Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 25 August 2021
Ali Clarke: But right now, at six minutes to nine, Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham is with us. Good morning.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Ali, David and listeners.
David Bevan: What can you tell us about the arrival of 100 people from Afghanistan into Adelaide overnight?
Simon Birmingham: David, my understanding is that a flight with around 148 evacuees from the United Arab Emirates, where we've been processing those we've uplifted out of Afghanistan, arrived in Australia. It deposited around 48 in Perth, who had already taken some and then flew on to Adelaide. And around 100 came into Adelaide. We're very grateful for the assistance of SA Health and the SA government in terms of creating the additional quarantine capacity as most states and territories are doing to enable us to accommodate what is a very big operation to get Australian citizens, permanent residents, immediate family, as well as those Afghan people who had worked closely with us, safely out of Afghanistan and into Australia.
Ali Clarke: Simon Birmingham, we're going to run into the news so just really quickly. Some questions for our listeners. They want to know who are these people? Are they Australian visa holders? Will they be asylum seekers?
Simon Birmingham: So they are a mixture. Some are Australian passport holders and Australian citizens. Some are their immediate family, some are people who had permanent residency status already in Australia, but some are indeed Afghani citizens who we have processed rapidly with emergency visas for those who had worked alongside our defence forces, our embassy in Afghanistan or the like to give them safe haven.
Ali Clarke: And what happens after they get through their quarantine here? Will they stay in Adelaide or will only some of them stay? Maybe those that don't have familial ties already in this country?
Simon Birmingham: Again, it will be a bit of a mixture, Ali. So, we will have some who would be states who will come to Adelaide because they may be from Adelaide or have ties here. Those who are here will again spread across the country. There will be some who don't have obvious immediate connections to Australia. And so are resettlement agencies working at a federal level with state government and very much community groups as well will engage them to help them through those resettlement processes, which are obviously very significant and challenging for people who've been through enormous trauma and so forth. I should also add there are medical checks. What we're doing is lifting people out of Afghanistan, as I said, into a base in the United Arab Emirates. There they are undertaking COVID tests as well as other checks before people come to Australia. And to date, in fact, there have been no positive COVID tests, which is encouraging. But clearly the quarantine and safety requirements are being applied by SA Health appropriately as well.
David Bevan: There's limited number of people that can return to Australia from overseas. So does this mean that other people will have to wait longer because we've accepted these people?
Simon Birmingham: Thankfully, the states and territories have responded quickly and our creating places above the caps that are in place. You might recall quite some time back now there was a halving of the caps that the states and territories had been operating under as we faced the challenges the Delta variant was causing across the country. States and territories have been able to recreate some of those places. And so that shouldn't impede those who are currently booked or have expectations of getting back into Australia under the caps as they were operating.
David Bevan: How many more people can we expect over the next few days and weeks?
Simon Birmingham: So we have now helped to facilitate the evacuation of more than 2400 people on 21 flights out of Afghanistan. Five hundred odd or so of those are cooperation's we did to support other countries, particularly the U.K., in getting people out. But that does still mean there's about 2000 headed to Australia and there will be more flights undertaken today as we continue to assist. So this is a big effort. And whilst I can't put a precise number on how many more to South Australia, we will be hoping that the South Australian authorities are able to assist in this humanitarian effort in accommodating more people.
David Bevan: Should Sam Duluk be accepted back into the Liberal Party?
Simon Birmingham: Look, Sam Duluk's behaviour, as is reported, is reprehensible. In terms of the decisions around whether he comes back in. I think there are processes the SA parliament ought complete and then the state executive can consider the full picture.
David Bevan: So you don't want him back in the party?
Simon Birmingham: I think there are processes still outstanding around all of the incidents-.
David Bevan: We know there are processes, but what do you think?
Simon Birmingham: -And they should be completed. And then and only then the state executive should consider the full picture of the situation.
David Bevan: Do you want Sam Duluk back?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I want to make sure we've got the full picture, but obviously the picture that's there at present is a pretty concerning one.
Ali Clarke: Simon Birmingham, Federal Finance Minister, thank you for your time.