Topics: Arrest of a person for alleged involvement in criminal damage to Old Parliament House; availability of rapid antigen tests.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: I’d like to bring in Karen Andrews, she’s the Minister for Home Affairs. Minister Andrews: thanks for being here.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure, Chris. How are you?
CHRIS O’KEEFE: I’m really well, happy New Year. It is – I think – high time that someone was charged. Can you just give us a little bit of an update on how the investigation is progressing?
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. I think many Australians – indeed most Australians – were absolutely horrified, appalled, and outraged by what was done at Old Parliament House over the last few days. So all credit to the Australian Federal Police and ACT Policing, who basically have worked nonstop to apprehend the offenders. There is now someone in custody; they have been charged and I believe they’ll be before the Courts tomorrow charged with arson and damaging Commonwealth property. It’s been a lot of hard work by the police to get to this point. The matter is now before the Court, so I really can’t comment on anything that may well come through that process, but the taskforce that was established between the Australian Federal Police and ACT Policing will continue; they will continue to investigate this particular incident, and they will be doing all that they possibly can to protect not only Old Parliament House but all Commonwealth property.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Minister, I tell you what, if you commit a crime, you know what’s not a good idea? To film yourself doing it.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I saw some of that and I thought, ‘gee, you’re not very bright’. I don’t understand why anyone would do that in the first place – take that action. But then to actually film yourself and put it up there on social media and be so proud of it as well. It’s just extraordinary, but I’m really pleased they did, because it certainly helped the police. So thank you for that.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: There’s a lot of talk about these guys potentially being sort of anti-vaxx sort of figures or some sovereign citizen lunatics. Ultimately, they’re criminals. Given this man is from Victoria, do we know if he came to Canberra for the purpose of setting fire to Old Parliament House?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I don’t have that detail. Quite frankly, people have the right in Australia to be able to protest – to give their views – but they don’t have the right to engage in criminal activity. I think everyone needs to be very reassured that our police are well across these issues, they have acted pretty quickly, and they’ve taken appropriate action. So what we’re not going to do, is anything that is going to protect these individuals; that is going to give them any sort of cover. So if you’re involved in criminal activity, the very clear message is ‘you will be caught, you will be prosecuted’.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: How did you feel when you saw Old Parliament House on fire? I was disgusted. I felt sick.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it was just appalling for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s an attack on democracy. Let’s be clear; it is absolutely an attack on democracy. That building is an icon of democracy in Australia, and a whole range of really important matters have been determined there. So it represents democracy in Australia. So there was my concern and outrage about there being an icon of Australian democracy being damaged; and then I was actually mortified that this is a heritage building that has been damaged, basically beyond repair. The doors are irreplaceable, and yes, we can potentially get some new doors and they will look very similar to the doors that were there, perhaps. But they’re not the same doors, and that is just outrageous. So it was those two things in particular. And then my emotions went to the stupidity of those people, and quite frankly, how anyone who does that, is actually damaging their own cause. They might be bringing attention to whatever they think – and they can be ‘anti’ anything they like – but they just need to protest properly.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: I’ve got Neil who’s texted in Minister, and I’ve got the same question. These people set fire to Old Parliament House, then they were spitting on people and punching people. There were some queries about why nobody was at least put in handcuffs on the day – last Thursday. It took until Saturday and then today for anyone to be arrested, let alone charged, seems a bit slow?
