Topics: Essential work at Parliament House, AFP arrest of a man for impersonating a Commonwealth official, COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
NEIL BREEN: Every Wednesday, I speak to the Home Affairs Minister and the MP for McPherson on the Gold Coast, Karen Andrews. She’s a Cabinet Minister as well. She joins me on the line. Good morning Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m well thanks. Are you in a Canberra bubble are you?
KAREN ANDREWS: I am in a Canberra bubble. I actually came to Canberra on Saturday and I’m following the same stay at home rules as other Queenslanders. So I basically come from where I’m staying, into Parliament House and then return.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah. So you’re an essential worker, but you were in Brisbane after the period. So you can exist in Canberra, but you can only do what we can do in Brisbane; the exact same rules.
KAREN ANDREWS: That’s right, yes. So those of us that are in Parliament and to be entirely frank we’re here because important legislation needed to be passed in relation to payments for those that are in lockdown and affected by the current Delta crisis here in Australia. So we needed to pass that legislation get that moving so that’s why as many of us as could come, are here to deal with that legislation. But we’re following all the rules; we’re walking around in masks; we’re in the Chamber in masks; they only come off when we’re speaking.
NEIL BREEN: There’s plenty around this week away from COVID. This unbelievable story where the AFP charged a man, and more arrests are expected, over this conspiracy group planning to bring down the Government. And they were pretending to be AFP Commissioner, Reece Kershaw.
Hundred thousand views this thing had online. When I see this stuff, I just write it off as crazies. But it is pretty serious.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it is serious. You’re right to the point that these people are right on the fringes of our society; they have no credibility and we should be able to dismiss them. But some of their actions are not only stupid they’re downright dangerous and that’s the concern. Clearly the video is fake; it’s not the Commissioner of the AFP; it’s not at all associated with the AFP. I’m pleased that there’s been an arrest already, and hopefully there will be more.
NEIL BREEN: It doesn’t help when fellow fringe types like rogue MP Craig Kelly; Pete Evans, the chef or whatever he claims to be; when they’re sharing it on Facebook videos like this.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it’s not helpful. It’s not helpful at all. These sort of videos when they pop up really shouldn’t be distributed by anyone, particularly someone in public office.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah. And a lot of the raids were in Queensland as well. Absolutely bizarre. Okay, vaccination passports. So everyone is sitting in early August 2021, wondering where we’re going? 70 per cent, 80 per cent vaccination. What’s happening in the US? What’s happening in the UK, Europe, and everything? Vaccination passports. Where do you think we’re heading along the vaccination passport route?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, we’re clearly headed in the right direction. There are increasing numbers of people that are getting vaccinated. We’re doing all that we can, along with various States and Territories, to make sure that we are getting the vaccine rolled out as quickly as we possibly can. And it’s a great credit to the Australian people that they have rolled up their sleeves. So I think that we’re moving well. Ultimately we’ve got some guidelines now as to what we are aiming for, and that is initially to get as many people vaccinated; then to go for 70 per cent; then 80 per cent. And then hopefully we’re at the stage where we’re going to be able to open our international borders, and life will be as normal as it possibly can be.
NEIL BREEN: I’ve been saying that. Look I’ll be fully vaccinated by 3o’clock tomorrow afternoon with my second dose, so I’m totally on board.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good on you.
NEIL BREEN: 70 to 80 per cent; that’s the adult population; it’s a big number. And yesterday, the Prime Minister’s Office took me to task a bit when I said that on air, that I thought it was a bullish number. Because vaccination rates in Australia, for all sorts of things, are very, very high. But this new vaccination had this scare campaign against it. Our own Chief Health Officer in Queensland has confused everyone totally. How confident are you that we’ll get to 70 or 80? Because that is a lot of people.
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m more confident now than what I was, even as recently as a couple of weeks ago. I think people are understanding now how significant a risk they are taking by not being vaccinated, and that is making people clearly roll their sleeves up. Look, it hasn’t been helpful in Queensland where there’s been conflicting advice. And my understanding is that in July there was actually no AstraZeneca vaccine ordered for Queensland. I’m thrilled that they actually accepted our offer for 150,000 doses. I mean that’s something.
NEIL BREEN: It was a good back flip. We ordered none last month. Zero.
KAREN ANDREWS: That is actually incomprehensible. So I’m pleased that there’s now been a change of attitude and that they have accepted the Federal Government’s offer for an additional 150,000 AstraZeneca vaccines. And I would encourage people to go out there and get vaccinated. Now, I know some people are saying they’re having some difficulties. Well, there’s many ways you can get the vaccine. I actually hopped onto HotDoc myself this morning, put in my own postcode, and up came a list of GPs and medical practices where I could get a vaccine. And whilst there were varying dates, I could’ve rolled my sleeves up at midday today and got one.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah. Well a colleague of mine here at 4BC Breakfast went onto the website, put it down, and then eventually it came back to him and he got given a date of September 3. So you just got to go through the process and it’ll happen. Hey, just on those vaccine passports. Europol is warning about a rise of fake vaccination certificates, and there’s concerns that they could be scammed or the data being stolen or abused. We’re not going to get into this, are we? We’re going to have dramas with a vaccine passport and scammers they’ll try anything.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look there will always be people out there that try to take advantage of a system. The black market sadly is alive and well. And what we need to all be doing is making sure we’re very vigilant and we’re very aware of our own cyber security so that when our data is being stored, we’ve got the right strategies in place to protect that. Now in terms of fake vaccination certificates, there is a risk that digital ones could be compromised; probably less so than paper vaccination certificates, so I think it’s definitely a significant step in the right direction to go digital.
NEIL BREEN: I think the great thing is the Medicare app. So I’m in the Medicare app, and once you’re all registered and you go through the process it can be a little bit of a process but you’re there and you call up your vaccination history and there it is. Immunisation history. Here I’m calling up mine now. ‘Neil Breen’, and it says ‘AstraZeneca’. Bang, there it is. COVID-19, the date of it. The crazy thing, Karen Andrews, about the vaccination; ‘did you get AstraZeneca or Pfizer?’ I want everyone to start not asking that question in Australia. ‘Did you get vaccinated?’ Because my influenza one that I got on 30 April, can anyone in Australia name what sort of influenza vaccine they got? Nobody.
KAREN ANDREWS: You’re absolutely right. Everyone is obsessing over which vaccine they’re going to get. And you’re right, when people roll up their sleeves for the flu vaccine, they’ve got no idea.
NEIL BREEN: None. I got Afluria Quad. I don’t even know what that is.
KAREN ANDREWS: No, that’s a big word.
NEIL BREEN: I didn’t get the flu though.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well that’s good.
NEIL BREEN: Alright. Karen Andrews, enjoy lockdown in Canberra, and one day we’ll let you back into Queensland.
KAREN ANDREWS: Thanks. Excellent. I’m looking forward to that. Thank you very much.