Subjects: Solomon Islands, fairness in sport, Labor’s inadequacy on border protection and a Labor-Greens alliance.
NEIL BREEN: Good morning Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Hello Neil, how are you?
BREEN: I’m well thanks. So, if anyone thinks that this Solomon Islands/China situation is ‘oh, they’re just helping them out with their domestic troubles, making sure that, you know, their streets aren’t lawless,’ they’re kidding themselves.
ANDREWS: Absolutely. they certainly are kidding themselves and quite frankly, at the request of Solomon Islands we actually sent over quite a number of offices from the Australian Federal Police, they’re still 60 that are in the Solomon Islands at the moment. So we responded with the support that the Solomon Islands asked for to assist with law keeping on the Islands, so it’s not just a simple issue of law keeping. Australia is a very good neighbour and has been there supporting the Solomon Islands. But to go to your point, the announcement that China has made – we’re aware that they made an announcement that they signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands, we don’t know exactly what the terms of that agreement is, and the Solomon Islands hasn’t yet made a statement in relation to that agreement. We have been very strong in expressing what our concerns are but we’ve done it in a respectful way to the Solomon Islands government. We’ve made it clear what our views are to our other neighbours in the Pacific, our Pacific family is very much aware of the concerns that Australia holds as well, too. Look, no one should be looking at anything that is happening in the Pacific region with any level of complacency, particularly where China is concerned.
BREEN: Well, the Solomon Islands – the big problem is now they’re obviously being lobbied by Australia, the United States is sending officials there, but they’ve gone too far down the track with China. How do you turn around to China and say, ‘no, we don’t need you anymore.’ So, like, they’ve got themselves in a pickle in the Solomons, it’s going to be hard to extract themselves from.
ANDREWS: Well, it’ll be interesting and we’re very much looking forward to hearing what the Solomon Islands Government has to say about the arrangement that it seems they have entered into with China, what the terms of those are. Look, the Solomon Islands Government does recognise the support that Australia has given in the past and clearly will continue to do in the future. So, we’re pleased with that level of recognition, we are a good neighbour, we have supported the Solomon Islands, we will continue to do so. So we will continue to watch and be very mindful of the activity in the region and I’ve referred to it in the past of being our backyard and that’s exactly what it is. So we are very concerned about anything that is happening in our backyard in the Pacific region.
BREEN: Katherine Deves, this is the candidate for the Liberal Party in the seat of Warringah. I don’t care about the factional brawling that’s gone on in the New South Wales Liberals, and she is a captain’s pick by the Prime Minister to contest that seat and try and knock Zali Steggall out, who took the seat off Tony Abbott at the last election. But this issue about transgender athletes competing against female athletes, athletes born female, in female sports, what’s your position on it?
ANDREWS: Well, it’s a very contentious issue and can I say Neil, you’re absolutely right to push past all of the other chatter and views that are out there at the moment. One of the issues that we do need to look very carefully at is fairness in sport, so I believe very strongly that sport should be fair for all participants. Now in relation to trans participants, it’s very clear this is something that should be led by the sporting community. Now some have stepped into this debate in the past, I would encouraged this to be debated by the sporting organisations, this should not be government-led-
BREEN: But it’s very hard for the sports, Minister, because sports are afraid of being cancelled. You know, and then the sports get cancelled by these social media campaigns and then there’s nowhere for anyone to play.
ANDREWS: Yeah, well, I think a lot of Australians are pretty much over all the cancelling that goes on in the social media campaigns. And many Australians – I think you’re going to see them pop their heads up over the next few weeks – are really prepared to take a stance and say ‘enough is enough’. You know, people are entitled to have their opinion, they are entitled to put their views on a whole range of issues, they should do that respectfully. They should do that courteously. But where there are issues that should be debated, people should be able to put their views without the fear of having a social media campaign against them.
BREEN: Karen Andrews, Anthony Albanese and his border security position is real, because he went from one position to another position to a third position in the first 7 days of the campaign, with regards to offshore processing. My belief is that the Labor Party doesn’t like it at all, offshore processing and turning back the boats, but they know if they don’t have that policy, they can’t win the election. And in a deal with the Greens they might jettison the lot.
ANDREWS: Look, I think that’s a very fair comment and you know, we should all be very concerned about an alliance between Labor and the Greens and what the implications of that would be. Now, the Greens have particularly strong positions. Now, you know, I hate to even contemplate the fact that Adam Bandt may be the Immigration Minister in a Labor-Greens government but certainly the Greens would have a big say in Labor-Greens policy if that were to be the reality, and I seriously hope that is not the case. But you’re right, Labor has historically not liked this policy. We’ve seen a lot of flip-flopping from Anthony Albanese over the course of this campaign and we’re only in the second week of that now, so the amount of flip-flopping has been absolutely staggering. But on border security, they don’t support the three pillars that have kept Australians safe and secure, those three policies of Operation Sovereign Borders, which is turnbacks, when it’s safe to do so; it’s regional processing and it’s temporary protection visas. Now, they’ve already walked away from temporary protection visas, they don’t like regional processing and Anthony Albanese has been on the record as saying he ‘could not turn back a boat’ – so, you’re right to be concerned and Australia should be alarmed about what may well happen should there ever be a Labor government.
BREEN: And Karen Andrews, just quickly before you go, have you recovered from COVID?
ANDREWS: It’s my first day out of isolation.
BREEN: Welcome back, welcome back
ANDREWS: So, yes I am back and ready and raring to go.
BREEN: Okay, Karen Andrews – the Home Affair Minister, take care and good luck on the campaign trail.
ANDREWS: Thank you.