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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 22170

Interview with Nicholas Witchell BBC TV, Canberra

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/03/2006

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 22170

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, how would you say the modern Australia feels towards its Queen, Queen Elizabeth, in this 80th birthday year?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh clearly very different from 50 years ago, but isn't that true of so many things? Life's changed a lot. Most people like and respect her. They see her as somebody who's done a very conscientious job, and that applies to people who are republican in disposition as well as otherwise. So she's liked in Australia and respected for having worked very hard.

JOURNALIST:

So there's a considerable personal loyalty towards her, even amongst people as you say who are republicans essentially?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there's a personal respect. They would deny loyalty, but I would brand it generically as respect. She is seen as somebody who's done her job diligently, she's always thoughtful in remarks about Australia and takes her duties very conscientiously.

JOURNALIST:

Looking back across the 54 years of this reign, what would you say are the qualities that have made her reign a success?

PRIME MINISTER:

Steadfast, consistent, somebody who's got a fine balance of history but also an understanding of the need to change.

JOURNALIST:

And as one of her Prime Ministers, what's she like to deal with?

PRIME MINISTER:

She's an engaging person with a great sense of humour, an extraordinary grasp of statecraft. She, I think, has dealt with 10 British Prime Ministers starting with Churchill and 10 Australian Prime Ministers starting with Menzies. She knows a thing or two about politics.

JOURNALIST:

So have there been occasions when you have found that experience useful as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh well let me put it this way, as I should, it's always engaging to talk to her.

JOURNALIST:

Looking to the future, do you think the monarchy here in Australia will survive beyond her?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't believe Australia will become a republic while The Queen is on the throne, beyond that I don't know. It's a very good institution for delivering a non-political head of state. We have a settled parliamentary system in this country and I would tenaciously oppose any change in the parliamentary system so that means you must have a constitutional head of state who performs purely ceremonial functions and discharges his or her constitutional role. Now it's hard to find a better way of delivering that than the accident of history the British monarchy has given us.

JOURNALIST:

You've chosen your words very carefully, understandably, but the implication would appear to be that you think that Australia might not accept Charles as King of Australia?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I think that's reading too much into what I've said. I'm putting it as I chose to put it and that is I do not believe this country would become a republic while The Queen is on the throne, beyond that I don't know. I'm not saying it would or it wouldn't. What I am saying however is that it's going to be very hard to find a system which delivers such a stable structure as the present one.

JOURNALIST:

Finally, ultimately, do your instincts, even as a monarchist yourself, suggest that ultimately Australia will want one of its own as its head of state?

PRIME MINISTER:

I'm not sure in the end that it's seen in terms of one of its own because the Government of this country is in the hands of Australians, it really is. Effectively, the idea that a titular president would represent Australia overseas is fundamentally erroneous. The people who represent Australia overseas are the elected members of the Government.

JOURNALIST:

Hasn't Australia reached the point though where an Australian should be its Head of State?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the effective Head of State of Australia is the Governor-General who's been an Australian since, what, 1965.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you.

[ends]

Transcript 22170