Topics: Murder of Sir David Amess; illicit drugs in Australia; Government assistance to critical infrastructure on cyber-attacks
NEIL BREEN: The Minister for Home Affairs and the MP for McPherson on the Gold Coast is Karen Andrews. She’s a Cabinet Minister as well. Good morning to you, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m well, thanks. I’m well. This horrific murder of British MP Sir David Amess – obviously it shocked everyone. It sent shockwaves around the world and you spoke about it in Parliament yesterday, and you met with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw. So tell us about the safety of Australian MPs.
KAREN ANDREWS: I think everyone was shocked by the murder of Sir David Amess in the UK – really only a few days ago now; towards the end of last week. It did send shockwaves; it’s been considered now to be a terrorist event by UK authorities, and it will be investigated as a terrorism event accordingly.
Here in Australia it’s a timely reminder to us about the continued threat of a terrorist attack. That remains at ‘probable’, and has been there since 2014. Of course, this was a Member of Parliament – an elected representative of the people – who has been murdered. Of course, we need to consider what those implications are for us here in Australia.
I spoke in Parliament yesterday and gave condolences to the friends and family of Sir David. But I also met yesterday with the Commissioner for the Australian Federal Police, Reece Kershaw, and talked to him about the advice that has been given to MPs and Senators over – quite frankly – a number of years, about the actions that they need to take to make sure that they remain safe. I also sought some advice about any additional actions that needed to be taken by MPs and Senators. But – I think also, to put this into context – I have spoken recently about the terrorism threat to all Australians here. We’ve had a reminder in terms of elected representatives, but the threat does remain for all Australians at this point in time.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, look, do our MPs feel under threat? Is anyone worried?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think worried may be too strong; but I think they are conscious of the increasing threat. People do – obviously – need to be able to speak to their MPs and we want that to continue. We want a high level of accessibility to politicians. There just need to be some boundaries – and sometimes those boundaries are being crossed – you know we had a recent example in the Northern Territory where the home address of the Chief Minister of the NT was publicly stated and that put him at risk.
NEIL BREEN: That’s ridiculous.
KAREN ANDREWS: You know, it is. People do know where we live, but that shouldn’t be broadcast through any channels – whether that’s on social media or the media more generally. That shouldn’t happen; because that does put people at risk; it puts families at risk – we don’t want any of that to happen. And of course we have staff working in our electorate offices; we all have obligations to the people that we work with. We need to make sure that we are supporting all of those people.
NEIL BREEN: The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has released its 18th Illicit Drug Data Report; a staggering increase across the country… You mentioned this last week – or the week before – about how many people in Australia are taking drugs. You’ve got some specific statistics on Queensland that aren’t good?
KAREN ANDREWS: I have mentioned before Neil, that Australians have a very big appetite for drugs, which is very concerning. We are a prime target for the drug cartels to be importing drugs into Australia, and whilst we can pick a lot of that up at the borders, we’re not picking up everything that’s coming through. Whilst there is such a big appetite for drugs by Australians we will continue to be a target. But in Queensland alone some of the statistics are absolutely appalling. So cannabis –in particular – accounted for the biggest proportion of illicit drug seizures in Queensland, and that was about 57 per cent. Queensland also had the greatest proportion of national amphetamine arrests – so ice and ecstasy. We had 30 per cent – or just over of 30 per cent – of cannabis arrests, and steroids we had over 50 per cent.
NEIL BREEN: That’s a lot Queensland. You know we like to punch above our weight – but not in that category.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yeah, absolutely. You know the statistics for Australia are appalling. For Queensland – when you start to break it down – to be getting 30 per cent-plus in illicit drug categories, is just unacceptable.
NEIL BREEN: Cyber-attacks and everything; there’s more legislation going before Parliament today. My understanding is it will give the government power to step in and help with possible attacks on critical infrastructure. Because some of our big businesses mightn’t be equipped to deal with it when it happens. Is that correct?
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. This is all about protecting our critical infrastructure, and that’s things like our water supplies, but also food and grocery is considered to be critical infrastructure. So we want to make sure that in the event of a cyber-attack the government – as a last resort – can step in and make sure that things such as our food supplies continue to operate. Now we don’t have the expectation that every single business out there will be able to do what is needed in the event of a cyber-attack. That’s why the government – with its significant assets and capabilities – is there to assist and to make sure we’re supporting all Australians.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Karen Andrews, thanks very much for joining us this morning on 4BC Breakfast.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure. Take care.