Topics: Finalisation of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement with PNG; cyber security; foreign interference.
NEIL BREEN: Karen Andrews, every Wednesday I speak to her. She’s the Home Affairs Minister, the MP for McPherson. She’s in Federal Cabinet. She joins me on the line. Good morning to you, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m well, thanks. A big announcement from you today – it’s right across the top of page one of The Australian newspaper. Our Government and the Papua New Guinean Government have agreed to end regional processing by the end of this year. That’s in Papua New Guinea. So, what are we doing? Are we cranking up Nauru to be bigger?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, what we’ve actually done is we’ve signed an enduring capability agreement with Nauru – we’ve got that in place. Nauru will continue, but it is time for us to close down our support into PNG, and for PNG to be taking over managing those operations. PNG has been a fantastic partner for us, but what we are doing is making it very, very clear that we will not be operating that facility in PNG. There are opportunities for people who are there to resettle permanently in PNG. For those people who don’t want to do that, they have the opportunity to move to Nauru and remain there. We – of course – will continue to work with the United States. There are currently about 250 places still available that we can actually look at people being resettled there who are currently in PNG or on Nauru. This is signalling very clearly the end of regional processing in PNG; but it’s also a very strong message that we’re sending to people smugglers that there is zero chance – people who attempt to come here illegally will never, ever, ever settle here.
NEIL BREEN: Is PNG happy about it? Do they feel like we’re abandoning them or do they want to go it alone?
KAREN ANDREWS: PNG have been terrific to work with quite frankly – I’ve been working with them for the last couple of months on what the options would be. Yes, they are very happy to see the end of regional processing arrangements in PNG and they are very comfortable with those people who are keen to resettle there to remain. PNG will support them and they’re also looking at family reunification – for those people who are in PNG and wish to stay there, the PNG Government will look at what they can do to support their family members coming into PNG. It is a very good opportunity for people who have been displaced and are in PNG to be able to remain there; join the community; this is a very long-term durable option for them – and, yes, PNG is very comfortable with the arrangement.
NEIL BREEN: One thing I can never get my head around, with all the problems that the United States has with immigration, why would they take 250 people you don’t want?
KAREN ANDREWS: This arrangement goes back now probably a couple of years. The agreement was that the United States would take 1,250 people, so we have-
NEIL BREEN: But why?
KAREN ANDREWS: Because that was the arrangement we entered into.
NEIL BREEN: I know it’s an arrangement but why? I just can’t get my head around the fact… if there’s huge problems with the Mexican border, does the Australian Government do a deal with the United States and say, “Yeah, send them over”?
KAREN ANDREWS: We’re not planning to do that at all.
NEIL BREEN: But why did they do it? I don’t understand it. There had to have been some deal done. I don’t get it.
KAREN ANDREWS: To my knowledge there wasn’t a deal that was done – but there were extensive negotiations, and what the United States agreed to do was that they would take 1,250. It was negotiated with former President Barack Obama, and we know that President Trump was reluctant to continue with that arrangement but it did continue and it’s now in its final stages. Another 250 places are there; there are a number of people who have expressed interest. We are working through that process with the United States. This is a long-term durable solution for those people who will never have the opportunity to settle here in Australia. So it’s a good option for them.
NEIL BREEN: I know it’s not a good option if I’m an American. I just cannot imagine any Americans going, “Oh, yeah, the Aussies don’t want anyone going there as asylum seekers so just send them here.”
KAREN ANDREWS: I understand the United States at the moment – and really for the last few months in particular – they’ve had longer-term issues with their own borders as well, but the Coalition Government has been very strong on our policies here. There have been no changes to that. We certainly don’t want to see a repeat of what happened when Labor was last in Government where over a five-year period, from 2008 to 2013, more than 50,000 people arrived in Australia illegally on more than 820 boats. The thing that Australia should never ever forget is that at least 1,200 people died attempting to get here. We don’t know how many people there actually were that drowned at sea. We know from the manifests that there were 1,200 who died at sea trying to get here. I cannot stress enough for the people smugglers – and those people who are likely to be employed by people smugglers – there is no opportunity for you to come here to Australia and settle. You will either be turned back or you will be sent to Nauru.
NEIL BREEN: There’s more data out today on the threat cybercrime’s posing to Australians. We’re affected a lot here in Queensland – retail and financial services are the hardest hit. What have people got to watch out for?
KAREN ANDREWS: Certainly there’s a lot of scams out there and there’s a lot of messages that people get – either by text or by email – and what we say to people is: don’t click on those links; don’t open them; don’t give out your personal information. I think the best example we have of how people should not disclose personal information by email or by text is if someone turned up at your door and started asking you a whole range of personal questions; wanted your bank account details; you would not give it to them. So just because you receive a text message or an email, do not give out that information. It was probably not legitimate. In fact, banks have been very clear that they never ask for that information by those means. That’s the first step in protecting yourself; just don’t click on any of the links. If you think something is suspicious, treat it as if it is and don’t respond.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, exactly right. Look, absolutely. There is just no need whatsoever, and you can tell it’s a scam. I talked to Olivia Maragna, our finance guru, on the show about it and, Karen Andrews: I’m a 53-year-old bloke from Brisbane. Glamorous-looking Russian ladies who are 20 or Chinese ladies who are 20 who find me on Twitter and go, “Hi”, right, look, I’ve got a tip for you: It’s a scam. If anyone thinks that’s not a scam, then you’re the dumbest person on the planet. People fall for it and they get in a conversation, they think they’re talking to someone but they’re not talking to anybody!
KAREN ANDREWS: No.
NEIL BREEN: It’s crazy. Hey, China. So obviously the issues with the relationship, but university campuses like the University of Queensland, there’s been some issues around with China’s influence there. Are we worried about that?
KAREN ANDREWS: We’re concerned about any potential interference whether it’s happening in our political system; whether it’s happening in our universities; whether it’s happening at our research organisations. Again, it’s one of the things that we ask people to be really conscious of. Things are not always as they seem. We are particularly good at science and research here in this country and we are very attractive to many overseas nations to gather information. We are very concerned about foreign interference in what we’re doing here, but also the information that we are gathering from our research organisations being used – and in some instances used very inappropriately – by other nations. So again, we need to be conscious that not everyone out there is as they choose to portray themselves, and we need to be very cautious in our interactions.
NEIL BREEN: Exactly. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, thanks so much for joining us, on 4BC this morning. Have a great day on the Gold Coast this morning, yes?
KAREN ANDREWS: You, you have a good day too – and to all your listeners.