Topics: Ongoing legal matter; supply chain issues.
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews had a lot to do with this case this week as well. She’s my special guest every Wednesday on the show. She’s on the line now. Good morning to you, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m well, thanks. Are you going to let Novak play like his mum Dijana wants?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, let me say a couple of things. Firstly, Neil, it is great to be back on your show in 2022!
NEIL BREEN: It is good to have you Minister, it’ll be a big year.
KAREN ANDREWS: It certainly will. Now, as your listeners are certainly very likely aware, Mr Djokovic did arrive in Australia, he was holding a valid visa. However, the Australian Border Force formed the view that he had failed to produce sufficient evidence to meet entry requirements to Australia and specifically that he failed to produce evidence that there was a valid medical reason why he couldn’t be vaccinated against COVID-19. So this ended up in court. On Monday, the Commonwealth accepted that there was an issue around timing in the interview process. Now what is important – and I need to get it on the record up front – as we know from those court proceedings on Monday, it does now remain with Immigration Minister Hawke’s discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa. Because of that, there is nothing I can say here today that may prejudice those processes and whatever processes may well be in place in relation to that. So it is an ongoing matter, and that is where it stands at this point in time, it stands with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and within his discretion to consider cancelling.
NEIL BREEN: So we understand that it’s his discretion – as that Minister – has he sought counsel from yourself or the Prime Minister or other members of Cabinet?
KAREN ANDREWS: Alex Hawke?
NEIL BREEN: Yes.
KAREN ANDREWS: No, absolutely not. I haven’t spoken to Alex in relation to this matter. In fact, so far this year I haven’t spoken to Alex on any matter at this point in time, but I can assure you that I will not be speaking to Alex Hawke in relation to this particular matter.
NEIL BREEN: As the Home Affairs Minister, do you feel let down by the actions of Border Force that night that led to the Federal court saying that Novak Djokovic wasn’t given due process upon arrival into Australia?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Commonwealth was in the position where it accepted that there was an issue with the timings in the interview process. Clearly, that’s not the position that we would want to be in, but it will now be a matter for the Australian Border Force to review this matter and to ensure that it can’t occur again.
NEIL BREEN: Because basically, it all happened through the dead of the night. I went through the transcripts yesterday. There were discussions at 3:55am in the morning and they were giving him 20 minutes. The Border Force official who was interviewing Djokovic – who is unfailingly polite by this transcript – was giving him one word answers like, ‘yep’ and ‘yeah’, and it made for bad reading. Now, why is it that Border Force – in the dead of night – doesn’t think it can allow someone time to access their help? Like if I arrived in the United States at four in the morning and they said, ‘we’re not going to let you in, mate, because you can’t prove that you’re from 4BC properly here’ and I say, ‘well, I can’t ring my boss because he’s asleep.’ Like, I’d be filthy. Surely Border Force has been around long enough to know you can’t do that?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look I absolutely understand what you’re asking. I understand that it is the concern of many individuals. There are a range of rules, let me put it that way, around interview processes and timings, and Border Force was doing its best, no doubt, to ensure that it adhered to them. Ultimately, the delegate, which was the person who made the decision, made that decision – that he would cancel the visa – just after 7:30am in the morning, instead of the 8:30am which he had originally told Mr. Djokovic would be the deadline. So there were issues within issues in relation to the timings in the interview process and that’s what the Australian Border Force will be reviewing to make sure those issues can’t occur again.
NEIL BREEN: He also talked about his shift ending. Like that matters little to someone who’s trying to get in the country, when someone’s shift ends.
KAREN ANDREWS: I read that too, and I have my own views on that statement and issues around that. I am sure Border Force will be looking at everything that happened in relation to timings of the interview process.
NEIL BREEN: Does the Federal government feel let down by the process Tennis Australia and the Victorian government put together that granted him an exemption? That exemption they granted him was only to play sport on Victorian government owned facilities – it wasn’t to enter Australia.
KAREN ANDREWS: I was very clearly on the record in the lead up to the court proceedings, and I made it very clear that an exemption to play tennis in Victoria was not an exemption to enter the country. So there’s clearly been correspondence that Tennis Australia received definitely that was sent to them from the Health Department and also from our Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, which actually outlined quite clearly a whole range of issues that were then in dispute subsequently and have played out very publicly over the last week. So all of that is on the public record. Everyone can access those two letters if they choose to do so. But it sets out the views of the Federal Health Department and the views of our Federal Health Minister.
NEIL BREEN: The story has made massive news around the globe, like enormous news around the globe. Has it left us embarrassed on an international stage? I believe so. I think it has.
KAREN ANDREWS: I don’t believe so. I would say that Australia has always had a reputation for maintaining strong borders. So the issue that we had, was to be able to deal with that, and as I indicated right at the beginning, the Australian Border Force formed the view that the right documentation – the right evidence – was not there, and they proceeded to cancel on that basis. Now, can I also say that in terms of visa cancellation, this is not a new occurrence. In fact, since 2014, there have been over 10,000 visas that have been cancelled or refused on various grounds, and that’s happened since 2014. This is just one of the instances where this government has looked to enforce equally what the issues are in relation to accessing entry to Australia.
NEIL BREEN: Minister, I’ve run out of time, but I did want to ask you quickly, the supply chain issues. The Prime Minister has given you a new job to oversee this and get employment back in the country, and there’s all sorts of problems going on. Is it fixable?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, absolutely. We are working very closely with the state government, but importantly, we’re working very closely with industry. So we are doing all that we can to make sure that we are able to, for instance, make sure that supermarket shelves are going to be stocked and restocked as quickly as possible. Many of the listeners today would have seen that there have been some shortages, but I spoke myself personally to the bosses at the supermarkets yesterday, and they’re actually comfortable and happy that now there are new arrangements in place that relate to workers in critical supply chain areas. They will be able to move as quickly as they can to deal with restocking issues. So I think that that’s good. But the important thing is that people don’t race into, for example, supermarkets, and particularly in relation to RAT tests, to actually stock up and hoard them – because they’re actually taking things away from people who need them. So if everyone doesn’t hoard, purchases what they need, then we will be in a much better position.
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, thanks for joining us again in 2022. It’s going to be a fun year.
KAREN ANDREWS: It certainly will be a big year. It’s been good to talk to you again Neil.