Subjects: AFP drug interception, the voice, Nazi symbolism
PETER STEFANOVIC: Karen Andrews. Karen, good to see you. Thanks for your time, we’ll start off with this interception in Queensland overnight. Quite good work by the AFP intercepting that so-called drug flight from PNG. These are those flights that turn off transponders folks, to try and avoid detection by the authorities. In your experience, Karen, how common are they?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, firstly, it was excellent work by the AFP on this particular issue. We do know that there is an issue, particularly in the northern parts of Australia. We know that there are a number of isolated airstrips, particularly throughout the northern parts of Australia, but anywhere really in outback Australia. So it’s very important that both the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force are appropriately resourced so that they can do the work that they need. And that is really from PNG down, so through the Torres Strait and into the northern parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and then heading on south. So there’s a lot of work to be done to finalize the mapping of the airstrips that exist out there. Much of that work has been ongoing for a number of years, but let’s make sure that Border Force and AFP continue to be properly resourced so that they can do the work that they need to do to intercept these flights.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Did you ever, ever have a rough percentage on how much of these so-called drug sneak through or avoid detection?
KAREN ANDREWS: No, I didn’t receive any information in relation to the number of flights that were actually detected coming through where there was work undergone by undertaken by the AFP. But we know that that certainly is a pathway for drugs into this country. We also know that Australians have a very large appetite for drugs, and we need to stop as much, coming into the country as we possibly can.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Another topic now, we saw Nazi salutes in Melbourne over the weekend after they hijacked a pro women’s event, you received briefings on the rise of the far right while you were in government, and a similar kind of question here. How prevalent is this movement or is it still on the fringe?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it continues to be a bit on the fringe, but the head of ASIO has certainly talked about ideologically motivated violent extremism. You can call it right wing extremism. I was very aware of it in my time as the Minister for Home Affairs, I listed The Base as a terrorist organization while I was the minister responsible. We know that there are issues there, they may well become increasingly prevalent over the coming weeks, months, and years. And it’s something that ASIO was certainly very well across.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Do you support a ban of the Nazi salute, a widespread ban?
KAREN ANDREWS: Oh, look, I think that something needs to be done. So I absolutely support the action that Peter Dutton took yesterday to introduce into the house a private members bill, he acted very quickly in response to the situation that had happened in Melbourne. So we need to get on and deal with these issues as quickly as we can. Now, primarily the states have responsibility for that, but if amendments need to be made to the criminal code, then yes, absolutely the Parliament should act.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just on that, Mark Dreyfus trying to drag Peter Dutton into it. Do you think that was fair?
KAREN ANDREWS: No, I don’t. I think it was absolutely appalling of the Attorney-General to do what he did in Parliament. And we saw yesterday that Tony Burke had to go in a mop up the mess that he had created. I think it was a shameful thing for the first law officer of this country to do.
PETER STEFANOVIC: And just a final one here, Karen. This is on the voice now. There may well be some developments in this space over the course of the day. The wording may come out that we’ll all have to vote on. Should the executive government or public service be carved out of its remit?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, let’s see what the wording actually is that is going to be put forward at this point in time. Look, a couple of things. I think it’s disappointing that it’s taken such a long time to get to where we are now – it’s important if this is going to go to a vote of the Australian people, which it appears to, that they are able to decide based on very neutral information that either supports or opposes the voice, but that the issues are outlined very clearly. It is really now something that is going to be in the hands of the Australian people. There are some safeguards that we have managed to negotiate to put in place, but I think that there is an increasing interest from Australians about what is being proposed and what it will mean now and also in the future.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Karen Andrews, appreciate your time. Thank you again. We’ll talk to you soon.