Topics: Vaccine rollout, petition for Queensland Premier not to travel to Tokyo, vaccination advertising
MATT WEBBER: Karen Andrews, good to have you on.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure and it’s great to be back on.
MATT WEBBER: We’ve got Murray Watt on next week. The disadvantage of alphabet, perhaps. There’s plenty to talk about. Learning this morning Ms Andrews that Kevin Rudd has apparently been intervening in negotiations with Pfizer. Laura Tingle writing that this comes against a backdrop of reports of disquiet about junior bureaucrats perhaps being a touch out of their depth in the early stages of negotiations with Pfizer. And that Pfizer, in this instance, were surprised at the apparent lack of high-level interest from the Federal Government. What’s your degree of comfort with a former Prime Minister pulling out the contacts book and making a few calls behind the scenes, so-called back channels?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, look, it was an interesting story when I read about it, and look, and I think it’s fair to say that there have been many people who have been involved in trying to work with Pfizer, to make sure that we can get the best possible arrangements here in Australia. So I know that Greg Hunt has been talking endlessly to Pfizer. In my previous portfolio in Industry, I actually spoke to Pfizer Australia representatives as well. So, look, if the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, actually did pick up his contact book, then, look, that’s one thing. But look quite frankly, what people need to be aware of is that there has been a concerted effort by many people in Australia to get the best possible arrangements that we can put in place here, and we’ll continue to do that.
MATT WEBBER: The fuller story here though, is that business people, concerned business people, known but unnamed in the story, went to the former PM directly saying, ‘listen, we don’t like the way this is going. What can you do? What can you do to get this done quicker?’ And the timing is interesting too, because the Prime Minister’s announcement of bringing forward some Pfizer dosing is well, eight days after Kevin Rudd sent his letter off. I mean, there’s a few things lining up here.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I can tell you that there has been a lot of work that has been done by many people in the Government, at Ministerial level, to see what we can do, to look at whether or not we can get the licencing to produce the Pfizer vaccine here in Australia, whether or not we can bring forward doses, how we can maximise opportunities. So, it is not just the one person, and it doesn’t matter who that one person might think they are. It is not an individual who has managed to achieve this. It has been a concerted effort by very many people. Now, I’m delighted that the business community is well and truly engaged in and are looking at options. I hear from industry almost every day about things that they think should be considered, opportunities to look at reopening Australia, particularly borders, making sure that we can get our skilled workers into Australia. So it’s great that industry is engaged. But this is not just one person who has been able to achieve this, no matter who that one individual is. It is a concerted effort by many people, across many weeks to be able to achieve this. So good on all of them.
MATT WEBBER: So you think the timing here is purely coincidental?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think it’s like many things that a lot of work is done behind the scenes before you actually get to the outcome that you need. I cannot believe that any individual would have just picked up the phone and achieved this outcome. It has been a concerted effort over a reasonably lengthy period of time to get us to where we are now.
MATT WEBBER: Karen Andrews is the Minister for Home Affairs, and also the Member for local Gold Coast seat, McPherson. Matt Webber with you on mornings at 12 minutes past nine. Ms Andrews, Tokyo 2032. It’s- you were pretty outspoken earlier on about the Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, heading over to Japan to spruik the case for South East Queensland and hosting the Olympics in 2032. Sport Minister, Federal Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck’s heading over, though. Are you similarly scathing about his contribution?
KAREN ANDREWS: My issue with Premier Palaszczuk was her hypocrisy. That she’s standing up there, arguing that there should be caps on hotel quarantine. So, reducing the number of people that can come into Australia, that can go through hotel quarantine in Queensland and in other parts of Australia too, and at the same time, she thought she’d just swan off to Tokyo and try and represent Queensland and make sure she gets this across the line and come back and go through hotel quarantine as well. And you know what? It wasn’t just me who was appalled at that sort of conduct. I mean, there’s been many people that have contacted my office directly. But there’s also at least one petition that’s running now with tens of thousands of people saying that, you know, this is very hypocritical of her. And it is. It is. It is absolutely hypocritical to say that other people cannot come to Australia, but she can fly in and out.
MATT WEBBER: Karen Andrews with me this morning. Minister, I’ll go back to what I was saying before – my original point, that the Minister for Sport, also Minister for Aged Care, Richard Colbeck, is heading to Tokyo with an advisor, your Federal colleague there. And you’re talking about the hypocrisy of the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attending. Am I seeing a hypocrisy myself here, that’s an extraordinary thing to suggest. I have in front of me now, a statement from the Health- that I picked up off the Health website, the Federal Health website this morning of Minister Colbeck spruiking the economic and social benefits and the importance of the 2032 Games. He’s heading over there, just as Annastacia Palaszczuk is, with the best interest of Queenslanders in time. How can what’s good for Mr Colbeck not be good for Ms Palaszczuk?
