Topics: Petition for Queensland Premier not to travel to Tokyo, hotel quarantine, international arrivals, national firearms amnesty.
SPENCER HOWSON: Karen Andrews, welcome.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Spencer. How are you?
SPENCER HOWSON: Very well, thank you. I’m looking at this petition that’s calling for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to be denied an exemption to travel to Tokyo to give a final pitch for Brisbane or South East Queensland, 2032. There are- there were 55,000 signatures two hours ago. There are 58,000 signatures now. This is gaining traction. What are your thoughts about her going?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the petition is absolutely sending a strong message to Premier Palaszczuk, whether or not she chooses to listen to that is an entirely different issue. But to have 58,000-plus signatures collected in a couple of days is really sending a message about what people think. Now, the issue too is her hypocrisy, that she shuts down our borders at the drop of a hat and she doesn’t want people to be able to come into the country, into Queensland, she strongly advocated the caps on quarantine. But when she wants to go overseas, then that’s fine. And I’m sure everyone else who’s thought to travel overseas has also thought that they’ve got a compelling case as well. But it’s the absolute hypocrisy that is really getting right up the nose with Queenslanders at the moment, and I hope she understands that people don’t support her cuts to quarantine caps. They do accept that the mismanagement of hotel quarantine in Queensland falls directly with Premier Palaszczuk, and she’s got a lot to answer for at the moment, because we all know that just by cutting the number of people coming in is not going to make one iota of difference, unless there is a change to the protocols that are being used in hotel quarantine. So she needs to start justifying what she’s doing to make sure that hotel quarantine in Queensland is going to be effectively managed.
SPENCER HOWSON: Should she go to Tokyo?
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, she needs to draw her own assessment on that, but I think she needs to think very carefully about her actions, the hypocrisy of her actions, and quite frankly, to say that she won’t go if there’s a lockdown when she’s actually responsible for determining whether or not the state lockdowns, is just a nonsense.
SPENCER HOWSON: That is bizarre, isn’t it? It means ultimately, if she decides she doesn’t want to go, she just calls a lockdown. And if she does want to go, she doesn’t call a lockdown, no matter how many cases there might be that week.
KAREN ANDREWS: Absolutely. So I can pretty much assure Queenslanders that when they’ve got the Premier in charge of the lockdown, she will be looking at how it impacts her, quite clearly.
SPENCER HOWSON: There’ll be no lockdown on July 21st, which is when she needs to be in Tokyo.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, maybe that’s something that we can look forward to.
SPENCER HOWSON: She’s not the only politician heading to Tokyo, of course. Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner is going. And your colleague, the Sports Minister, Richard Colbeck, they’re also planning to go over. Do you support them going? Because I really don’t believe that the games would be in jeopardy if they didn’t go over at this stage. Sallyanne Atkinson, the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, said on the TV on Channel Nine News last night, ‘yeah, ideally the Premier should go, but if she videos it in from Brisbane, if she Zooms in, we’re not going to lose the games at this point’. So it is six people going over, so the three pollies and their aides going over, they are taking spots on flights there and back and they’ll take spots in hotel quarantine at this end, for what seems to me, an unnecessary trip.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, look, I think that what Australians and the rest of the world, quite frankly, became very good at during 2020 was how to make sure that they can still conduct their business as best as possible when there were restrictions on travel, whether that be interstate because of Premiers locking down, or whether it was the international travel, because of the availability of flights or because there were lockdowns in other countries. If there’s another way, then I think it should be looked at. The important thing, though, really is that in the case of the Queensland Premier, she was so strongly advocating to stop international arrivals here, and yet she is fine to go overseas when it suits her and even take up one of the very limited places in hotel quarantine now or give herself approval to go over cap in Queensland with her and her entourage. So, I’m not sure how she’s going to manage that, but she’s got the focus of Queenslanders on her behaviour now. They want to know what she’s doing with hotel quarantine. They want to know why they get locked down, and yet, the Premier can travel when she chooses to do so. And they want to know why they’re being forced to use Zoom when she can arrange for a personal appearance somewhere.
SPENCER HOWSON: Karen Andrews is here. She’s the Home Affairs Minister and MP for McPherson on the Gold Coast, on 4BC Breakfast. There are still more than 30,000 Australians overseas wanting to come home and we’ve talked a bit about that on the program this week, how that number just never seems to disappear which is a whole other thing. It’s been added to over the last 12 months which is kind of crazy. But are repatriation flights being considered? What sort of support is available for these 30,000 Australians who self-identify as stranded Australians overseas?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes. So what we’ve done as the Federal Government is indicate and make arrangements to increase the number of facilitated flights that will be coming into Darwin, in the Northern Territory and going to quarantine at Howard Springs. And we’ve done that for a couple of reasons. One, we recognise how important it is to make sure that we are getting stranded Aussies home as quickly and as safely as we can. But of course there’s going to be issues with flights for people trying to return because of the cuts in hotel quarantine caps. Now, a flow on effect of that is likely to be, or potentially likely, that airlines will consider whether or not it’s viable for them to be flying into Australia at the number of flights that they had been bringing in. And that would be quite devastating for us as we try to bring ourselves through this COVID pandemic. So there’s a whole range of issues in there. But, yes, in terms of the numbers of stranded Aussies, federally we are doing all that we can to bring them home. And you’re right, the number does fluctuate. Some people put themselves on the list. So I register with an embassy, for example, and then they decide that they’re not going to seek to travel home to Australia and they’ll come off the list. So there is a bit of movement there, but we are bringing people home and we will continue to do that.
SPENCER HOWSON: I think the frustration around that is with people deciding to go overseas for something, a wedding, a business meeting, whatever it might be, holiday even, then declaring themselves stranded when they have left Australia knowing full well the challenge of getting back to Australia.
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes. And look, that is a concern. And I just want to pick up that point about going overseas for a wedding. You can’t go overseas to attend a wedding. If you go overseas, there are quite strict criteria. One of those is that you have to be overseas for a minimum of three months. And that’s what some people are doing to attend various events, whether that be, potentially for work or personal. But they have to stay out of the country for three months. So that means that you can’t just decide that you’ll try and find a spare seat on an aircraft and go overseas to attend a wedding and return, or try and return straight to Australia. We don’t want that. That’s not acceptable. The Australian people don’t think that’s okay and neither does the government.
SPENCER HOWSON: Minister, one final thing I just wanted to ask you about was the national firearm amnesty. It was announced late last week. Can you just explain how that works?
KAREN ANDREWS: Basically, this will be a permanent national firearms amnesty. So it started on the first of July and it will continue. So we know that national firearms amnesties have worked in the past. And I think there was, 2017, there was a three-month amnesty period there and over 57,000 firearms were handed in across Australia. So we know that they work, but we also know that there are people out there who do have firearms and that they are not going to hand those in and they’re going to be used for illegal and very dangerous purposes, the police will still be onto them. So, what we’re saying is that if you do have an unregistered or an illegal firearm, hand it now. But the force of the law will come down on you if choose not to do that and you are found to have them.
SPENCER HOWSON: Karen Andrews, thanks for your time on the program this morning.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s a pleasure. Take care.