Topics: Visa cancellation, arrival of one million Pfizer doses, vaccine rollout, Queensland Premier travel to Tokyo
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews joins us now from Canberra. Minister, very good morning to you.
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: I want to get on to the vaccine rollout in just a moment, but first to this breaking news, overnight the Federal Government has cancelled the visa of far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins. We all saw her boasting over the weekend of flouting quarantine rules, potentially putting health workers and police at risk. What did you make of the antics?
KAREN ANDREWS: I thought that it was just shameful. The fact that she was out there boasting about breaching quarantine was just appalling. It was a slap in the face for all those Australians who are currently in lockdown, and it’s just unacceptable behaviour. So personally, I’m very pleased she’ll be leaving.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: How quickly will she be put on a plane?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the ABF – the Australian Border Force – acted very quickly to make sure that the visa on which she entered was cancelled, so there was obviously a bit of a process that we needed to follow with that. We will be getting her out of the country as soon as we can possibly arrange that. So I’m hopeful that it will happen imminently.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Isn’t there a character test for visas to get into the country? This is a woman who has called migrants ‘cockroaches’; has called for a ‘Final Solution’; has described Islam as ‘repugnant’. How on Earth, Minister, was she let into the country? Given a visa by the Federal Government in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, she actually came into the country with support of a State Government. This does happen from time to time and actually it happens reasonably regularly, that State Governments approach the Federal Government on the basis that there is an economic benefit to some people coming in over the quarantine caps, and the quarantine caps then are a matter for the States to handle. So she came in here on the basis of potential benefit to the economy. But what I would say to that is…
MICHAEL ROWLAND: But the Government had to sign off on the visa though. And how on Earth was she deemed a person of good character?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, she’s clearly not someone that we want to keep in this country for a second longer than we have to.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: But the question is why was the initial decision made to let her in in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, there are very well established processes and procedures for people to enter this country. And many decisions are made on the basis of economic benefit. Now, for all those Australians out there that are watching this – I’m with you. It’s appalling that this individual behaved the way that she did, and she will be leaving, without a doubt.
I will continue to work with State and Territory Governments. We do need people to be able to come into this country where there is an economic benefit for them to do so. And people will be supported to come into the country where States are sponsoring them, effectively, on the basis of economic benefit.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Let’s turn to the Pfizer arrivals. A lot of viewers will be very happy to see those crates of the vaccine arriving at the airports overnight. How big, dare I say, is this a shot in the arm for the Federal Government? You’ve had lots of troubles with the vaccine rollout.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, it’s a shot in the arm for Australians coming in overnight, so almost a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine came in. And, of course, we are producing, manufacturing here in Australia, the AstraZeneca vaccine. So this is a very, very positive sign, actual evidence that people can see of the vaccination ramp up happening here in Australia. So, close to a million doses overnight. We will be looking to bring in about a million doses per week of the Pfizer vaccine. And how that translates in numbers; it was planned that there would be about 2.8 million doses administered in August, that will ramp up to about 4.5 million. So it is a significant step up. But congratulations also to the Australian people who have rolled up their sleeves, because their numbers are increasing also.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: At the same time, Newspoll this morning, Minister, has only 40 per cent of Australians satisfied with the Federal Government’s handling of the vaccine rollout.
That is down a massive 13 percentage points in just three months. You’ve got a ways to go, haven’t you, to really instil public confidence in what you’re doing?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, what we have to do as a Government is make sure that people understand that there are vaccines arriving into this country. The Pfizer vaccine, a million doses – almost – arriving overnight. That will continue. We do have the AstraZeneca vaccine being produced here. I want people to have confidence that they will be able to get their vaccine, encourage them to go online and to register to get their vaccines. I want people to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We all understand that we’ve all been doing our best to get as many vaccines as we can either produced or imported into the country.
But that is happening now. So there is that light at the end of the tunnel.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: I want to finish with arrivals and departures again. The Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is on her way to Tokyo to bid for the 2032 Games. As a Minister, and I guess as a Queenslander too, in your view, should she have gone?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Games are very important, and the economic benefit to Queensland, particularly South East Queensland, but all of Australia, is considered to be significant. There was a lot of concern about the hypocrisy of the Queensland Premier while she was on one hand arguing that hotel quarantine caps should be reduced, that she is taking herself off overseas and will be bringing herself back in over the quarantine caps and going into hotel quarantine. That’s a matter now for her to respond to. But many Australians are unimpressed with the hypocrisy.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Karen Andrews in Canberra, we’ll leave it there. Thanks for joining us.
KAREN ANDREWS: Thank you.