Topics: Parliament this week; Safety of MPs; failures of Queensland state Labor government.
NEIL BREEN: Every Wednesday I speak to Home Affairs Minister; MP for McPherson; Cabinet Minister; Karen Andrews. How are you, Karen?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m very well. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m very well, thanks. Been a big week in Federal politics. You had rebel MPs from your side – from the Coalition – causing issues, voting for One Nation bills which are trying to get the Federal Government to stop the state Labor government and other governments around Australia from imposing vaccinated versus unvaccinated rules. It’s pretty untidy stuff.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, the last couple of sitting weeks of any Parliamentary year are always difficult for everyone in the building. Look, the Liberal National Party, the Coalition Federally, we have a view with our Members and Senators that they have the opportunity to put their views. We don’t constrain them as such, and yes, there were a number of Senators that chose to cross the floor – that was their decision. What I’m hoping now is that they focus on the jobs that they were elected to do – they look at the legislation that is before the Senate and also before the House of Representatives, they consider that legislation and look to pass it. That’s what Australians want; it’s what Queenslanders want; it’s what all of our constituencies want us to do – which is to look at the legislation, debate it and then work to have that legislation passed.
NEIL BREEN: I’m not too sure that supporters of the Coalition, want Coalition members crossing the floor to support Pauline Hanson on a bill that the Federal Government can’t do anything about anyway. Scott Morrison’s powerless to stop Annastacia Palaszczuk from bringing in a vaccinated versus unvaccinated rule, just the same as he was powerless to get her to open borders.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes. Look I’m not sure what point it was that those Senators were trying to make; but let’s say they’ve made their point now and let’s get focused on the work of Parliament – the very important legislation that will be coming through in the next couple of weeks, and let’s make Australians proud of us.
NEIL BREEN: I know you’re busy, you wouldn’t have seen it, but Gerard Rennick, the Liberal Senator for Queensland, did an interview on Sky News yesterday that was a train wreck. He’s been posting stuff on Facebook. He had to admit he didn’t even know why he was posting it or what it was. He wasn’t fact-checking it. Surely the Liberal Party, the great Liberal Party that’s been around forever, can’t allow a Senator to be so uneducated and so stupid to do things like that? It’s embarrassing for politics in this country.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I didn’t see the interview; I heard about-
NEIL BREEN: How did he get preselected, Gerard Rennick?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, he was selected by the members of the Liberal National Party in Queensland, and largely that’s on the basis of the presentation that he’s made. It’s a speech and response to questions. Normally it’s based on how well known the applicants are; whether or not they have the support of the people in the room. But I think you’ve made the important point that the LNP senators have been selected as LNP candidates in the first instance and they’ve been supported by the LNP membership. LNP membership would rightly expect them to support the views of the party, which is considered. There are opportunities for people to voice their views and that’s done in the party rooms. But also for Queenslanders who’ve elected Senators, they would expect them to make sure that they are voting in accordance with the party at which they stood for election.
NEIL BREEN: Exactly, and that’s why I talk about, you know, the great Liberal Party and the great Labor Party. Like, I’m talking about the people who believe in those parties, “This is our party. We’ve put someone in there.” Anyway, I’ll move on. The AFP’s had to respond to very specific threats against politicians over the weekend. This is unsavoury stuff.
KAREN ANDREWS: It is. We know that there’s an increase in threats against politicians, not just here in Australia but worldwide. Not long ago we had a UK Member of Parliament who was stabbed when he was just out there doing his job – meeting with constituents. David Amess lost his life there; he was just doing the job that he had been elected by the people to do. Now the risks for us, is that we don’t want to lock ourselves away as Members of Parliament, because our job is to be out speaking with people and to be able to represent their views. But unfortunately, there are people out there in the community that want to do us harm. It is a very difficult thing for the AFP, who is trying to protect all Members of Parliament and Senators. This is not the Australian way; we are very open in Australia, where we can move around our communities and talk to people, and I would hate to see there be an increase in threats to the point that members of Parliament cannot get out and do their jobs properly.
NEIL BREEN: These PCR tests; the 150 bucks; the confusion. I’ve read all the letters that Greg Hunt sent Yvette D’ath; the press releases; I’ve watched all the press conferences. At the end of the day, the medical advice is that asymptomatic testing is a waste of money. We could be talking 40, 50, 60,000 tests a day for people wanting to come into Queensland during that Christmas rush. Is it a waste of money, Karen Andrews?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I think that the Queensland state Labor government has a lot of answers that they need to come up with. The community is pretty upset with what’s being done to them. At a time when the Australian Government is doing all that it can to open international borders, all that state Labor in Queensland are doing is making it harder for Queenslanders to get home; for tourists to get in; for business people to get in; for people to come and see their families. It is never ending. And, look, in this time the confusion with the PCR tests and what people have to do is quite frankly just one more error – an unforced error, quite frankly – by the state Labor government. So I don’t really know where they get their advice from, what they’re trying to do – whether they’re just trying to be political. But, you know, this is really just another example of Own Goal Anna out there.
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, thanks so much for joining me. Is it wet on the Gold Coast? Are you on the Gold Coast or in Canberra?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m in Canberra.
NEIL BREEN: You’re in Canberra.
KAREN ANDREWS: And I’ll be staying here, I’ll be staying in Canberra-
NEIL BREEN: Until December 17?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, you know, I hope not. I would like to get home. But we’ll see. We’ll see what the Labor government does to us.
NEIL BREEN: Okay. Well, Greg Hunt said you only need a text message for your test, so you’ll be right – you won’t have to fork out $145. Good on you, Karen Andrews.
KAREN ANDREWS: Okay, take care.