Topics: Australian assistance to Solomon Islands; confirmation of vessel off Australia’s coast.
TRISTAN MACMANUS: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews joins us now from Canberra. Minister, it’s a pleasure to speak to you. Can you tell us what the situation is there at the moment and what support will Aussies be providing?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, well good morning and it’s a pleasure joining you. Look the situation in Honiara – in the Solomon Islands – is very concerning. So yesterday, the Australian Federal Police deployed about 23 of its members onto the Islands to help work with the Solomon Island Police Force to make sure that law and public order was restored as soon as possible. But it is a very concerning situation there. The role of the Australian Federal Police – and that does include members from the tactical response teams – their role is to work with the police force in the Solomon Islands to make sure that they are securing and protecting critical infrastructure; for example, at the ports; at the airports; at various establishments that need protection. So our presence there is one that will hopefully promote stability in the area as soon as we possibly can.
SARAH HARRIS: Minister, we’re a month out from Christmas. How long do you expect our troops and AFP staff to be there?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, we’re anticipating that they will be there for a few weeks. So, we do have the AFP on the ground now. They’re assessing the situation – they will determine how many more personnel are deployed into that area; but saying that there are 40 ADF members that will be deploying today; there’s additional AFP officers that will be deploying today as well. But the situation is uncertain – our people on the ground are assessing that as we speak now, and we will take guidance from them as to how many additional personnel we need to put into the Solomon Islands and how long they will need to be there.
SARAH HARRIS: Minister, while we’ve got you, it’s been quite the week in Parliament. Seven Ministers have crossed the floor. Seems like there’s a lot of unrest in our own government at the moment?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the last two weeks in any sitting here are clearly ones where Labor – for example – takes every opportunity to make sure that they play political games. But let’s be clear, there is a lot of very significant legislation that has already been passed, but yes, we are a party where people do have the opportunity – as elected Representatives – they have the opportunity to vote in accordance with their views. The views that have been put are not the views of the Government – we didn’t support the bills and the private members motions that were being put for debate – but those individual Members and Senators had the opportunity to make clear what their views were.
SARAH HARRIS: They voted with their feet. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, thank you so much for your update. I appreciate it.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pleasure. Thank you.