Topics: Australian assistance to Solomon Islands; confirmation of vessel off Australia’s coast.
NATALIE BARR: We’re joined by Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews – Minister, good morning. Can you give us an idea of the situation on the ground in the Solomon Islands?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well good morning Nat. Look over the last couple of days, clearly the situation in the Solomon Islands has deteriorated. We now have 23 members of the Australian Federal Police on the ground in the Solomon Islands – that includes members of the Tactical Response Team – so we know the situation is particularly volatile. Our role is to assist with restoring law and public order, to work very closely with the Solomon Islands Police force.
NATALIE BARR: The Prime Minister yesterday, at pains to point out this is only a peace mission –because it all started because of a protest against that government’s ties with China.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, our role there is very clear – it is to work closely with the Solomon Island Police Force to make sure that we do all that we can to assist with restoring public order on the Islands. We are very clear on what our role is – it is not to intervene at all in any domestic situation in the Solomon Islands. It is purely to assist with securing critical infrastructure and to make sure that we can assist the Solomon Island Police Force to restore law and order as soon as that can possibly be done.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, let’s talk about this Chinese spy ship that ended up in our waters, seemed to sort of head down the coast, hang around, and possibly look at some of our military operations. What can you tell us?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I can certainly confirm that there was a Chinese military vessel operating off the East Coast of Australia that had transit through the Torres Strait. We are very, closely monitoring all vessels that approach Australia. And whilst this particular vessel was in our exclusive economic zone and we respect the sovereignty of that particular vessel, and we will always respect that level of sovereignty. We do closely monitor any vessel. It’s part of our routine border protection matters. But of course, we are very conscious of any vessels that are in or approaching our waters.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, Karen Andrews, we thank you for your time this morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure.