Topics: Counter terror strategy and funding announcement to keep Australians safe, Madeleine Albright, protest activity in Sydney, treatment of Kimberley Kitching by the Labor Party.
BEN FORDHAM: Now joining us on the line is Karen Andrews, the Home Affairs Minister. I’m going to talk to her about a number of things. Karen Andrews, good morning to you.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning. How are you?
BEN FORDHAM: Good. I might kick off with the news just out of America, because this is significant news. Someone who’s made a major contribution not only to the US but also the world – the death of Madeleine Albright.
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. Look, it’s a very sad day and I’m very sorry to hear of Madeleine Albright’s passing. She was clearly a leader at her time. She was a role model. She was a person that someone, any individual right across the world would be able to look up to and admire. So her passing is very much a timely reminder of the great work that she did. But it’s a very sad day.
BEN FORDHAM: Yeah, she was only writing in the New York Times last month just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she argued that the Russian leader Vladimir Putin would be making a historic error in invading Ukraine and warned of devastating cost to his country, so she was right about that. So I wanted to talk to you about a number of things, if I can, Minister. First of all, the protestors who have been wreaking havoc across Sydney at the moment, they’ve been targeting Port Botany. Now, we know that some of these elaborate protests are being carried out by two German students. They’re brothers and they have carried out these acts two days in a row. The Acting Premier in New South Wales Paul Toole says, well, they should be deported. He says he’s spoken to border security, Border Force. So as the Home Affairs Minister, what can you do about these two?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the behaviour is pretty appalling, pretty ordinary. So clearly I would encourage them to stop what they’re doing. And if they can’t behave themselves, they should voluntarily leave the country. But what I will do is have a look at the circumstances. I’ll speak to Border Force and get some advice from my department. Character cancellations are an opening to be considered for cancelling of visa, but we’ll have to have a look at that and the circumstances and whether or not it meets the threshold. But no-one would support their conduct. It’s stupid, it’s disruptive and they should stop – or go home.
BEN FORDHAM: You’re announcing today an $86 million investment in Australia’s strategy to combat extremism. So this is about protecting Aussies from convicted terrorists after they’re released back into the community. What can you do to keep people safe?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, so this is a very important part of a longstanding commitment that the Coalition Government has made to protect Australians. We know that the environment in which we’re living and working at the moment is far from threat free and, in fact, our threat level for terrorism remains at probable, which means that people have the capability and intent to do us harm. We also know that there have been 144 people that have been charged with terrorist offences, some of those will be looking to try and come out of prison whilst we will seek to look at options to keep them detained. When these people come out into the community we need to make sure that the community is kept safe.
BEN FORDHAM: I think we’ve got about 18 convicted terrorists who are due to be released back into the community over the next four years. I mean, this is a difficult balancing act, right? Because you’ve got to try and determine whether or not these people have been deradicalised. If they have, well, if they’re Australian citizens, they’ve got a right to stay here. There are some cases when people are not Australian citizens where we attempt to get them out of the country so that they can go somewhere else. But on the other side of the coin, how do you really know when someone’s deradicalised? So, under this plan – what – there’ll be more monitoring? There’ll also be a register?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, we’ll be making sure that we’re monitoring, they’ll be under constant surveillance. We look at what restrictions we can put on them as to where they can go, what they can do, what they can access online. But we’re also setting up the terrorist register, so that’s for convicted terrorists, so that we’ll work with our state and territory counterparts to make sure that we’re establishing this register which, surprisingly, has not been established before. But we will actually set that up, work with our counterparts and make sure that we are properly resourcing our police so that they can keep these people under surveillance should they ever be released from prison.
BEN FORDHAM: We’re talking to Karen Andrews, the Minister for Home Affairs. I’ve invited Anthony Albanese on the program many, many days in a row now to talk about the Kimberley Kitching bullying allegations, but he’s brushed us again today. He doesn’t really seem to want to answer all the tough questions on this issue.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, he definitely doesn’t. And he’s trying to wave it away, pretend it didn’t happen or that it’s not important, because all he’s focused on is how he’s going to become Prime Minister. So I think it’s very insightful about the way he will behave and how a Labor-Greens Government would behave should they ever be elected as the government of this country. So, you know, Australians have been well and truly given an insight into the behaviour. But it’s appalling. And he should not keep hide. But let’s also put this into perspective. Labor has run a strategy for the last three years where they have tried to stay under the radar and not be observed, and they think that they’ll just be able to glide into power based on that. But, you know, they need to step up. I mean, if they want to be the new government, then they have to start answering some questions, not run and hide.
BEN FORDHAM: Yeah, well, look, both parties have had to improve in this area. And I know that this has been a hot topic in Canberra for some time, so that’s why I think he’ll struggle to keep on sidestepping it. We appreciate your time this morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure. Take care.
BEN FORDHAM: Karen Andrews, the Minister for Home Affairs joining us.