KAREN ANDREWS: I understand people would be concerned about the pace at which this particular individual was arrested. All I can say is that the AFP and the ACT Police want to make sure they’re doing their jobs thoroughly, and I do support them in that. There were actually three individuals that were arrested and charged because of their behaviours on Saturday, and they were arrested pretty quickly. They have been arrested and charged with a range of matters. So that’s going to continue to play out as well. The police did act very swiftly there, and they were able to apprehend those people at the time. I think that’s been a good thing, and considering some of those people were assaulting police, I think it was very good that they were arrested and charged.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: It wasn’t on Thursday. That was the thing that sort of got me, because if that happened in Sydney or on the Gold Coast, the Queensland and New South Wales Police would have put handcuffs on them straight away. They would have been tossed in the back of a police vehicle, and it wouldn’t have been Saturday or Tuesday until they got arrested and charged. Have you spoken or asked these questions of the AFP or ACT Policing?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’ve spoken to both the AFP and the ACT Police, and whilst they have responsibility for the operational matters, they have actually been keeping me informed of what they’ve been doing. Yes, I would love there to have been some offenders who were taken into custody much earlier than now. But I’m also confident the police have done the work they need to do to make sure the charges against this particular individual will have the best chance of success when he goes before the Courts. But the investigation isn’t over now; it is actually still continuing; there is more work to be done. So the police have seen other people; they’ve gone through the process of identifying – through images on social media, through what’s been able to be recovered through CCTV, and of course, the cameras that are worn by the police officers who were there – they are going through that now very forensically, and they won’t rest until they have got all the people who are involved in this, and good on them.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: I know there’s a Museum that’s housed there and you talked through a little bit of what the damage was. Have we got any further information as to what might have been lost or what kind of damage has been done to the front and the facade of Old Parliament House?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, if you look at the images, there’s quite a lot of damage that’s been done. Some of that will be smoke. There was also smoke inside the building and so some smoke damage inside the building, which we don’t know the full extent of yet. But the result of that has been the Museum of Australian Democracy has been closed to the public and it’s had to be closed because of the damage that’s been done to the front of the building; concern for people who work in the building; and making sure we’re getting proper assessments of what needs to be done to restore that historic building. So there is significant damage that has been done. People can’t access the site anymore through those front doors, it’s been designated as a crime scene and it’s now fenced so people actually can’t get into the area. But the Museum of Australian Democracy in the building is effectively going to be closed until further notice. Now, that’s a terrible shame.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Such a shame.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, absolutely. At a time where people are on holidays; when we’re trying to get tourists to go back – not only into Canberra but all around Australia – but they can’t get into the Museum of Australian Democracy because of the actions of this individual and others.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Minister, Susan texted in and she says these people should be made an example of, to send a clear message. The highest maximum penalty should be bestowed upon them. I agree with Susan. While you can’t say it, I’m sure you agree as well. I’m glad the AFP and the ACT policing team are investigating this and they have finally charged and arrested people because I think that’s what Australians expect and I hope that continues and that investigation continues. Just quickly on the pandemic. Have you got any rapid tests at home?
KAREN ANDREWS: No, I don’t. I’m currently in home quarantine at the moment, so I don’t need one.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Why are you in home quarantine?
KAREN ANDREWS: Because I was overseas. I arrived back in Australia in the very early hours of Christmas Eve and because I live in Queensland, I have got 14 days of home quarantine.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Well, that’s good. If you landed in Sydney or Melbourne, you could do whatever you wanted.
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely, and there were people on the aircraft with me that continued on to the ACT and also onto Melbourne but I got off the plane and went home to spend 14 days in home quarantine.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Are you concerned how difficult it is to get a rapid test at the moment, to buy them?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m concerned that people are out there panic buying. This actually concerns me like it did with the whole issue with toilet paper; I dealt with that when I was the Industry Minister. If people had – with toilet paper – just bought what they needed, there would never have been an issue. With rapid antigen tests, what I would say to people is only buy one. If you need to get one or you choose to get one, then by all means buy it; but don’t hoard them; don’t buy in bulk; don’t buy them ‘just in case’; because it will actually put strain on the system.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Well, the system is already strained. There’s hardly any in Australia.
KAREN ANDREWS: I understand the difficulty and the sooner people stop buying them just to keep them at home, ‘just in case’, the sooner we will get back to normal.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: But people have got COVID. What do you expect them to do? You can’t line up in a COVID queue because the COVID queues are six, seven hours long.
KAREN ANDREWS: I absolutely understand those concerns and I’ll be having to go out for PCR test myself on Wednesday.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: Have you got half a day? Have you got a cut lunch ready?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m going to be preparing for however long it takes to be there, and I know that’s not ideal. So I’m very sympathetic to people that are there. I know people want to be able to manage their own health. So I would say to everyone else who doesn’t need to get one, ‘please stop buying them’. Please stop buying them and stockpiling them so people who need them can get them.
CHRIS O’KEEFE: It’s not your problem, but I think your Government needs to make them free and I’ve been pretty vocal about that on the programme this afternoon. But nonetheless, the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews thank you so much for your time. Have a good New Year.
KAREN ANDREWS: I will. You too. Take care.