Topics: Departure from Australia of Mr Novak Djokovic.
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews joins me on the line. Good morning, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m well, thanks. So, I’m a bit confused – yourself and other Ministers weren’t to talk to Alex Hawke before he made his decision; he had to make his independent decision. But since the decision has been made, he has been very quiet and yourself and the Prime Minister are doing all the talking?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, as Minister for Home Affairs, I think the expectation would be that I am out there speaking about matters of importance such as our border security, which is what I am doing. I’m happy to speak in relation to the matters with vaccination, with the visa cancellation of Novak Djokovic, but I’m very keen to be out there speaking about how important border security is. I think what we’ve demonstrated, as a Government, is that we do take border security extremely seriously and that we’re prepared to take the necessary action to keep Australia and Australians safe.
NEIL BREEN: I suppose the big concern would have been that if Djokovic somehow won – and, look, Joe Public doesn’t listen to all the legal arguments. Like case one last week was about procedure and case two was about the Minister’s decision. Joe Public goes, “Hey, that guy that wasn’t vaxed was allowed to go to Australia and blah, blah so my relatives from Croatia or Canada or Alaska or China who aren’t vaccinated, they can just come to Australia and go, ‘I’ll have what Novak had, thanks.’”
KAREN ANDREWS: And we were very clear that we were not going to allow that to happen. Our border entry requirements include that people have to be vaccinated or if they’re not vaccinated, they have to have acceptable proof that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons; and that’s why Mr Djokovic was stopped at the border in the first instance. Now, we’ve heard a whole range of things that have played out in the media over the last week or so. Minister Alex Hawke has taken advice that he has asked for in relation to further actions, which was ultimately the cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa. That went to a Full Bench of the Federal Court, and they effectively upheld the cancellation decision and, as a result of that, Mr Djokovic flew out of Australia last night.
NEIL BREEN: What worries me is – and Novak Djokovic, Minister, is recognisable the world over. He’s the world number one, one of the great tennis players of all time. He got stopped at the border because he’s Novak Djokovic and he put a tweet up and said, “I’m on my way.” Two nondescript players go through. How did they get through?
KAREN ANDREWS: I understand the concerns about that, and I myself have been asking some questions in relation to the multilayered approach that we already have in place with respect to our borders. Now, what we’ve seen in relation to those two people – one was a player, one was a coach – is that even though they had entered the Australian community, once we picked up information that indicated that they were here potentially unlawfully, Border Force contacted them and the result was that those two people left voluntarily. So, again, whilst the process was not entirely as we would have wished – clearly we would like all those people to be stopped before they get into the community – they were picked up by Border Force through their intelligence networks as well, and they took action accordingly.
NEIL BREEN: On Friday afternoon, I went into a hospitality tent. It was an open‑air one – don’t worry – at a sporting event. I wasn’t allowed in until I checked in and I proved my vaccination. How can you get through the border without showing your proof of vaccination?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, people have to fulfil multiple requirements. A first and important step in the proof of vaccination comes when people complete their Australia Travel Declaration, which requires them to upload proof of vaccination or proof of certification that they can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Our policy is actually very clear that you can’t enter this country unless you are vaccinated or you can prove that you can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. The issue that you encountered where you had to prove vaccination absolutely applies at the border, and that’s why the cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa took place before he entered the community. Now, we acknowledge that there was an issue with the timing of the interview, which meant that, ultimately, we had to acknowledge that procedural fairness had not been met and – as you are aware – there was a consent order that the visa be reinstated, but then further action was taken by Minister Hawke. So we have certainly done all we can to make sure that people are either vaccinated, or they can prove that they’re not vaccinated, to get entry to the country.
NEIL BREEN: Yesterday in Queensland, the government here was unable to say what Wellcamp Airport quarantine facility would be used for and refused to tell taxpayers how much we’ve paid for it or how much ongoing. What does the Federal Government think it will use it for and what do you think you’ll use Pinkenba for because the Federal Government has funded one there?
KAREN ANDREWS: We’ve actually been very clear as a Federal Commonwealth Government when we’ve actually put money and made commitments for quarantine facilities that they have to be multipurpose facilities. So in the event we need accommodation, whether that be for another serious health issue that we have to deal with in this country or whether it be for bushfires or floods that we have to accommodate people, our facilities that are being built will be able to accommodate that so they are not just purpose‑built quarantine facilities. They will be able to do that job, but they are being designed and they will be built so that they can be repurposed.
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Talk to you Wednesday. Thanks for your time on the Djokovic issue this morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: You’re welcome. Take care.