TRANSCRIPT INTERVIEW – 4BC – BREAKFAST WITH NEIL BREEN
Topics: Sydney lockdown, economic support for the Gold Coast, climate change, Queensland State Government polling
NEIL BREEN: On Wednesdays I speak to the Home Affairs Minister, Cabinet Minister, MP for McPherson on the Gold Coast, Karen Andrews. She joins me on the line now. Good morning to you, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Neil. How are you?
NEIL BREEN: I’m very well thanks. Earlier in the show I read out a piece by a western Sydney doctor – a respiratory doctor – and it explained the dynamics of what’s going on in west and south western Sydney; and why they can’t get out of lockdown; and the migrant families; and the language barriers; and the desperation for work. It’s a very different story to southeast Queensland isn’t it?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it certainly is and I think, you know, our hearts really do go out to the people of western Sydney and south western Sydney.
NEIL BREEN: We have to help them. It’s not racist to say that these people can’t speak English and a lot of these families, you know, they have to go to work and everything. If you say something, people say ‘you’re racist’. It’s not being racist – we’re trying to help these people.
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. Look, I agree with you there. We do need to support fellow Australians, people who are living here that really need our assistance. So yes, I agree with you and I don’t think we should hold back in our support for these people. We’re doing a lot federally to support them with various programs and I think all Australians want to see Sydney – south western Sydney, western Sydney – come out of this pandemic as soon as possible.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, we need it. We all need it, because the prosperity of Queensland relies on the prosperity of Sydney and vice versa. We’re all in this together. Tom Tate, he’s been blowing up on the Gold Coast – the Mayor – about lockdown and everything. It’s been hard on Gold Coast businesses, we understand that. Obviously, you’re the member for McPherson, what’s it like on the ground down there?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, it’s very difficult on the Gold Coast – we are a tourist destination. So things such as the airport are getting smashed at the moment, they’re probably around about two per cent of the travellers coming through to what they have been used to. It’s a significant downturn. Accommodation providers are getting hit, and then every business that spins off tourism is getting hit as well.
NEIL BREEN: Which is everybody.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pretty much on the Gold Coast – everyone’s affected. So it is really tough, but there is support that’s been going in there. I think I’ve indicated previously that close to $30 billion in direct support has gone in to Queensland from the Federal Government. Our COVID Disaster Payments are available for people on the Gold Coast. We’ve extended the time that you can use your discounted airfares – and the Gold Coast is one of the destinations that you can fly into extended that through to November, so people have an opportunity to use those fares and still come and visit the Gold Coast. But, whilst Sydney is in lockdown, Melbourne is in lockdown, and people are reluctant to travel – which is the second part of it – it’s very tough for all tourist destinations.
NEIL BREEN: Yeah, so yesterday we saw Extinction Rebellion. They were playing up in and around Parliament House, they went to the Lodge, eight people were arrested. It was all a response to these climate change findings released by the IPCC. And we know that they’re saying that the temperature in Australia will rise by 1.4 per cent – compared to 1850 to 1890 – by 2060. I know that’s a mouthful, but basically 1.4 degrees in 200 years. It’s a tough issue for the Government – climate change – isn’t it? All Governments have grappled with it.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a tough issue for everyone, and I think everyone wants to do their bit to look after our environment very broadly. In relation to the changes in the climate that we have experienced, and probably will continue to experience, I think what we’ve got to do is just be mindful of the work that needs to be done. Now, Angus Taylor is doing great work when he’s looking at various other technologies – how else can we start to generate electricity? – and there are other options. We need to look at how we can make them commercial, so it’s not a skyrocketing cost – particularly for our pensioners, et cetera. But it is a difficult issue for all governments, and quite frankly all businesses and individuals. Australia does a fair bit of heavy lifting, I’ve got to say. We have beaten our Kyoto targets and we’re well on track to make sure that we meet our Paris targets; so we are doing what we said we would do.
NEIL BREEN: Climate change – it must be so annoying to be a politician dealing with climate change because everyone will turn to the Government and go ‘you fix it’. It’s a bit like COVID-19 – everyone turns to the Government to say ‘you fix it’. At some stage self-responsibility has to come into it, because a pandemic’s turned up; you’re a human being; you live on the planet. You know, if you want to live, get yourself vaccinated. But with climate change, everyone wants more. I want a bigger TV; I want a massive double door fridge; all my kids need a phone; we want an iPad; we’re going to learn from home, we’re going to do Zoom calls; we’re stuffing our houses full of stuff and then turn around and say the Government’s got to fix it.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yeah, absolutely. Look, it does come back to a fair bit of personal responsibility. And I mean, I can add one to your list, which is disposable fashion. You know, kids going out there – well not just kids – everyone going out there and buying way more than they need which generates quite a lot of waste. So there’s a whole range of things that we need to be looking at. But personal responsibility is a key part of it. Now, many people have looked at what they can do with recycling – and that’s great, you know, let’s do that and let’s do more where we can – but you’re right, everyone’s got multiple electronic devices now. We do use a lot of energy in our homes. Some of us do have solar cells on our roof, that’s great but we have to work our way through to how we’re going to deal with these things over the longer term, and personal responsibility and our ability to manage our own circumstances in terms of the power that we’re using is pretty critical.
NEIL BREEN: Exactly. Annastacia Palaszczuk; her Government’s done a lot of polling – secret polling –and it’s all about these decisions around COVID. But she always says she only relies on Jeannette Young’s advice. What did you make of those stories, Karen Andrews?
KAREN ANDREWS: I think Annastasia Palaszczuk has got a lot of questions to answer over this particular issue. I’m aware of the reporting that it’s over $500,000 of taxpayer money that’s been spent on this. And look – all governments do polling to find out how to manage a range of issues – but there seems to be a lot of questions over how this polling was done; the fact that it was done in marginal seats; and the suggestion that it has been used for political purposes. This is one that, really, the Premier needs to come out and deal with very directly – not try and avoid the question. Really she needs to turn up and answer.
NEIL BREEN: Well yesterday, she was asked the questions and she’d get snippy about it. And then – well, what happens in Queensland when you’re a member of the media and you ask questions of the Government – you’re treated like the enemy and that is not a Western democracy. A Western democracy involves people in power being asked questions. You mightn’t like it, but you don’t have to do the job, Karen Andrews. Like I can ask you questions about how’re you going to fix climate change? You mightn’t like it, but at the end of the day, you’re a Cabinet member.
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. So, you know, you do need to turn up and face the tough questions and answer it the best possible way that you can. I mean, running and hiding and coming up with a range of excuses is not the sign of a good leader.
NEIL BREEN: Karen Andrews, thanks so much for joining us on 4BC Breakfast. We’ll talk to you next week.