9 September 2022
KARL STEFANOVIC: The Queen has had a very strong relation, as we all know, with Australian Governments, Prime Ministers over the decades. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton join us now. Richard, to you first of all, 70 years on the throne, a remarkable moment. Your thoughts.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: 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 is very large indeed. And it’s – 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’s 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’s given. And 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.
ALLISON LANGDON: We know the Prime Minister is about to head off to London. He’s had a very big night. I think when I arrived at work at 2.00 am this morning, he was already up and working so he was obviously aware of what was going on. Peter, for you, this is the end of an era and I think we talk about that with different things over the years, but none sort of more poignant than this one.
PETER DUTTON: I think that’s exactly right. I mean, I share Richard’s sentiments. Obviously, all of us have grown up knowing no different, and the grace that she approached was a very heavy duty at a young age in her mid-twenties, 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 when we had gone through a difficult time. All of us– I’m 51, but I think by Year 8 was probably the last year that we would sing God Save the Queen each day at assembly at school. So, it’s just been such a significant part of our lives and the stability of our country, of our system of democracy and not just here, but around the world.
STEFANOVIC: It was a big thing in Queensland. We all had to try and learn it on the recorder, some of us better than others, God Save the Queen, until it transitioned, but you’re so right about those memories.
LANGDON: 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 take place to mark her passing?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: 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’ll let others announce them. Obviously, Defence actually has a very significant part in all of that. But notwithstanding that those plans have been in place, this is a– I think Karl said it before– it feels a surprise. And the momentousness of this really– how we might have imagined it is very different when we’re going through it. But as, you know, Peter used the word “stability”, I think that really captures what she has been about. You know, we do live in a very stable, peaceful, democracy, and stability is what she has been emblematic of.
STEFANOVIC: 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 and wherever around the world, and she did it with such grace and, you know, not an easy job in any imagination. For you, Pete, what are her greatest leadership qualities?
DUTTON: Well, Karl, I think you’re 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 the 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. And, as I say, it was thrust upon her unexpectedly and for somebody in their mid-twenties to really hit her stride from day one and the way in which, you know, she’s had a 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 years for her since his passing.
But, obviously, the grandchildren, I mean her wonderful relationship with her grandchildren I think spoke to the person that we didn’t see in private, but those kids had a real connection with and again I think it spoke to her inner being and sense of calm and decency.
LANGDON: 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’ve seen from Queen Elizabeth, how will you remember her?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think about the fact that, you know, she would have had countless interactions with people over the last seventy 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 every one of those moments, she’s been able to give of herself. That’s what’s really clear to me when I– I’ve never met the Queen, but for those that I’ve 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. I mean, the intensity of attention which has been placed on her over the course of her life is unparalleled, and to be able to give that of herself repeatedly over 70 years is a colossal achievement and has changed and made the lives of so many people so much better.
STEFANOVIC: What a life. Well said, Richard and Peter. Thanks for joining us today, appreciate it.