ve only ever known the Elizabethan Age. So, there is a real sense that this is a very significant moment. I think in our work, in yours too, we have a sense of the significance of moments in time and this is one which very large indeed.
I think you’re right, I felt shocked this morning as well. I woke to a text message from the Prime Minister alerting me of the news, but there is just an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life that she’s led, what she’s meant to so many people and the service that she has given. It is hard to think of another human being who has so completely devoted themselves to others, to her country, to the Commonwealth, as the Queen.
And look, we know the Prime Minister is about to head off to London. He has had a very big night. I think when I arrived at work at 2am this morning, he was already up and working, so he was obviously aware of what was going on. Peter, for you, I mean, this is the end of an era and I think we talk about that with different things over the years, but none more poignant than this one?
Well I think that’s exactly right. I share Richard’s sentiments, obviously all of us have grown up knowing no different. The grace that she approached – what was a very heavy duty at a young age, in her mid 20s – and she was able to transform into a world figure and she’s carried herself with incredible poise every day since; through war, through every natural disaster, always her heartfelt condolences to Australia where we had gone through a difficult time. All of us, I’m 51, but I think by year eight, was probably the last year that we would sing ‘God Save The Queen’ each day at assembly at school. She has been such a significant part of our lives and the stability of our country, of our system of democracy – not just here – but around the world.
It was a big thing in Queensland, we all had to try and learn it on the recorder – some of us better than others at ‘God Save The Queen’ until it transitioned – but you’re so right about those memories.
Richard, can I ask you, because we know what is planned over in the UK, over the next 10 days, ahead of her state funeral. Is there something in the works here in Australia, in Canberra, that will be taking place to mark her passing?
Look, this is a moment that has been thought about for some time and there are a whole lot of plans that will now come into place, and I will let others announce them. Obviously Defence actually has a very significant part in all of that.
Notwithstanding that those plans have been in place, this is – I think Karl said it before – it feels a surprise. I think the momentousness of this really – however we might have imagined it – is very different when we’re going through it. Peter used the word “stability”, I think that really captures what she has been about. We do live in a very stable, peaceful democracy, and stability is what she has been emblematic of.
You’re both leaders in your own way and this extraordinary leader, for decades, has been able to navigate the complexities of whoever was in government, wherever around the world and she did it with such grace and not an easy job in any imagination. For you Pete, what are her greatest leadership qualities?
Well Karl, I think you are exactly right. I think if you look back to her response to her nation during the course of the Second World War, the bombings in London, the way in which she was able to respond to that, right up to this very day, during course of COVID, just that message of reassurance and the keep calm and carry on mantra; she lived that, she embodied it, and as leaders you have to deal with events as they arise and many are not predictable, and it’s in that moment, that split second decision, the response and the way in which you have to deal with that.
She’s dealt with everything that’s come her way, and it’s just with such great ease. As I say, it was thrust upon her unexpectedly, and for somebody in their mid-20s to really hit her stride from day one, and the way in which she’s had beautiful love story with Prince Philip as well, and I think since his passing, you have seen a real decline in her health, as you would expect, given her age, but I think that was such a significant relationship that she relied on, that she celebrated, and it’s been a tough year for her since his passing.
Obviously, the grandchildren – her wonderful relationship with her grandchildren – I think spoke to the person that we didn’t see in private, but those kids had a really connection with and gain, I think it spoke about her inner being and her sense of calm and decency.
She was a girl, wasn’t she, who went off to Kenya in 1952, a Princess and returned a Queen. For you Richard, and looking at the extraordinary reign that we have seen from Queen Elizabeth, how will you remember her?
Well I think about the fact that she would have had countless interactions with people over the last 70 years – I mean thousands, maybe more than that, maybe millions – and for every one of those interactions, for that person meeting the Queen, it’s a moment they will never forget. And in the every one of those moments, she’s been able to give of herself. That’s what’s really clear to me when I…I never met the Queen, but for those who I have known who have, there comes through this sense of having met the human, a person who has given a moment of herself which is quite personal, and to do that time after time in a way which is so impactful is, I think, astonishing. The intensity of attention, which has been placed on her over the course of her life, is unparalleled. To be able to give that of herself repeatedly over 70 years, it is a colossal achievement and has changed and made the lives of so many people so much better.
What a life. Well said, Richard and Peter. Thanks for joining us today.