Topics: Flooding in SE Qld and Northern NSW, Ukraine, International Women’s Day, career before politics
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister and MP for McPherson on the Gold Coast Karen Andrews joins me now. Good morning, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m very well, thanks. Now, you know, I suppose Australians’ attention’s got taken away from Ukraine over the last 10 days or so as we’ve battled floods left, right and centre. But you recently spoke to your Five Eyes counterparts about another way to punish Russia. What are we looking at?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, yes, there’s certainly been an extensive range of discussions about the situation in Ukraine. And, yes, I have been talking to my Five Eyes partners. Now, I think what we’ve seen is – overall – the sanctions have been quite effective. They have had a devastating effect already on the Russian economy. But we’re also very concerned about the humanitarian impact of what’s happening in Ukraine, and we believe that there’s in the order of about 1.7 million people who have crossed the border from Ukraine, mostly into Poland but not just into Poland. So our Five Eyes partners are working very closely to provide a level of humanitarian support, as well as the lethal and non-lethal support that Australia has already offered and other countries have as well. So we’re approaching it on the dual basis of providing them lethal and non-lethal support but clearly doing what we can to support the humanitarian efforts. We’re very conscious that it is largely women and children who have been crossing the border out of Ukraine. Men 18 to 60 are required to stay in Ukraine. So we’re aware that support needs to be provided for those individuals who will want to return to Ukraine as soon as it’s safe to do so. Unfortunately, it seems as if the war is now going to continue for quite some time, and I think the world has been absolutely amazed at the resistance that Ukraine people have put up to the Russian invasion. So there’s a lot of admiration for the strength of the people of Ukraine.
NEIL BREEN: I think it’s incredible what they’ve done. And the world is so behind them, it’s just not funny. You know all these economic sanctions and things, and this morning I’ve let people know that McDonald’s have closed down all of its restaurants in Russia – 800 and something. Coca Cola’s not going to do business with them. These things seem trivial, but inside Russia they could counter anything the Russians are doing to spread misinformation to their own people, because the Russian government will be telling their own people one thing and then they’ll go, “Well, how come Coca Cola won’t sell me a bottle of Coke?” So it all adds up, doesn’t it?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that it’s probably fair to say that many people who are in Russia at the moment are probably surprised themselves at what is happening within their own country. And, yes, there is a counter to the misinformation, and that is what the Russian people are able to see, which is that they cannot get goods that they see as day-to-day necessities come into their country.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, incredible. Hey, yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I wanted to ask you about it. Because you had a career in mechanical engineering before politics. So International Women’s Day, a lot of talk about women getting into politics. What’s your recommendation for women?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, my recommendation for women is that they should view the opportunities for them to be able to do what they wish to do from a career point of view, that they should not be necessarily looking at gender stereotypes, and that if they have an interest in the maths and the science field – like I did – then there are many career options that are open to them. Politics is an entirely different ball game to engineering, as you would imagine-
NEIL BREEN: I could imagine.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I will always be an engineer at heart. And, quite frankly, I’m sure you’ll understand, if I get the chance to introduce myself as an engineer or a politician, I invariably choose engineer. So that will always be near and dear to my heart, and it’s what I always will be. But we do need more women in politics, without a doubt. We need to have a Parliament that is representative, and that means that there needs to be more women. Now things have to fundamentally change for that to happen. We have to have women preselected into winnable seats. But I’m very keen to work with any woman who has said that she is interested in becoming a politician and give them a very good understanding of the good, bad and the terribly ugly parts of politics.
NEIL BREEN: Exactly. Exactly. There are many ugly parts, we know that. Hey, there was one thing I meant to ask you about Russia that I forgot, I’m sorry. Just with INTERPOL, what’s happening with Russia and INTERPOL? Has any country been kicked out before?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I’m not aware that any country has been kicked out. But that may well have been the case. So what happens is that I work very closely with my Five Eyes partners, and we have actually written to request that INTERPOL urgently considers Russia’s ongoing access to INTERPOL’s systems. It gives us great concern – the actions that have been undertaken by Russia – and we are concerned about ongoing access to INTERPOL systems. Now, I believe that is actually unprecedented action by the Five Eyes, but it’s very important that we do that. INTERPOL’s systems are extremely important and we want to make sure that access to Russia is considered and, quite frankly, limited. That’s what we’re calling for.
NEIL BREEN: Did they respond? INTERPOL?
KAREN ANDREWS: Not as yet. But those discussions will be ongoing. I actually spoke yesterday to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police – Reece Kershaw – and he is of the same mind, clearly, that it is very concerning – if Russia were to continue to have access to INTERPOL systems. So we will continue to pursue that.
NEIL BREEN: Okay. Thanks very much, Karen Andrews, Home Affairs Minister. Have a good day.
KAREN ANDREWS: I will. You too. Take care.