Subjects: Queensland border restrictions; Australian journalists return from China.
I'm joined on the line now by the Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Thank you Mr Dutton for joining 4BC Drive this afternoon.
Pleasure Scott. Thanks for having us on the show.
The Federal Government seems powerless to do anything about this intransigence by the Queensland Government.
Well it's frustrating when you've got a Premier that is making decisions that really are hurting Queenslanders. I think we need to speak up and obviously the Queensland law applies; there are health directions that have been given by Minister Miles, but it's the inconsistency that people don't understand. It's the lack of medical evidence that these decisions are based on and if the Premier is closing borders because of the medical advice, fair enough, but that's not the case here.
Dr Young hasn't provided that advice to the State Government and the inconsistency is hurting families, it's obviously hurting businesses and if we see businesses close, we see jobs go and that's what I think is starting to make Queenslanders really angry.
Look I think the inconsistency is frustrating for everyone, especially when you see situations where celebrities, sportsmen and millionaires are allowed into Queensland, but we're seeing emergency cases being knocked back. We're seeing other people who want to come up here to see their dying family members, also being knocked back at the border.
I just think there needs to be more common sense and compassion and at the moment all we're getting really is political spin. I think it's unfortunate that the State Government hasn't followed the advice of Jeannette Young because when you have got 400 odd executives coming into town, not having to go into hotel quarantine, and yet, as you say if you're trying to visit a loved one or you're going to a funeral of your brother or sister you can't come into Queensland; it just doesn't make any sense. I think frankly for a lot of Queenslanders now, people are really getting probably beyond frustrated. It's getting to a silly, silly point I think at the moment.
Well a lot of our callers have said Scott Morrison has to do more. Are you guys powerless to force the Queensland Government to change this policy?
Well there are certainly limitations on what the Commonwealth Government can do and the State Government was elected to run Queensland. They've got quite extraordinary powers, as the other State Premiers and Chief Ministers do and they're supposed to be acting in the best interests of Queenslanders. At the moment it's just not obvious that that is happening.
Premier Palaszczuk is making decisions with an election in mind. She's very happy to standup there, no doubt holding the trophy or handing the trophy over for the AFL grand final, but if you're a family with a sick mother or cousin or spouse, you find it very hard to get a common sense outcome.
So there's a limited amount that the Commonwealth Government can do and we're – as the Prime Minister's done repeatedly – really keen for Queensland to lift the border restrictions because at the moment there's just no sense to it.
I saw on Friday out of National Cabinet the Prime Minister, putting aside Western Australia, was saying that the other states and territories are on the bus, particularly in terms of this definition of going…working towards a definition for a hot spot, but later that night we saw Annastacia Palaszczuk on social media, on Twitter, basically walk away from that, saying I'm off the bus, I've made no decision about that. Is National Cabinet [inaudible] the idea of this consensus approach, really dead and buried now?
Well I think it's difficult [inaudible] context. So I think the decisions that Annastacia Palaszczuk has made, that have worked well during the course of COVID, frankly have been all of those suggested by Scott Morrison. Where she's really gone off the rails in relation to closing of the borders, which is crippling businesses and families and jobs, they're decisions that she's made unilaterally with the election in mind and that's the distinction that needs to be drawn.
Where there is evidence based advice – which is what originally was being relied on – then I think the Premiers have made the right decisions, but in this circumstance at this moment, when we're on the eve of a state election, Mr Miles and Ms Palaszczuk are making decisions in their own political interests and not in the interests of Queenslanders and that's what really I think people are shaking their head at and it needs to stop.
We've got to have an application of common sense and just decency. I just hate seeing people hurting if they've got a loved one that's either gravely ill in hospital or a [inaudible] situation, but it's made even worse when they're refused access or contact with that person. These are very difficult circumstances that people find themselves in and some of the stories we're getting in through our electorate offices where Queensland Health will just not budge, it's devastating for that family and it's very upsetting.
I think it's more than that. I think it is disgraceful how they've been performing up here.
Now Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, the two journalists that had to flee China the last couple of days, you've cited before concerns regarding foreign influence, foreign actions, foreign powers. How worried and concerned were you by the fact that these journalists had to get out of China in such a rush? Really a great escape, fearing they were about to be arrested.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade really have done a great job in working with the journalists and working with their host employers as well. It’s important that that work is undertaken, in many cases behind the scenes and not played out across the newspapers.
There are obviously other sensitive cases that we’re dealing with at the moment, but it has been concerning and I’m just very pleased that they are back home now and the advice has been provided to them not to return.
It seems like this has come on top of the trade issues; beef, barley, wine, the Belt and Road issue in terms of that wolf warrior approach by China. The situation seems to be deteriorating, it’s not getting better, it seems to be getting worse regarding relations between Australia and China at the moment.
Well Scott, China is a very important trading partner and we’ve got great respect for them and we want to see that relationship continue, but Australia’s been very clear about the principles that we stand for and our adherence to a rule of law, to a free democratic society, we don’t want that impinged by anybody and we want to make sure that people can freely report matters, that our media operates in the way that we all know is good for frankly transparency and for our system of government and society.
So we will call out behaviour that we think is counter to that and stand up for our principles and our values. Australia is not going to apologise for that, but we want to continue what’s a very important trading relationship with China and we’ll make sure that that continues, but we are not going to compromise on the fundamental beliefs that we hold near and dear.
We do believe there should be an adherence to the rule of law and I’ve said before I want to see China grow, I want to see people come out of poverty, I want to see them move into the
middle class and for that success to continue, but equally I don’t want to see behaviour which is contrary to our national interest and the agencies that, within my portfolio – ASIO and others – obviously do a lot of work each day to make sure that we can keep all of that in place.