Interview with ABC Gold Coast Breakfast

Tom Forbes and Nicole Dyer
Parliament sitting, border restrictions, COVID misinformation

Tom Forbes: Travel restrictions, quarantine, the pandemic is a real spanner in the works for anyone who usually travels interstate for work or for personal reasons.

Nicole Dyer: And one group of frequent travellers are of course our federal politicians.

Tom Forbes: Queensland Health chief officer has issued new rules - all Queensland federal MPs and senators who attend Parliament in Canberra next week will be forced to quarantine for two weeks when they return home.

Nicole Dyer: Dr Jeannette Young won't make other members of the household quarantine with them though, unless they test positive for COVID-19.

Tom Forbes: Gold Coast MP Karen Andrews is the Federal Member for McPherson. Good morning, Ms Andrews. What are your plans for the sitting week?

Karen Andrews: Well good morning. I'm going to be heading off to Canberra on Sunday, and I believe we're sitting for the full two weeks. I'm down in Canberra for two weeks, won’t be coming back for the weekend in between. When I return, I will do exactly what the Queensland Chief Medical Officer says that we need to do when we return.

Nicole Dyer: How important is it to be physically in Parliament? I guess in this age of technology, we’re all very accustomed to ways of Zooming it in, or some other similar technology. Is it feasible to do it remotely?

Karen Andrews: Look, in some cases, yes it would be possible for us to look at sitting virtually. The issue really becomes around voting, and voting in the chamber and we have long held traditions for how that is carried out. So I think that's the important part for it. But quite frankly, a lot of our work has been done virtually over the last few months like many Australians. But I think it is time for us to go back to Canberra, to sit, to deal with some of the pressing issues which are clearly COVID related.

Tom Forbes: Have you got any concerns about sitting in the same building - Parliament House - with people who are coming from hotspots in Melbourne, etc.?

Karen Andrews: Well I'm on the record as saying we have to learn to live with this virus. So I will be taking all of the precautions that are very well known. So I'll be maintaining social distancing, I'll be washing my hands, and I may well be wearing a mask.

Nicole Dyer: Yeah. I can imagine there’d be a few other politicians doing the same thing. What do you make of the fact that your household won't also have to quarantine?

Karen Andrews: Well we'll discuss that as a household. I could isolate in a - in the bedroom, I suppose, to keep myself away from the household people as much as I possibly can. But again, I'll be following the advice that the Queensland Chief Medical Officer puts in place for us. I will be very diligently following those guidelines.

Tom Forbes: Yeah I've just- a friend of mine whose daughter came back from boarding school had to isolate in the home and her parents could go about their daily lives, and she was eating dinner at the other end of the table, basically locked in her room for two weeks. So it will be a challenge for you, no doubt. 

Karen Andrews: Look, it will be challenging, but I have no issues with doing it. I mean, this virus needs to be defeated. And we are acting on a number of fronts to do that, but the frontline defence at the moment is social distancing, the hand washing, and the wearing of masks in prescribed circumstance. So if I need to isolate, I will absolutely do that.

Nicole Dyer: Okay. So given how seriously you're taking all the advice so far, and of course that advice is being filtered down to the Premier, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who says look, we are not opening our borders until there's no community transmission in Victoria and New South Wales. How do you feel about that?

Karen Andrews: Well, I am on the record as saying that we need to learn to live with this environment ...

Nicole Dyer: [Talks over] How’s does that translate in this situation, though, Ms Andrews?

Karen Andrews: Well, it's very difficult, extremely difficult for Gold Coasters. My electorate is right on the border, and I hear every day from businesses that are not getting the business that they had expected 12 months ago, that they’re really just on the edge. Of course, you're hearing, I mean, there are your Facebook responses where people are just devastated over being separated from their loved ones ...

Nicole Dyer: Oh absolutely. 

Karen Andrews: Absolutely.

Nicole Dyer: So you think that Ms Palaszczuk has taken too hard a stance on this? So you disagree with her keep the border shut until it's completely community transmission free in the southern states?

Karen Andrews: We need to be making plans to live with the virus, because it's not going to go away any time soon. Now, the Premier has made the decision about the border. She's able to do that as the Premier of this state. But I will continue to say, we need to look at ways to live with this virus and we need to find ways that we can go about our life and our work.

Tom Forbes: It’s five minutes to nine, you're listening to ABC Breakfast with Nicole and Tom, speaking with MP- Federal MP Karen Andrews, Member for McPherson. On another issue, Ms McPherson [sic], last night you were the target of a digital protest, with thousands of people posting on your Facebook page with a hashtag ‘I do not consent’. Now the protesters were focused on the strict COVID lockdowns in Victoria. The PM and the Victorian Premier were also targeted. What was your reaction to the protest?

Karen Andrews: Well it was absolutely a coordinated attack on myself, the PM, and the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews, who I should say is not related to me. Many of these people were the same ones that wanted to rally on the street about COVID restrictions. Clearly I was targeted because of my work as the Industry and Science Minister around securing a vaccine. I'm not going to apologise for that. As the Science Minister, I can't allow people to go out and promote pseudoscience, which is exactly what these people are doing.

Nicole Dyer: How disruptive, though, is it to you? 

Karen Andrews: Disruptive that they write on my Facebook page?

Nicole Dyer: Yeah. Well ...

Karen Andrews: Not at all. 

Nicole Dyer: So you just ignore them?

Karen Andrews: No, I don't ignore them. I have a look at it. As an elected representative, my role is to represent a wide range of views. So obviously, I've seen some, not all, there with thousands of comments that came through last night. But I don't agree with them. There is not evidence to back up the claim that they are making. And this information - this misinformation is not only dangerous, but it could cost lives. So I'm prepared to make a very strong stand that these people should stop.

Tom Forbes: Gold Coast MP Karen Andrews, thank you for your time, and good luck in Canberra next week.

Karen Andrews: It's a pleasure. Take care