Interview with Deborah Knight, 2GB

Deborah Knight
Death of Queen Elizabeth II

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Parliament has been suspended and will not sit again until the next scheduled sitting, and we heard this morning that our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, along with the Governor-General, David Hurley, will travel to London in the coming days to attend the Queen’s funeral. There will be a series of events to mark her passing and her incredible life. Ed Husic is the Minister for Industry and Science, Angus Taylor is the Shadow Treasurer, and they join us now. It is a sad morning and a shock, even though we knew it was coming, it’s hard to comprehend because, Ed, we felt – I did in many ways – that she would always be there. 

ED HUSIC: Because she’s been such an enduring presence in so many of our lives, hasn’t she? The Queen has been there through so much that we have celebrated and so much that we’ve gone through and few of us knew anyone other than her, given seven decades of dedicated and devoted service, and I think it’s a very hard day obviously for a lot of people. And, Deb, I have to – I was reading a lot about in particular the Queen’s connection to our country, and I noted when she first visited in 1954, seven million Australians turned out just to catch sight of her, and if you took that as a proportion of the population at that time, that was 70 per cent of Australians at that point –

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, that struck me too when I heard that. That’s phenomenal. It puts it into perspective, absolutely. And it’s a sad day but also a day to celebrate her incredible reign and I know that Angus you and your family have a personal connection to Queen Elizabeth II. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, that’s right. Can I say, it is a sad day. She was a true servant leader, and we are students of her leadership, Ed and I and others in public life, and the thing that she offered more than anything, I think, was that it was never about her. But the personal story is related. My grandfather, as you know, Deb, led the construction of the Snowy scheme through the ‘50s and ‘60s, and in 1953 she came to Australia and she visited the Snowy scheme and toured it for three days, which is quite remarkable when you think about it. But the enduring memory of what my grandfather and grandmother, who were on that tour with her, said was just how she engaged with the workers. That was the overriding thing they commented on. She was engaging, she cared, she showed that she was interested. And this was a remarkable group of people who had come out from post-war Europe from both sides of the war from Russia and Germany as well as France and UK and Italy and so on. And she was just wonderful and warm in the way she engaged with the workers, and I think that says a lot about her and the fact that it wasn’t about her. It was about the role she played. She really understood it. She stayed out of politics, which was very wise, and she led in a way which meant we had stability we just otherwise wouldn’t have had.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Absolutely, and I think it’s so true that – how many openings did she attend and how many ribbons did she cut and how many people did she have to engage in small talk with, but she was always engaged? And, Ed, so many buildings bear the name of “opened by Queen Elizabeth” including in your own electorate. 

ED HUSIC: They do. We’re about to remember 40 years ago the Queen being out in Mount Druitt opening up the hospital, which is a really important part of our community, and she did that with then Premier Neville Wran. And people still to this day who were there remember and talk about it, and the plaque bears her name. And just picking up on what Angus said and what you just reflected on, Deb, the way that she did make sure that for that moment in time that someone was meeting with her, you could tell that she was making sure that she paid attention and took note of, you know, what was being said to her by people who hadn’t really had a chance to necessarily brush with someone that prominent in their own lives, and she had basically that beautiful touch about her. And again, I think it’s just a remarkable reflection on her, really, not just in terms of her service as a Queen but just as a tremendous human being.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Absolutely. And I did want to get your thoughts too on one of your parliamentary colleagues, Adam Bandt, the Greens leader, who tweeted this morning that, “Our thoughts are with her family and all who loved her. Now Australia must move forward. We need a treaty with First Nations people, and we need to become a Republic.” I mean, Angus there’s a time and place and this is certainly not the time. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is not the time, Deb. This is not the time. Let’s celebrate a life incredibly well-lived and serving us, all of us, in the way that she did in protecting an institution and stability. I mean, a sense of stability in a tumultuous world. And I think that’s – it should be revered. It should be celebrated. It should be remembered. And it should be shown – we should all be showing great respect for that.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: I’m quite gobsmacked, Ed, that he didn’t read the room. 

ED HUSIC: Yeah, I think you just recognise this as a moment that’s impacting on a number of people, not the least of which being the family themselves, but people across the Commonwealth that the Queen did dedicate herself to in particular and, you know, I think that should be at the forefront of people’s minds, and just having the grace to be able to recognise the moment does go a long way 

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, the Parliament has been suspended and, of course, there is a period of mourning in the UK and there will be observations here in Australia as well. It’s a very difficult time for our friends in the United Kingdom because they’ve had so much change in the space of a few days – a new Prime Minister and now the passing of the Queen. And have you had any communication, either of you, Ed or Angus, with friends or colleagues in the UK because they will be waking up in a few hours’ time for their first full day without the Queen? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Not yet, Deb, but can I say I think it’s a remarkable fact the last act of hers in public life was appointing Liz Truss, the fifteenth British Prime Minister she had appointed. That was the last thing she did. This is service to the absolute end, and it sounds like it took every bit of her stamina to be able to do that but she did it. And I think in the UK right now there will be a serious sense of mourning, but, obviously, in celebration of an incredible person.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: That is so true isn’t it, Ed? It’s those mixed feelings of sadness and celebration? 

ED HUSIC: Yes, that is right, and the fact that there’s a very regimented or worked-up process from here on in about how things will occur in respect of the memorial service both over there in London and then on return of the Prime Minister and the Governor General here too, and the National Memorial Service that – while it’s yet to take place, you can imagine that after day 10 is likely to happen. And as you have already observed, the fact that Parliament has been – will not proceed next week. We were expecting to have a sitting. And so, all those things need to be rearranged, sorted and rescheduled. Look, that has also been something that is, you know, sitting there, waiting for the Governor General to basically activate here in Australia in line with the expectations of the Palace.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Mmm. Well, it is a difficult day, but I’m pleased you’ve both joined us. Fellas, thanks again. 

ED HUSIC: Thank you. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Deb and Ed.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Angus Taylor and Ed Husic. And Angus has shared with us some of the photographs of his family and the connection with the Queen and the tour that she made of the Snowy Hydro scheme, and we will put them on our website. And yeah, it’s that moment that she’s engaged and smiling and talking, and you just put it into perspective of those 70 years on the throne, how many openings she attended, how many ribbons she cut and how many people she did engage in small talk with, but it was engagement and that’s what she did. And you can see it in the photographs that Angus has very kindly shared with us which we’ll put up on our 2GB website for you.