Television interview – Today Show
ALEX CULLEN, HOST: We have lost a titan of the Labor Party. How will you be remembering Simon Crean?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: This came as an enormous shock. We will remember Simon’s extraordinary achievements across his career in the union movement, as President of the union movement, as President of the ACTU, but as a Minister in four separate governments. It is an extraordinary achievement. And across such a wide range of portfolios he made a difference, assisting our trade as Trade Minister, supporting creativity as Arts Minister, Agriculture Minister, Employment Minister. He was always focused on helping particularly working Australians, but serving the national interest, and as Labor leader, of course, we honour him today. Simon will also be remembered for just the joy that he brought to people. He had respect across the spectrum. He engaged constructively, he was someone who was warm and friendly. He was someone who gave me advice as the Labor leader, and as Prime Minister. I had more contact with him, I think, over the last year than I had in previous years after he left the Parliament, and it came as such an enormous shock that he has been taken from us far too young.
SARAH ABO, HOST: Everyone who was lucky enough to meet him, PM, says he was such a wonderful man. Let’s move on now to Russia. It’s been a dramatic 36 hours for Vladimir Putin, his private mercenary army staging a private rebellion against his government. What are you hearing from the intelligence community? We are hearing that China might have been involved somehow?
PRIME MINISTER: I had three briefings over the weekend, because events were moving so quickly, and this, of course, arises from the catastrophic decision by Mr Putin to invade Ukraine in such an illegal way, such an abrogation of international law. And, of course, it hasn’t gone well for him, because of the struggle and the courage of the people of Ukraine standing up for their national sovereignty, standing up for democracy, standing up for the rule of law. And Vladimir Putin needs to use this as a reason to withdraw from this illegal war. As long as it goes on, there will be more dire consequences, not just for the people of Ukraine, but there are the people of Ukraine, but there have been terrible consequences for Russia as well, which has lost so many thousands of its own citizens in a war which is so unjust.
CULLEN: Back home, PM, and Russia has launched a High Court challenge to keep their embassy site near Parliament. This is getting farcical. Will you fight this until the end?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, Russia will never, ever, build its embassy on that site. We respect the rule of law. Russia hasn’t had a great record of respecting the rule of law lately, whether it be domestically, the way that it behaves towards its own citizens, or whether it is that abrogation of international law. We are very confident of our position. We expected Russia to react badly. We had this rather bizarre demonstration outside Kirribilli House on Saturday by pro-Russian demonstrators. I wasn’t even there. But we anticipated this. We are very confident of our position.
ABO: PM, the latest Newspoll out today shows another fall in support for the Voice. The Yes vote falling to a new low of just 43 per cent. It seems some people still need convincing. Are you worried?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, we will be out there putting the case to recognise Indigenous Australians in our Constitution, the case to give them a Voice, basically in an advisory body, which gives advice on matters that affect Indigenous Australians that won’t impact on the role of the Parliament. It will be advice only. It makes sense. You get better outcomes when you listen to people who are directly affected by policies. We will put that case very strongly, and I’m sure that Australians will focus, as we head towards the referendum in the last quarter of this year. I’m very confident. I put my faith in the Australian people that they will examine the wording which is there, and that they will say, ‘Yes, it is time that we recognise the first Australians in our nation’s Constitution’.
CULLEN: PM, it doesn’t look good, though, another fall in support for the Voice. Is there anything you wish you would have done differently?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, it is hard to win a referendum in Australia. There have only been eight referendums passed out of 48, something like that, and we know that that’s the case. But we will continue to put the case for ‘Yes’, and I’m very confident that as people mobilise, when the campaign is actually on, you will have the business community, union movement, sporting codes, every one of which have supported the constitutional change. You will have faith groups out there arguing for a Yes vote in this referendum, saying ‘If not now, when?’ We need to get this done. It will show greater respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but it will also enable us to feel better about ourselves. And like the Apology, like the 1967 referendum, like the other changes that have been made, it will be a moment of national unity. And after it’s done, people will wonder why it wouldn’t done earlier.
ABO: PM, your own approval ratings have taken a bit of a dip, sitting at the lowest since the election. But do you what would make you the most popular PM of all time: using your power to get Taylor Swift to tour the whole country. Can you do it, PM?
PRIME MINISTER: Tay-Tay? I’m looking forward to seeing Tay-Tay, I have got to say, and I know that my son is overseas at the moment having his first big break with his partner. So, he checks in, and the one thing he rang me about the other day was he had heard about Taylor Swift, and he asked me to see if I could get him a ticket. We will see how that goes. I think Australians will be very excited by Taylor Swift who, I think, is a great role model, particularly for young women. She is a really strong performer. And I think she is a great song writer as well.
ABO: Look at you go. You are a bit of a fan boy there, PM.
PRIME MINISTER: I am totally. I sort of heard all the hits and all that, but I really got into the Folklore and Evermore albums, my go to on the plane with the headsets on. They are relaxing and amazing albums. Midnights is pretty good too. We will see how that goes.
CULLEN: We are seeing pictures of you dancing to Taylor Swift music. You can’t see it but we can. Getting your best dad moves on.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s probably at Annandale Public School. When I go around to do a bit of DJing, nothing gets people on the dance floor, whether it is the littlest Australians, five years old, or our oldest Australians, than ‘Shake It Off’.
ABO: A bit of Shake It Off right now.
PRIME MINISTER: A feminist anthem.
CULLEN: That will do us.
ABO: Prime Minister, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.