Subjects: Dismantling of Operation Sovereign Borders, RBA
PETER STEFANOVIC: The Australian Navy has revealed it diverted ships and aircraft to Australia’s North to reinforce Operation Sovereign Borders after concerns changes to temporary protection visas could see an increase in people smuggling attempts. Joining us live, the Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Karen, good to see you. So the Navy providing surge support, what does that say to you?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, this is yet another bungled policy implementation by the Missing Minister for Home Affairs. Now, we have long said that temporary protection visas are a key part of Operation Sovereign Borders. The Minister for Home Affairs was clearly advised in the incoming ministerial brief when she was first appointed into the role that Temporary Protection Visas are a key deterrent measure, a key part of Operation Sovereign Borders. Now we’ve heard it senate estimates that there has been a surge of defence capability into the northern parts of our region, clearly as part of Operation Sovereign Borders and protecting our northern borders. So what we’ve got is yet another policy bungle, and the Minister has been absolutely missing. She puts out a media release to say that there will be changes to temporary protection visas, she hasn’t fronted the media here in Canberra. She tends to hide behind Dixers in question time, but Australia deserves a lot better than a missing Minister for Home Affairs. She actually needs to stand up. She needs to make it very clear. She said, when the Optus Hack was first revealed, that ‘transparency is paramount’, and yet the operations of this government and of the Minister in particular are far from transparent. So what this is indicating is that the labor government is only in interested in transparency when it suits them, but this is a real risk to our borders, and the Minister needs to be very clear why she has done this and how our borders are going to be protected.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But the TPVs, they will be staying though and the department said this week that it did not advise against changes to tpvs, even though you are right in saying Mike Pezzullo saying changes to any element of OSB would result in deterrence posture, but it still did not advise against changes to tpvs.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Labor government did take to the election what their policy was going to be on temporary protection visas, the department did advise of the role of temporary protection visas in the incoming minister’s brief, and that cannot be denied. So the advice was very clear that TPVs are important for deterrent, and that is what the single biggest issue is. Now, even if you try and package this up that only so a certain group of people will now get the right or the ability to seek permanency here in Australia, you’re still sending a very clear message that the people smugglers will pick up and they will interpret it and they will prosecute to the people that they’re trying to get on boats. The argument that Australia is open for business, that if you stay here long enough, you will get permanency here in Australia, that is what the people smugglers will say.
PETER STEFANOVIC: By sending the Navy though, but by descending defence assets in the Navy to the north of Australia, doesn’t that send a message to people’s smugglers that Australia’s in fact closed for business?
KAREN ANDREWS: It sends a message that the Labor government absolutely messed up the policy, and that now they do have to send in the defence forces to try and protect our borders because the policy that they’ve implemented has put it at risk. That’s the message that is being sent. Now, people smugglers will look at every opportunity to restart their trade. They’ve already done that. About one boat a month has already been intercepted on its way to Australia by Australian officials, effectively our border force. There have been more boats that have been stopped by the Sri Lankan Navy, potentially on their way here to Australia, in fact, most likely on their way here to Australia. So we know that there has already been an increase in boat arrivals into or towards Australia, this is very concerning. Now, we have warned about this for a very long period of time, and the Labor government just does not listen.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, but do you support those naval assets and those aerial surveillance assets being there, though in the meantime?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think it’s important that our borders are protected. Absolutely. My concern is that if the policies had remained in place of the Coalition government, then arguably this action would not have been necessary.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just a final one here, Karen, on Governor Lowe’s performance yesterday in Senate estimates, do you think he has things under control given what was said yesterday?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I listened to quite a lot of the evidence and that that was given in estimates yesterday by the governor. I think that the takeout from that, from the Australian people is that it’s not clear how many more interest rate rises there will be. We do know that that is already having an impact on cost of living. People are starting to struggle to pay their mortgages, and there’s more interest rates that are most likely to be headed our way. The governor was unable to say how many interest rate rises there would be, and that’s probably reasonable at this point in time for him to be saying that that figure is unknown. But this is a cost of living issue that once again, the Labor government has failed to deal with.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Do you think monetary and fiscal policy are working in tandem at the moment?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I think that when I talk to people on the street, their biggest concerns are firstly, the cost of electricity and the fact that those prices are going up are not down. The fact that prices when they go and do their shopping are going up. So when you look at what policies are working together, you actually have to look at the outcome. The outcome is that for the people in Australia, prices are going up.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Karen Andrews, we’ll leave it there. Thank you. We’ll talk to you soon.