TRANSCRIPT INTERVIEW – ABC GOLD COAST – MORNINGS WITH MATT WEBBER
Topics: Economic support for Queensland and the Gold Coast, Parliament
MATT WEBBER: Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews. Minister, good morning to you.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning, Matt.
MATT WEBBER: I read late last week of Mayor Tom Tate’s unanswered plea for additional help for members of his community – your community Minister – arguing we’re kind of an ‘economic micro-climate’ that requires its own specific relief valve. And I listened with interest to Patricia O’Callaghan – of course she’s the CEO of Destination Queensland – she was speaking over the weekend and said this:
PATRICIA O’CALLAGHAN: So as much as we’re going to make the most of this announcement – and we know locals will be coming out in droves to support local businesses – I think what’s even more critical is that we work with the State and Federal Government to get packages to these businesses at this critical time. We’re hearing from now until Christmas is looking like a very rough road, so that’s where cash support – as well as wage subsidies – to these businesses, to get them through until Christmas until vaccinations roll out, is what has to be the focus right now.
[End of excerpt]
MATT WEBBER: What do you say to that Minister?
KAREN ANDREWS: There’s a couple of things that I’d like to say. I’d actually like to pick up the point about Tom Tate first, because Tom Tate’s letter was sent through to me by email at 10:13am on Friday. So the article in The Bulletin went online only a couple of hours after that. So it’s very disingenuous to say that Tom Tate’s letter was ignored – or was not answered – because there was no time to do that and it assumes that Angie Bell, Stuart Robert, and myself were not interested in the Gold Coast – and nothing is further from the truth. We have been working very hard to do all that we can for the Gold Coast, as part of support to, not only Queensland, but also broader Australia.
Now, to pick up the point specifically about the Gold Coast. We are very much a tourist destination. So yes, when we can’t get our tourists in it has a significant impact on our community. Federally, we are providing support and we’ve actually delivered close to $30 billion in direct economic support to Queenslanders since the start of COVID, so that is a significant amount of money. With the current lockdown, payments will have started being made over the weekend to eligible people and that provides up to $750 for them. We understand that individuals are hurting; we understand that businesses are hurting – not just on the Gold Coast but in many places around Australia. What we did argue for as local Members was for the TANS program, which is discounted flights that were supported by the Federal Government and the Gold Coast was listed as one of those destinations. There were about 800,000 tickets that were part of that program and there was a 50 per cent subsidy for those. Now we’ve actually gone back and spoken to Dan Tehan as the Tourism Minister, and those flights have now been extended out to the end of November. So that does support the Gold Coast above some other tourist destinations.
MATT WEBBER: Well and good, but who is really going to fly to the Gold Coast at the moment when the best of 60 per cent of Australians are in lockdown? Our two biggest centres, Melbourne and Sydney, they aren’t budging and they aren’t allowed in. So it’s not really all that helpful is it?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well that’s why we got it extended until 30 November.
MATT WEBBER: That pre-empts an opening up that seems so far away on the horizon as to render it null and void.
KAREN ANDREWS: Hopefully Victoria will open up very soon, and then the same applies for Sydney. The Sydney situation is dire and you’re right, we rely on many tourists coming in from Sydney so the sooner that Sydney is opened up and people are able to travel, the better for the Gold Coast. But at least we’ve been able to manage to push back the end date of that program so that people can use those flights until the end of November. I’ve long said that what the Gold Coast needs to do, is broaden its economic base so that we aren’t so dependent on tourism. We are a very strong construction city, and housing is booming on the Gold Coast at the moment. That is a good thing for us but we do have other parts of our economy that we really need to start focusing on – manufacturing for example. Education normally does well – it has been hit by international students. But there are other things that we should be looking at to diversify our economy. I mean, we can’t be a city that has only got one or two significant economic strings to our bow.
MATT WEBBER: Minister, they’re significant issues of economic restructuring – that is not going to happen in the next six months.
KAREN ANDREWS: That’s true, it’s not going to happen in the next six months and that’s why – Federally – we’ve provided $30 billion across Queensland, or near enough to $30 billion. That’s why we’ve stepped in quickly with the additional economic support in the case of lockdown. That money would be starting to flow over the weekend; so $750 maximum being provided to individuals that have been affected. So there is economic support coming in to the Gold Coast.
MATT WEBBER: That’s on the tail end of – well, not on the tail end – lockdowns down south are still underway – we’re opening up, of course this week, but for who knows how long. And there’s a consensus across the board at the moment that short, sharp lockdowns are likely to be the new norm until we get those vaccinations figures up to the 70-80 per cent required. Do we need some kind of instant economic relief response – and I’m talking about a social welfare response; a business welfare response, when a lockdown is called? Is that feasible? Is that possible? And what might it look like?
KAREN ANDREWS: Up to $750 that we’re providing to individuals is almost instantaneous, because it’s effectively available after a week. So seven-day lockdown – at the end of that seven days, that money flows. Many people do get paid on a weekly basis, some get paid monthly. But for those people paid on a weekly basis, that money is available to them at the end of a seven-day period.
MATT WEBBER: You were very outspoken on gender related issues and issues of imbalance and other things in the wake of the Brittany Higgins allegations, and other separate incidents happening behind the walls of Parliament. You’re a senior a female frontbencher that has worked very hard to be where you are. Would you have placed Christian Porter as Leader of the House last week if it was your decision?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I wasn’t involved in the decision as to who should be Acting Leader of the House, nor was I involved in who should have been permanently appointed previously. My understanding is that it has always been the protocol that the Leader of the House is from the Liberal Party when the Coalition is in Government, so that meant that the Deputy Leader of the House – who was from the National Party – would not step into that position. And again, my understanding is that this is only temporary; it’s a two-week period of time. The view was that the person who had the skill set to be able to manage the House during those two weeks until Peter Dutton is able to return should be appointed into that position, and hence Christian Porter was put into that role.
MATT WEBBER: Not entirely an answer to the question I asked you, though. I asked you; ‘would you – given all that you’ve said and all that you’ve stood for on associated matters – would you have put Christian Porter in that kind of position?’ And I’ll play for you what Grace Tame said about this.
GRACE TAME: He’s an accused rapist, and he’s been put in a position of power. And this role, in particular, is embedded with the power to stop debate, the power to enforce silence, the power to suppress the truth – which is chillingly ironic, I think.
[End of excerpt]
MATT WEBBER: Grace Tame – Australian of the Year – late last week. So I ask you again; would you – if the decision was in your hands – have made that appointment?
KAREN ANDREWS: I clearly can’t answer that question directly because I wasn’t involved in the decision, and I don’t have the authority to ever make that position from my role as Home Affairs Minister. What I will say though is – and I’m not running a defence here, this is just a statement of fact – it is only an allegation against that individual. It hasn’t been proven. And it’s very difficult for many people who have been accused of things that they state very publicly they haven’t done, to go through a very public process. Now having said that, Peter Dutton, I can assure you, remains very hands-on from his quarantine in Queensland. So whilst Christian Porter may be the one standing up in the House, it is really Peter Dutton who remains running the role of Leader of the House and I’m happy with that.
MATT WEBBER: I know we’ve got to leave it there, because time is going to beat us. Appreciate your time Minister Andrews, thank you.