Topics: Visa cancellation, Queensland Premier travel to Tokyo, vaccine rollout.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Let’s go live now to Canberra where we’re joined by the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews. Minister, good morning. What is the current travel status of Katie Hopkins?
KAREN ANDREWS: Hopefully on her way out of the country as the day rolls on. At this point in time her visa, the visa she travelled to this country on, has been cancelled. We’re looking to get her on the first available flight out of Australia, and quite frankly, good riddance.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So that is expected to happen today? Is that your expectation?
KAREN ANDREWS: That’s what we’re working towards. So I know that ABF – the Australian Border Force – is working as quickly as it can, to look at what the flight availabilities are and they’ll be working with her directly to get her on an aircraft.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Why was she given a visa in the first place?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, she was supported by a State Government to come into the country, and the application was based on the fact that there would be an economic benefit because of the opportunity that she and others would have here in Australia. So we, as a Federal Government, do support State and Territory Governments when they wish to bring people in here, particularly if they’re doing it over the quarantine caps. There are some pretty well established procedures in place as to how these people can potentially access the exemption to come into Australia, and it was granted on that basis. Now, as soon as we found out about her behaviour and the fact that she was out there openly flaunting our quarantine system here, we took pretty strong action as quickly as we possibly could to get that visa cancelled, and to make sure she would be leaving country.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But it’s your Department that issued visas, right?
KAREN ANDREWS: Yes, we do. And we follow the procedures that are very well established.
And the application for exemption was supported by a State Government.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But you could have overridden that.
KAREN ANDREWS: It’s always possible for action to be taken, and that’s exactly what happened over the weekend where we made very swift decisions to start going down the path of reviewing the basis for her visa, and then cancelling it.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But fundamentally, it’s your Department that approved her entry.
KAREN ANDREWS: It was based on an application that was supported by a State Government, and that is very normal procedures for many people who are coming in to the country, particularly above caps.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. On to the Queensland Premier, Minister. She’s off to Tokyo. She, of course, championed a reduction in arrival caps. Should she be going?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I’m well and truly on the record as saying a couple of weeks ago when, on the one hand she was arguing for hotel quarantine caps to be reduced in Australia, that it was very hypocritical when she herself was going to be heading off overseas. Now, I should say and I must say that the Olympic Games – without a doubt – are important to Queensland’s, south east Queensland, and all of Australia. But the outrage from many people across Australia because of the hypocrisy is something that the Premier is going to have to deal with at some, at some point.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But do you think she needs to be there, though, to secure those games?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, over the last 12 months in particular people have done very well dealing with various matters remotely, with a virtual presence. So, that was not her view. It was her very strong view that she needed to be there. I think it was very hypocritical of her to be trying to stop people coming into the country when she herself was granting herself permission back into the country and go into hotel quarantine here above the caps.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just finally, Minister, Newspoll shows another hit for your Government today. Could the slow vaccine rollout cost you the next election?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the important thing is now, is that we are clearly demonstrating that we are ramping up the vaccination rollout here in Australia. So, close to a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine came in overnight. We are continuing to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine here in Australia. So instead of, for example 2.8 million doses of the vaccine in August, it’s now 4.5 million. So we’re bringing things forward. We’re ramping it up.
Australians are rolling up their sleeves. So, we are, as a nation, now starting to do very well in terms of rolling out the vaccine. But it’s not something that’s going to be fixed overnight, it is something that’s going to take weeks and potentially months to make sure that everyone who wishes to be vaccinated has access to a vaccine.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But if it was faster, New South Wales and Victoria probably wouldn’t be in lockdown at the moment.
KAREN ANDREWS: Look, I don’t know that that’s reasonable to say. I think you’ve got to look at vaccination rates around the world. We have steadily increased, even over the last month we have been increasing – over the last week we have been increasing. That will continue to ramp up. And in the meantime, we encourage people to make sure that they are following the well-established health advice in relation to social distancing, washing the hands, sanitising the hands, staying home when they need to.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews, thanks for your time, talk to you soon.