Topics: Visa cancellation, vaccine rollout
KARL STEFANOVIC: Karen Andrews joins us live now from Canberra. Minister good morning, thanks for your time this morning. Tell us what you really think about her?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think I have – I think her behaviour is absolutely appalling. She should have been absolutely ashamed of her own behaviour. I don’t know whether she will be.
Quite frankly, I hadn’t even heard of her before I found out what she’d been up to and I actually don’t want to ever hear about her again. She just needs to leave the country quickly.
ALLISON LANGDON: Why was she allowed in in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: She came in with the support of a State Government which is somewhat normal procedures that State Governments, Territory Governments can actually put proposals through to the Federal Government based on economic advantage to their particular jurisdiction. That’s what happened this time. What I can say is that as soon as we became aware of her behaviour and her actions in quarantine, we moved very quickly to make sure that the visa that she entered on was cancelled and we will make sure that she leaves the country as soon as we possibly can arrange that.
KARL STEFANOVIC: So that was because of her behaviour in quarantine, but she was granted a visa before that. You had no problem with that?
KAREN ANDREWS: No, and they’re quite separate issues. So, my focus over the weekend was making sure that I was working with Border Force so that we could have a review done as quickly as possible to make sure that she had actually breached quarantine. When those decisions were made, Border Force acted very quickly to cancel the visa.
Now, to pick up your other point, I don’t think any of her behaviours are acceptable. I don’t think any Australian would think that either. The reason that she came in was with support of a State Government. Now, in hindsight, should those things be different. What we’re doing at this point in time is looking at how we can manage a number of things. We do want to get people into this country as soon as we can, whether it be for economic benefit. It could be skilled workers that we need to get into the country. It could be partners; it could be a whole range of people we need to get in. We will work with the States and Territories.
But I am very happy that this individual is going to be out of this country as soon as possible.
KARL STEFANOVIC: It still begs the question; she was granted visa in the first place. Do you regret that now?
KAREN ANDREWS: I’m very happy that she is going to be leaving this country as soon as possible. Would I have preferred the incident didn’t happen at all? Absolutely. Absolutely.
She put many other people at risk because of her behaviours. So that is unacceptable. So, I’m very happy she’s leaving.
ALLISON LANGDON: But even just the optics of this is really bad. When you’ve just halved the number of international arrivals into this country. You still have families separated; you have tens of thousands of Aussies stuck overseas who can’t afford a flight home. I read over the weekend one of many stories, a woman about to undergo breast cancer treatment, her husband, because he’s not Australian, can’t get into the country, and then we see this woman arrive here. It’s not good enough, is it?
KAREN ANDREWS: I don’t think it is good enough either, and I am well and truly on the record in relation to hotel quarantine caps. Now, yes, they have been reduced. Some States in particular pushed very, very hard for that to happen and it was agreed on the basis of containing the Delta variant. I think that we should be looking to increase our hotel quarantine caps back to where they were – and potentially beyond – as soon as possible, because there are many Australians who want to come home.
There are also many people who want to come to Australia and visit and to work here as well. And we need to be very much focused on that. And I know how galling it is for Australians who want their families to come and visit, they want to be able to leave and undertake work overseas, it is absolutely galling for them to see the likes of that individual come in here and just flout the quarantine rules. It is appalling, but she did come in over quarantine caps – that is not an excuse at all – but she didn’t take the place over an Australian in need coming back. And she will be leaving.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Did you have a chance to get a please explain from Channel 7?
KAREN ANDREWS: No.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Will you?
KAREN ANDREWS: Maybe. My focus is on making sure that she leaves the country. There’s a lot of work that has been done by the Australian Border Force and good on them. They did a fantastic job with that. Channel 7 has come out and made some statements as well. I’ve always been one to focus on the future rather than on things that have happened in the past but we need to look at what happened and do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Yeah, and we’ve got- there’s plenty of people over here who can do that sort of job on a rubbish show like that. You know what I mean? I mean, you just need some controversial comments, you don’t have to be smart. I mean ‘hello’?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, personally, I haven’t watched that show for a very long time and it’s not on my list of must-watch shows either.
ALLISON LANGDON: Well look, let’s talk about our vaccine rollout because we just heard from Lieutenant-General John Frewen who said that the Government is working on a timeline for bringing the country out of the pandemic, that that could happen in the next two weeks. So when do you think we will able to say that’s it, no more lockdowns?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, we’re obviously working towards that and that was part of the negotiations that happened with National Cabinet just a week or so, two weeks I think it was, ago now. Look, no-one wants to see any more lockdowns here. They are devastating for individuals; they are devastating for business. And I am sure that the State Premiers don’t want to do that unnecessarily ever again.
So, we do need to commit to the vaccination rollout. People need to make sure that they are accessing the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as they can. With almost a million doses coming in overnight of the Pfizer vaccine, that will add to the stocks that we already have here, we’re manufacturing the AstraZeneca vaccine here. So, it really is making sure that we are ramping up and making sure that people have access to a vaccine and that they go and get the vaccine as well.
KARL STEFANOVIC: You also have to deliver on the promise of freedom. If people do the right thing and we’re in July and they’ve gone and got vaccinated, you have to have a timeline and you have to have finish line for all the people who are doing the right thing.
KAREN ANDREWS: I couldn’t agree with you more. People need to see what the light is at the end of the tunnel. And there’s already been some fairly public discussions about how quarantine may be managed in the future, the opportunities for people who have been vaccinated to quarantine at home. So, all of these things are in the mix of how we’re going to make sure that Australia opens as soon as it possibly can. It will be very interesting to watch what happens in the UK. They’ve made a few decisions that will take effect today. So, we’ll need to see how that impacts on their community. But as a Government, we are looking at every opportunity to support those people who have gone out and done the right thing and been vaccinated, and we will continue to do that.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Okay. Appreciate it.
ALLISON LANGDON: Thanks, Minister, for your time this morning.