NEIL BREEN: Every Wednesday, I chat to Home Affairs Minister, Cabinet Minister and Member for McPherson on the Gold Coast, Karen Andrews. Good morning to you, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: Good, good, it's a pleasure to have you on the show again. Medevac laws are back in the news again today. And I understand you're working with New Zealand on possibly resettling the remaining refugees who came here under Medevac, is that right?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, we're going to continue to look at resettlement options for these individuals. We've made it very clear with New Zealand that there won't be a back doorway for these people to go to New Zealand and then return to Australia. We're working through those issues now and we'll continue to do so. And, of course, we will continue to work with the United States about resettlement options there as well.
NEIL BREEN: So how many of them remain in Australia under Medevac laws?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, there's probably a couple of hundred at the moment...
NEIL BREEN: A couple of what? A couple of hundred, did you say?
KAREN ANDREWS: A couple of hundred so at the moment and we're doing all that we can to work through resettlement options for them. We clearly want to do that as soon as we possibly can. So we'll continue to work with New Zealand and of course, with the United States.
NEIL BREEN: And my special guest is Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. I'm not stalking you, Minister. I do a lot of reading. And I was reading this week about what you're looking at in the Home Affairs portfolio. I read that technology is going to be a focus under your leadership. And look, I think artificial intelligence was even mentioned to keep Australia safe. What's happening on that front?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yep, absolutely. So everything I do as the Minister Home Affairs will have a technology focus to it, because we know that it's so important to us to make sure that we are ahead of the game, not just to protect Australia from the likes of cyberattacks or ransomware or something else, but also to make sure that our agencies such as ASIO and the AFP are well-resourced with technology so that they can do the work that they need to do. And from the AFP's point of view, make sure that they are in the best position to catch the crims out there and to get a successful prosecution.
NEIL BREEN: Your technology can help us but it can hinder us, because the bad guys, they're pretty good at it. We've seen this cyber terrorism go on with businesses in Australia. Channel Nine, a company I work for, was subject to one. And the boss of ASIO blasted social media giants as well for giving terrorists a free pass with encryption built into their apps. So the thing for me about social media, those big companies, is they're not subject to the same laws that traditional media are subject to and governments around the world are grappling with it.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yeah, we definitely are. And look, in many ways, I think calling it social media is a bit of a misnomer because what's missing is the societal impact of some of the things that happen on social media. And with the big tech giants, the social media platforms, we actually need them to look at what they're doing that enables criminal behaviour. So, look, quite frankly, it's all well and good to be focussed on privacy and that is clearly an important issue for law abiding citizens. But where you've got end to end encryption, it actually assists the criminals because it gives them a level of invisibility, of anonymity. And it's making it more difficult for the likes of ASIO and AFP to do the work that they need to do to keep us all safe.
NEIL BREEN: You also mentioned last week the pandemic has seen extremism rise. And I think this has been a common theme. We've heard the Federal Police talk about this and the heads of ASIO talking about it as well. And I don't know, people on computers for a lot longer and weirdos in garages and enlisting disaffected people. Is that what's happening?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yeah, so people had more time at home over the last 12 to 14 months. They've had more opportunities to be online and they've taken those opportunities. So we do know that radicalisation still exists, and in fact has increased over the last 12 to 14 months during the pandemic. So, yes, our threat of terrorism does remain at ‘probable’, and unfortunately, that's very unlikely to be lowered in the foreseeable future. So we do need to be alert, particularly as we start to come out of COVID and there's greater physical movement of people, because we know that some of these people have taken every opportunity to equip themselves very well with ways to do us harm.
NEIL BREEN: I'm talking the Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews. Earlier this week - you've been busy. You have been busy, I've got to say. You launched Airport Watch at Gold Coast Airport. Tell us about Airport Watch, what it's all about.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes. So Airport Watch is an AFP - Australian Federal Police - initiative to really engage the community because our airports are great for law-abiding travellers, but there are also opportunities for drugs to come in and out of the airports, for lots of bad things to happen. We know that we need to engage with the community so that they're on the lookout. Whether it's, not just someone who's left a suitcase or something lying around, but someone who might be taking photos of secure areas, who are starting to take a close look and ask questions about what happens behind the scenes. And sometimes, unfortunately, it's just not people who are just wandering around the airport, it can actually be people who are employed there that are not doing the right thing. So we need the community to help us to be vigilant, to keep an eye out and to report anything that they see that is suspicious.
NEIL BREEN: A bit like Crime Stoppers for the airport.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it is very much like that. We do know that through this program in the past, there has been drugs detected coming into the airports, and that's because people have been vigilant, passed on things that they've seen. That means that we can actually do the work that we need to do with the AFP to keep these drugs off the street. I mean, ideally, we don't want them coming into any airports, but if they come in, we want them to be identified and taken offline.
NEIL BREEN: Okay. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, it's great to have you as a regular part of the show, joining us every Wednesday. We'll talk to you next week. Have a good day.
KAREN ANDREWS: I will. You too.