Topics: Rescue of Cleo Smith; AUKUS; safe reopening of the international border.
NEIL BREEN: Every Wednesday I speak to Home Affairs Minister and the MP for McPherson on the Gold Coast Karen Andrews; she’s a cabinet minister as well. She joins me on the line. Minister, I almost can’t talk about anything else today but I know the Australian Federal Police were heavily involved – congratulations to them – and all of the federal government and the state government of West Australia, everyone who was involved. Little Cleo Smith has been found alive!
KAREN ANDREWS: Isn’t that just the most amazing news! I was just almost beside myself with excitement when I read that. I mean – for her family, for her friends, you know, in fact, for all Australia – for her to be found alive is just the best news.
NEIL BREEN: The Federal Police – I know the Prime Minister spoke about this, and I mentioned it to you last week – the Federal Police were involved in helping with the search and they were using sort of special technology and didn’t want to divulge what it was. But it’s obviously come in handy.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it certainly has – there’s a wide range of advance technologies that the AFP use. They were there to support the WA state police, and the outcome of that has been the best possible outcome – with finding little Cleo alive. So the AFP does have capabilities – and we don’t go into exactly what that capability is-
NEIL BREEN: No, we don’t want the baddies to know what they are.
KAREN ANDREWS: Exactly; but it’s very high-tech capability, and they were able to assist with the search for little Cleo. So I’m as happy as can be that we were able to provide support through the AFP and it ended up in a great result. But, of course, the great capability that the AFP has – which often goes unrecognized quite frankly – because they are very elite in terms of their capabilities; you know, they are right up there with the best in the world.
NEIL BREEN: Did it make a difference, do you think? Did it make a difference in this case?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, it did. I’m very confident of that. So, congratulations to everyone involved. It was an extraordinary effort with a great outcome.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, and that’s the way our police agencies should work – they should work with each other – so well done to all involved. Now, not well done to all involved with the brawling that’s been going on – Emmanuel Macron accusing the Prime Minister of lying and then the Prime Minister, him being able to produce some evidence or talk about some evidence that he didn’t lie to Emmanuel
Macron. I don’t know if you’ve caught up this morning with Malcolm Turnbull, the former Prime Minister for the Coalition; he is accusing Scott Morrison of basically being a serial liar. At the end of the day, we’ve got nuclear subs, ones that will be more beneficial to Australia from the AUKUS deal. It has been unedifying, though, hasn’t it, Karen Andrews?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it’s not great when you’ve got public disputes going on in the terms that we have seen. However, our Prime Minister has been very clear in rejecting the comments that have been made by the French President. We all acknowledge that this has been a particularly difficult time for France; there’s been a cancellation of a contract; it’s obviously had a significant impact on them. It’s had a significant impact – of course – on the Naval Group, with the work that they have been doing as well. But for our Prime Minister – Australia’s Prime Minister – the job is to look after our national security, and that means at times difficult decisions will need to be made. Now the Scott Morrison that I know, has always been focused on national security, and we’ve seen that for years – starting with when he took on the role as Immigration Minister several years ago. He has always been focused on border security and our national security, and if I was going to back any Prime Minister to look after Australia’s interests, I would be backing Scott Morrison.
NEIL BREEN: If that’s the Prime Minister’s job; is it a former Prime Minister from the same party’s role to continually bag the current government? As a former colleague of Malcolm Turnbull, are you disappointed in what he said?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, let me personalise this to myself, on the day that I leave politics – which, you know, hopefully will be of my own choosing – I will not be commentating. I will just move on and focus on what my life is going to be post-politics and leave the politicians there to do their work.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, you won’t be on Sky News just talking away? Like all those former pollies, looking for some relevance?
KAREN ANDREWS: No – not planning to.
NEIL BREEN: Hey, international travel opened this week throughout Sydney and Melbourne pretty much, you can fly back and go home. Everyone knows the story. Queensland, we don’t know when we’re going to come online, but that will put pressure on Border Force. The international travel thing, it’s not just as simple as going overseas and coming back – it’s all the negative tests and everything.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, it’s been quite complex. Of course with the testing arrangements and additional check-in arrangements – where you’ve got to prove that you have been fully vaccinated – it does take a bit more time; it is more complex. Border Force have been well prepared for this. I was actually at Sydney and Melbourne airports on Friday last week, just having a walk through to make sure that we were all ready to go – and we were, we were all very positive – and I think yesterday it proved that. So yes, we are absolutely ready to start welcoming people back to Australia; from here on, we just need to keep looking forward – not looking back – and just focus on what we need to. It’s been an extraordinary effort by Border Force and others at the airports, and that includes the AFP. For those people who have been separated from their families for 18, 20 months; it’s now an opportunity for them to see that they can be reunited. So let’s focus on the positives out of this and keep looking forward to Australia continuing to reopen.
NEIL BREEN: Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, thanks for your time on 4BC Breakfast.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure. Take care.