By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said King Charles III continuing to advocate for climate change action in his new apolitical role as monarch would be “perfectly acceptable.”
Albanese was speaking ahead of an Australian delegation’s scheduled departure from Sydney on Thursday for Queen Elizabeth II ’s funeral.
Albanese said the new king would decide whether he continued to advocate for reduced greenhouse gas emissions as he had done for years as a prince.
“It’s important that the monarchy distance from party political issues. But there are issues like climate change where I think if he chooses to continue to make statements in that area, I think that is perfectly acceptable,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“It should be something that’s above politics, the need to act on climate change,” Albanese added.
In his first speech as king last week, Charles suggested he would be more circumspect as monarch and step back from his advocacy on a range of issues.
The lifelong environmentalist said he was confident work on “the issues for which I care so deeply” would “go on in the trusted hands of others.”
Albanese’s new center-left Labor Party government has enshrined in law a target to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 42% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
Under the previous conservative government, Australia had been branded a laggard on climate action over its target to reduce emissions by only 26% to 28% by 2030.
Australia said it was helping officials from Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, Samoa and a fifth unnamed British Commonwealth nation in the Oceania region travel to London for the funeral on Monday.
But those officials are not flying on the same Royal Australian Air Force plane as Albanese, his partner Jodie Haydon, Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda Hurley. They are accompanied by nine so-called “everyday Australians,” including wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott, who have been invited by Buckingham Palace.
There were supposed to be 10 everyday citizens, but racehorse trainer Chris Waller said in a statement Thursday he had decided against going to the funeral because a close contact had caught COVID-19.
Horse trainer Gai Waterhouse and her bookmaker husband Robbie Waterhouse, who are also guests of the Palace, are flying with the prime minister because they alerted Albanese’s office Wednesday that they couldn’t book a commercial flight because of heavy demand.
The Australian government has not released details of how it is assisting leaders of island neighbors to get to London.
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape and Governor-General Bob Dadae, who represents the monarch, arrived in London on Wednesday, the Papua New Guinea government said.
The Solomons will be represented by its Governor-General David Vunagi, who left the country Wednesday, that government said.
Tuvalu will be represented by Prime Minister Kausea Natanopo and Governor-General Tofiga Vaevalu Falani. Samoa’s Head of State Afioga Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II will also attend, government officials said.
Albanese’s government wants an Australian president to replace the British monarch as Australia’s head of state.
But Albanese said holding a referendum on creating an Australian republic was “not feasible” in his government’s first three-year term in office. His priority was a referendum that would acknowledge in the constitution that Indigenous people were living in Australia before British settlers arrived in 1788.
“Regardless of people’s views about other issues — the constitution and our system of government — I think it’s impossible to not respect the extraordinary job and dedication to service that Her Majesty showed,” Albanese said.
Albanese has meetings arranged with the king, British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the weekend before the funeral.
A referendum in 1999 that would have replaced the queen with an Australian head of state failed.
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