Topics: Departure from Australia of Mr Novak Djokovic.
MADELINE MORRIS: Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews joins us now. Karen Andrews, thanks for joining us. Do you concede that this whole affair has made Australia look foolish?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, firstly, I can confirm that Mr Djokovic departed Australia last night – that was on the basis of the full Federal Court upholding the decision of Minister Alex Hawke to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa. I think throughout this process, Australians can be very confident, and very sure, that the Morrison Government will always look after their best interests and Australia’s national interests. I think, in the process, we’ve got to be very clear about what the role of the Federal Government is – and that is to make sure that our borders are protected. We have always had a very strong position on that, and this matter was, in fact, no different.
MADELINE MORRIS: The problem with that is that you granted him a visa in the first place when his views were well known, when he had no proof of double vaccination, which is what is required to get into Australia. He was granted a visa on the 18th of November. Why did he get that visa in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: Because the visa application process, and the granting of a visa, is entirely separate to finally entering into this country. So just because you have-
MADELINE MORRIS: But, Minister, you have made that argument before, and there are a number of people who have been refused visas at the point of application on character grounds or because they pose a threat to the Australian nation. So, you know, with someone who is this high profile, why was that protocol not followed as it had been in previous cases?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, in fact, the protocol was followed, and whilst I do understand your point, the fact is that the process is entirely separate. Vaccination status is not required as part of the granting of a visa; it is an entirely separate process. I actually have no issues with the process that was undertaken to assess the visa application-
MADELINE MORRIS: So you think it was fine? You think it was fine that he came here, was taken under armed guard to a hotel and gone through this whole process? You don’t have any issues with that?
KAREN ANDREWS: No, that’s not what I said. So let me be very clear: I have no issues with the visa application process that Australia currently has. It is a very separate process to final entry into this country. I have made that comment on a number of occasions. The first step in the process to come to Australia is to have a valid visa; vaccination status and final entry requirements are not part of that visa process, for very good reasons – and that is that visas, once they have been granted, can last for a few years. Entry requirements may change during that period of time. So you require a valid visa and then you have to abide by the terms of entry that apply at the time you are seeking to across our borders. Now that clearly deals with the vaccination process and the need to either be fully vaccinated or to have medical evidence that you cannot be vaccinated. Now, I’ve said that before. I am entirely comfortable with the visa application process and the grounds on which it is assessed for the reasons that I’ve just explained.
MADELINE MORRIS: Are you entirely comfortable with the way that this has played out? Because you must concede that Australia has been made to look foolish on the world stage here?
KAREN ANDREWS: I don’t concede that. I’m certainly aware of a lot of the commentary that is happening. But my job as Australia’s Home Affairs Minister is to protect our borders, and I am well and truly on the public record as saying that I will do exactly that. I understand this has played out very publicly. But, again, I go back to the comment I made right at the beginning of this interview, which is that Australians can be very confident that the Morrison Government and its Ministers will do all they can to ensure we have strong borders and that those people who are you attempting to come to Australia abide by the laws of the time.
MADELINE MORRIS: The reason the Immigration Minister gave for challenging the Court decision, was that he could become a rallying point for anti-vaxxers. Did you not consider or did the Minister not consider or did the Government not consider that actually making him a martyr for anti-vaxxers, for people who are against vaccination, is actually the greater risk here?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, as you would be fully aware, that was actually run before the full Federal Court yesterday. So Minister Hawke – and I know him very well, clearly he is a very diligent Minister – he would have been absolutely across all of the details, all of the information that was given to him. That’s why he took the time he did to make that decision. So I think that what we saw was played out in the Federal Court, which is the decision of Minister Hawke to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa was upheld.
MADELINE MORRIS: Yeah, it was upheld. But did you not think that he might become a greater lightening rod for anti-vaxxers now that he’s actually been made a martyr for the cause?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, that argument was run in the Federal Court yesterday, and I’m sure that you and many others watched those proceedings as well. At the end of the proceedings the decision that was made by the full Federal Court was to uphold the decision of Minister Hawke to cancel the visa.
MADELINE MORRIS: Members of your own LNP in Queensland – Gerard Rennick, Matt Canavan amongst others – have posted far more anti-vaccine rhetoric over the past week than Novak Djokovic has actually made publicly in the past month or couple of months. Will you be publicly condemning them in the same way that Novak Djokovic has been condemned?
KAREN ANDREWS: It is up to those individuals the views that they continue to put. My view is incredibly strong and always has been – I am very support of everybody getting vaccinated. I am triple vaxxed; I’ve had the booster. Everyone in my immediate family has done that. I encourage all Australians to get out there and be fully vaccinated and then to get the booster shots as soon as they are eligible. Let’s be clear – we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. We also have one of the strongest economies that have recovered since and during the pandemic. We have one of the lowest death rates in the world. I think that speaks absolute volumes for the need for Australians to be out there and get vaccinated. Quite frankly, Australians have done an absolutely fantastic job in getting vaccinated. Good on Australians.
MADELINE MORRIS: Okay, Karen Andrews, thanks for speaking to News Breakfast this morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: A pleasure. Thank you.