Topics: Condemnation of all forms of violent extremism; Morrison Government’s strong action to protect Australian’s from foreign inference; Queensland Government’s border restrictions.
LAURA JAYES: Joining me live now is the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews. Thanks so much for your time. How concerning is this development out of Victoria this morning?
KAREN ANDREWS: Good morning Laura. Look, the events that have happened – particularly over the last week – that have led to this arrest being made are certainly very concerning. Federally, we take these matters seriously – the Australian Federal Police always works very closely with its state counterparts. But, yes, the incident that has taken place that has led to this arrest is concerning. We don’t support and we absolutely condemn any form of extremism; it’s not acceptable; it’s not the Australian way.
LAURA JAYES: Was it a credible threat against the Premier?
KAREN ANDREWS: All threats are taken seriously and they are properly assessed by the police and in some cases by ASIO and other intelligence authorities as well. So, yes, I think we need to be taking all of these threats very seriously and being very much aware that there are people out there that want to do Australians harm. They do exist, sadly. Our police forces and intelligence agencies are very good. They can closely monitor a number of individuals and their behaviours, but clearly they can’t be everywhere and they can’t be across all of the details – particularly where we have lone actors. We know that the greatest threat here in Australia is from lone actors who choose to conduct a terrorist attack, particularly those that are unknown and have got no connection to police at all. But particularly in relation to extremism, it is very concerning that these people are here in Australia and they are doing all that they can to incite violence. It – again – is not the Australian way, and it’s very threatening to our way of life.
LAURA JAYES: We’ve been warned from ASIO about the rise of right-wing extremism. Should we be worried about these protestors? Are these people on the street and the steps of Parliament House this morning that are already before authorities or known to authorities? Or should we be worried about the quiet ones?
KAREN ANDREWS: We should be very conscious of the activity that is taking place in Australia at the moment without a doubt. We are part of a democracy – we are clearly able to protest; we are able to put our views – but that should always be done peacefully. What we do have to be aware of now, is that large gatherings of crowds are exactly what terrorists look for; it’s exactly what lone actors look for. So every time there is a gathering where there are large groups of people coming together the risk of some terrorist activity does escalate. So, yes, we should all be mindful when we attend these events that they can get out of hand very quickly, and there could be individual lone actors who are there who are prepared to do serious harm.
LAURA JAYES: Let’s look at foreign interference laws now. They’re constantly being strengthened. We saw another round of that really this week. Is there more to come?
KAREN ANDREWS: We will always be looking at what we need to do to keep Australians safe. I think – quite frankly – that is one of the hallmarks of the Morrison Government – everything we have done has been done with Australians’ safety and security front of mind. So when we look at foreign interference, we’re looking at what is happening elsewhere in the world, but we’re particularly focused on making sure that we are keeping Australians safe and secure. Now the work that has just been done in relation to universities is because we know that many nations are actively looking at the research that is being undertaken here in Australia. Whilst researchers are very focused on the work they are doing, there are many other people who are looking actively at how that work is progressing; how they could use it potentially for profit or for gain; or to cause widespread disruption. So we want the universities to work with us and the vice-chancellors – in particular – are very aware of the risks of foreign interference with their researchers; but we also want researchers to be aware of where they are now currently working, and the fact that there will be people who are very conscious of what they are doing and want to seek more information, potentially to damage Australia.
LAURA JAYES: Are you pricing in further retaliation from China?
KAREN ANDREWS: We’ve always looked very closely at what the potential threats might be and what the reactions may well be to the actions we take in Australia. But I go back to what I said previously – the Morrison Government has always been absolutely focused on keeping Australians safe and secure, and we will continue to do that. That means that at times we will need to take action to protect Australians – but we make no apology for that; we will always continue to do that. So, yes, every action almost always has an equal and opposite reaction to it. So we’re aware that there may well be some actions taken against any steps that Australia takes to protect itself, but we will always continue to protect Australia and Australians.
LAURA JAYES: Just finally, Minister, can I ask you about Queensland? Queensland continues to lock even some of its own people out of the state. We don’t yet know about what the border being open will look like. It seems like a complete mess from where we sit, and then unilaterally all these applications were just mass deleted two days ago.
KAREN ANDREWS: The border reopening in Queensland is an absolute mess. There’s no certainty for Queenslanders. Queenslanders have been locked out of the state for quite some time now. I mean, they’ve been camping over the border at Tweed Heads – it’s an absolute disgrace. Now to get back into Queensland it’s still difficult; it’s not easy; it really is Fortress Queensland. That’s just unacceptable, and really there are a lot of questions for the state government here in Queensland. At a time when we need to reunite with our families – to bring people into Queensland – to support our economic growth; here we have a state government that is making it increasingly more difficult for Queenslanders and visitors to come into this state. Now in Australia, we are at 80 per cent-plus double vaccination. Australia should be opening – we’re opening international borders – and yet here in Queensland it is barrier after barrier after barrier to reopening.
LAURA JAYES: Yeah, it certainly seems and feels like it for many Queenslanders. Thanks so much for your time, Minister.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s shameful. It is just shameful.
LAURA JAYES: Yeah. Many share that sentiment. Indeed, we’ll keep pushing on that one.
KAREN ANDREWS: Pleasure, thank you.