Topics: Reshuffle, Home Affairs portfolio, Member for Bowman
Laura Jayes: But first, let’s go to Karen Andrews. She is a Queenslander but she’s in Sydney this morning and she is the new Minister for Home Affairs. Congratulations to you, you happen to be in Sydney at the moment so you’ve avoided lockdown so far. But, Karen Andrews, how worried are you about this latest cluster?
Karen Andrews: Look, it’s obviously something that is of concern to us. I would encourage people to follow the health guidelines, make sure that they wear a mask where they’re required to, go back to washing their hands, sanitising and do all they can to protect themselves.
Laura Jayes: Let’s ask you about now, what was announced yesterday. A new structure in Cabinet, really; do you think this new structure, involving women, will deliver for women?
Karen Andrews: It’s definitely a very good step in the right direction. So, I’m very pleased with what the Prime Minister has announced. Effectively, what he’s done is strengthen the role of women in the Ministry, he’s also made it very clear that the focus for us will be to look at women’s economic security, women’s safety. Those are really important things for us to be doing. The fact that there are now a number of women who have specific women’s responsibilities in their portfolios is a good thing. The fact that there has been a taskforce that has been set up, chaired by the Prime Minister and Marise Payne, as the Minister for Women, involving all of the women in the Ministry, I think is also a positive step. Because what that enables us to do is talk, pretty much, with a united voice about the issues that are affecting women, issues that we’re either aware of personally or that we hear when we’re out in the community and make sure that all of Government is across those issues. So, I think it’s a very positive step. It clearly is not the only step that we will be taking. We will continue the work with various reviews that are underway and of course, we have to be very mindful that in many workplaces across Australia, a lot of actions still needs to be taken to support women.
Laura Jayes: Exactly. Well, this is not just about women in parliament, that’s a really good point that you make. This is about women right across Australia. So, whilst the architecture is there, within Cabinet, how will you deliver? How do we make sure this isn’t just window dressing? What will be your measures of a success here?
Karen Andrews: Well, it can’t be just window dressing. I mean, what we have learnt, particularly over the last six weeks, is that there is a cultural issue within Parliament House that has to be addressed. But what we’ve also heard loud and clear from women across Australia is that this is not a new issue. This is a longstanding issue about how women have been treated in the workplace. Now, in absolute fairness, there are many, many good people out there, many good men who have had their reputations tarnished through this process. But we do have to focus at this point in women in the workplace and making sure that they are not only safe, but they are afforded every opportunity to excel at the work that they’re doing. So, I, as a local representative, but also in my new role in Home Affairs, I will be making sure that I speak to women across my own agencies, but also out in the community so that I fully understand what it is that they want me to take to the Cabinet table and to take to the taskforce.
Laura Jayes: Your new portfolio brings importance and prominence; Home Affairs is a very important portfolio to any government. Is that status, in and of itself, meaningful?
Karen Andrews: Do you mean for a woman to be in that portfolio?
Laura Jayes: Exactly, yes.
Karen Andrews: Yes, I do. I think it is important and I will be the first woman to hold that portfolio. So, yes, that is important and the more women that we have in very senior roles and who are highly visible, the better it’s going to be. So, that we can be role models, that we can clearly demonstrate to other women coming through that there are opportunities for them. But I think what you’ll see around the Cabinet table is a lot of strength from those women. I mean, Home Affairs is a very large portfolio. There are a lot of significant issues. It’s so important to Australian security. I’m delighted to be there, but I will be doing all that I can to make sure not only women, but all Australians are safe.
Laura Jayes: And Karen Andrews, it is one of the toughest portfolios, and I’m not suggesting you’re not up to it, but Peter Dutton has had AFP protection for four years. Do you think you’ll have the same challenges there?
Karen Andrews: Look, I’m- I haven’t yet been sworn in. I have started to get some very, very preliminary briefings coming through, there will be more detailed briefings coming through later this afternoon and in the next couple of days. Look, obviously, I’m aware of the issues that, Peter Dutton, has faced in this this role, so I’m very much aware of that. But my focus is really going to be outward to make sure that, firstly, that we are not unwinding any of the gains that have been made since 2013 in respect of keeping our borders secure. But I’ll also be looking at issues such as counter-terrorism, cyber security. They’re all big issues for us and I will be very focussed on looking outward.
Laura Jayes: Do you think part of your remit might be looking at this cyber security issue of the online trolling and abuse that many prominent women like you have no doubt received, many prominent women all across the spectrum of many industries; is that within your remit?
Karen Andrews: I will certainly be taking an active interest and engaging as much as I possibly can on that issue. Look, social media has significant challenges. One of those issues is the level of anonymity for people in those various platforms. So that they can go online, and often it comes through later in the evening, but they can go online, they can make any comments that they want, but to be quite honest, if they were said in any other forum, would be just plain defamatory and action could and most likely would be taken. But we need to make it very clear that people can’t hide or should not be allowed to hide on these social media platforms. So absolutely, I will be taking a very close look at that.
Laura Jayes: And that is a very good sign indeed. The anonymity is one of the biggest problems there. Now, just before we let you go, on all available evidence, your Queensland colleague Andrew Laming should be kicked out of the party. Why isn’t he?
Karen Andrews: So Andrew Laming, and I make absolutely no excuses and I’m not going to defend his actions, but he is the elected member for Bowman, so he will hold that seat until the next election. He’s made it clear that he’s not going to stand. He won’t be preselected as the LNP candidate. He said he also won’t seek to stand as an independent effectively. I think that’s good. He’s going to undertake counselling, as he should. I will be looking at what his behaviours are when he comes back after that counselling. And I will be looking for some very strong signs that he understands the enormity of the actions that he has taken, the impact of that on other people, and that he is prepared and is implementing changes to those behaviours.
Laura Jayes: I’ve got to say, those signs aren’t there yet, Karen Andrews. If that doesn’t change, what then?
Karen Andrews: Well, I would have to agree with you, Laura, that there haven’t been sufficient signs to make me comfortable. But I do think he needs to have the opportunity to go off and get the counselling that he has said that he will undertake at his own cost. And let’s see what the behaviours are like when he gets back. But he has said that he will own his mistakes. I’m really hoping that he does own those mistakes and he recognises the impact that they have had on others.
Laura Jayes: We live in hope, Karen Andrews. Thanks so much for your time this morning. Congratulations on the new role. And look, I appreciate your time, particularly given you haven’t even had any briefings and you haven’t been sworn in yet. So we’ll be speaking in the weeks, days, months ahead, I’m sure.
Karen Andrews: Excellent. Yeah, good to talk to you, Laura.