KAREN ANDREWS: Richard Colbeck was not arguing that people should be stopped from coming back into Australia. He is part of the Federal Government that has been very supportive of doing everything that we can to get as many people in here. And my point is, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s absolute hypocrisy that she wants to shut down people coming into Queensland and at the same time, make sure she can swan off overseas when it suits her. That’s actually the point and that is quite different to the scenario that you are suggesting at the moment, that when you start talking about the economic benefits, that’s fine. Every person who seeks an exemption for business purposes now to go overseas and to return, would say exactly the same thing about the critical nature of the work that they are doing and that they need to do. But we should not let Annastacia Palaszczuk off the hook. She should not be negotiating and arguing to shut down hotel quarantine in Queensland by 50 per cent, and at the same time think that she should be able to just disappear overseas because she can argue the importance of that work.
MATT WEBBER: Minister Colbeck’s heading off, leaving a lot of aged care residents and aged care workers unvaccinated. Does that fill you full of a similar kind of comfort?
KAREN ANDREWS: There is significant support and the Senior Minister for Health and Aged Care is Greg Hunt. He will be here. But we will all work, as the Federal Government, to make sure that we are supporting the aged care sector and doing all that we can to make sure, for example, that residents are vaccinated and that workers are also vaccinated as well. And Matt, I understand the point that you’re trying to make. But when I made those comments, and I stand by them 100 per cent, it was the hypocrisy of the Queensland Premier wanting to minimise the number of people that could come through hotel quarantine, because she had failed to manage that properly. That was the point that I was making at the time and it is absolutely true, absolutely relevant.
MATT WEBBER: Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, with me. Member for McPherson too. The advertising campaign for the vaccination program has rolled out. Many would say it’s taken too long to get to this point. A lot criticism swirling around it, about why it pitches to a demographic who can’t yet readily be vaccinated. I’m talking about under 40s. Did anyone sort of give this any thought before it went to air?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well there are processes within the Federal Government where we look at what the advertising is going to be and what is deemed appropriate. Now, one of the things that we needed to do was make sure that people understood how serious an illness this actually is. So, look, I really don’t want to go down the path of you know, COVID-complacency, but really, we have been almost a victim of our own success. This is not a Government matter. This is actually all Australians who have done so well with their social distancing, with following the health instructions and orders that they have been given. We are in a really good place because of that at the moment. And I understand that New South Wales is going through some pretty significant issues at the moment, but by and large, Australia has done very well. And we needed to make sure, as a Government, that people understood how serious this illness was, how important it was to make sure that everyone could get out and get vaccinated. And sure, it is a younger person in the advertisement, but we’re also saying to, you know, ‘mums and dads, grandparents, look after yourselves, look after your kids as well’. So this is quite a wide-ranging advertisement that is really saying to people, ‘this is a serious illness; please get yourself vaccinated as soon as you can’. And I guess one of the things that’s come out of the various discussions about Pfizer is that we’ve been able to bring through the number of doses. So, for example, in August, instead of it being 2.8 million doses through that month, it’s now around about 4.5 million doses that will be available. So we’re doing what we can. But yes, we need people to understand the seriousness of this illness and to take all of the precautions and follow the health instructions that the medical officers are giving them.
MATT WEBBER: Minister, there’s some talk of a border bubble. We may find out more when we hear from the Premier and Chief Health Officer after 10 o’clock this morning. Would you close the border if you were in charge?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I’m not in a position to actually make that call. I understand that people like to be safe. They want to be safe. They need to feel as if they are safe as well. But I’m well and truly on the record of saying, we need to make sure that we are living and working in the environment in which we find ourselves. Border closures should be an absolute last resort.
MATT WEBBER: They have been instituted further south here. If again, and I’m asking you to speak hypothetically, you were in charge, the idea of a border bubble, or at least a hard border closure further south than the Tweed area, would that be a preferable option for you?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m in favour of doing everything that we possibly can to allow people to live their lives as normally as they possibly can, and for businesses to remain open. And that’s what I think our focus should be. Our focus should never be to close things down; it should be looking at ways to keep things open.
MATT WEBBER: Appreciate your time, thank you.
KAREN ANDREWS: No worries. Take care.