Topics: Morrison Government’s strong support for Australian police; new police taskforce to crack down on organised crime; safe reopening of the international border; important national security legislation before the Senate.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Karen Andrews, the Home Affairs Minister joins us now from Canberra. Karen Andrews, very good morning to you.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning to you too.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: I want to talk about what’s going on in the Senate a bit later on. But first, let’s talk about this task force – it’s a joint AFP/NSW Police Task force combating organised crime, including bikie gangs. Does that suggest, Minister, that problem is getting worse?
KAREN ANDREWS: We know that it’s always been an issue, but we are very concerned about what we discovered, particularly through Operation Ironside – which was the operation that we worked on with the FBI. So what we are doing is making sure that the Australian Federal Police – in conjunction with the New South Wales State Police – is doing everything that it can to effectively take out bikies; take out triads; take out cartels; and particularly target their assets – because we want to make sure that we are creating an enormous nightmare – which is what Phobetor is, it’s the Greek God of Nightmares – this will be a nightmare for bikies, cartels and triads and all of you serious organised criminals.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now, organised crime can be very sophisticated. Our law enforcement agencies know that well. So are we getting more technological support, for instance, to help these efforts?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, there’s a lot of support that the Morrison Government has given. We’ve actually increased funding to $1.7 billion for the Australian Federal Police. We’re also making sure that the Australian Federal Police is very well equipped from a technology point of view. So they will be using the absolute best technology available to go after these criminals. We’ve learnt a lot from Operation Ironside, but we want to make sure Australians are safe, that they know that the Australian Federal Police, the Morrison Government, New South Wales Police; we all have their backs.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. We wish that task force all the best and I’m sure every Australian would agree. There are reports this morning Minister that the Federal Government is moving to further ease international border restrictions with more than 200,000 visa holders very shortly to be allowed back into the country. What can you tell us about that?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Morrison Government made it very clear that our priority in opening the borders was to make sure that we opened to Australian citizens and permanent residents – we have done that. We are very much aware of other cohorts that we need to make sure are getting into the country – that includes international students; it also includes skilled workers. We know there is a desperate need for skilled workers in this country. So the Morrison Government has always been very clear that we will work in accordance with the National Plan, and we are now at over 80 per cent vaccination rates across Australia – double dose. So we are going through the process now of reopening Australia to the world.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: How soon will those holders be allowed in?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, there’ll be an announcement as soon as we can possibly do that, and we will be looking at bringing those people back into Australia as soon as we possibly can – so it’s imminent.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Speaking of vaccination levels, it’s great to see the national double dose average of eligible Australians has hit that critical 80 per cent mark. What do you make as a senior Minister, of these two Liberal Senators vowing not to pass any legislation in this current fortnight? At least in opposition to state imposed vaccine mandates?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, all Parliamentarians are elected to do their job, and that means that they need to look at the legislation that is before the House and before the Senate. There is some pretty significant legislation that will be in the Senate this morning, and that includes one of my bills – which is the Critical Infrastructure bill; it’s a national security matter and there is nothing more important in terms of keeping Australians safe and secure than passing national security legislation. So I would encourage all Members and Senators to focus on the job that they were elected to do, which is to turn up at Parliament and to look at the legislation and give their views on it.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, and we’ll see what they do in terms of their votes as that plays is out. Karen Andrews, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pleasure. Thank you. Bye.