Topics: COVID-19 situation in India, pause on flights from India, Defence spending, quarantine facilities
NEIL BREEN: Now to India, it’s hell over there. COVID cases are soaring, bodies are piling up; it’s horrendous stuff. Official records are basically saying over 300,000 new cases a day and 3000 deaths a day. But they’re just the official records. There’s 1.3 billion people there. They really don’t have a proper handle on the real numbers. But there was the meeting of National Security Committee yesterday. The Prime Minister shut the border to flights between India and Australia until May 15, we’re sending 500 ventilators, a million masks, 100,000 high filtering masks, stacks of PPE gear, 100,000 goggles and gloves, 20,000 face shields, 100 oxygen concentrators. So we’re doing what we can to help them. And I’ve got on the line Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Good morning to you Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m very, very well, thanks. May 15, people thought that was a bit short. In likelihood, it’ll be shut for longer than that.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, what we committed to yesterday is that the borders would be closed, so flights would be paused to and from India until the 15th of May. And at that time, we would review the situation. We’ll obviously take on all of the advice from our health professionals, we’ll be considering the circumstances in India at that time. So yes, there’s a possibility that may be extended. I mean, of course everyone hopes that the situation in India improves dramatically, but the action that the Government has taken to keep Australians safe has been appropriate. And the second part of the decision that came out of the National Security Committee was that we would provide humanitarian aid to India. So we will be providing ventilators, gloves, masks, face shields, and we’ll be doing all that we can to support India as it goes through this terrible time.
NEIL BREEN: I was really surprised yesterday when I was watching that press conference, Minister Karen Andrews, when Marise Payne was talking – your fellow minister – and she talked about how generous India had been and how many COVID vaccines they produced and sent to all sorts of parts of the Pacific and to smaller nations and to help out. And I think that’s something that Australians wouldn’t understand, is that India has been generous in its own way towards COVID-19.
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. India is a very good friend of Australia and the Pacific, and they have done a lot of work to support other nations during COVID. And that’s why Australia is so committed to making sure that we support India in their time of need.
NEIL BREEN: Karen Andrews, today the Prime Minister is in the Northern Territory, and I’ve been reading the reports in the newspapers, particularly The Australian this morning, about this massive spend, three quarters of a billion dollars to upgrade our training facilities for the military in the Northern Territory. We want to do war games with our counterparts from the United States. It’s all about the Indo-Pacific and there’s troubles in the region and there’s warnings about warfare with China. This is pretty serious stuff.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well we’re obviously very conscious of what happens in our region. That’s the Government’s responsibility, to make sure that we are aware of various actions that are taking place and potential impacts on Australia. But just to put this into perspective, I mean, we have always committed to defence spending. Over the next 10 years, we will be spending that $270 billion to make sure that we have the capability that we need. And, of course, the announcement that the Prime Minister will be making in Darwin today, the details which have generally been released, is just one part of making sure that our Defence Forces are ready, that they are alert. We are all alert, but we are not alarmed.
NEIL BREEN: Yes. So he’s going to be visiting the Howard Springs camp in the Northern Territory as well, which raises the issue – the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is pretty hot on this and I know the West Australian Premier is as well – but just these quarantine facilities outside the major cities and away from the CBD hotels, and obviously Howard Springs is one facility that they can use in the Northern Territory. Why isn’t the government keen on developing, say a Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba as a quarantine facility?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, as far as I’m aware, the Palaszczuk Government has not put a firm proposal to anyone in particular about how any facility would be established in Queensland. They have certainly talked about it for quite some time, but I haven’t seen any of the detail. Now, what we do know is that we do need to have these facilities as close as possible as we can to a major city because we need to have all of the health resources available in the event that there is any sort of an outbreak.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, that’s fair enough too. I think the situation with the Queensland Government is that they do talk about these things, same as with the Olympics, that they talked about The Gabba but they never sent the Federal Government a proposal. Karen Andrews, the Minister for Home Affairs, thanks so much for your time today on 4BC Breakfast.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure. Take care.