STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Well, he is a regular contributor on a Wednesday, he is the voice of common sense on the opposition side of the house, the member of Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Joel, good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning, Stephen.
CENATIEMPO: Now, I just want to touch on that nuclear power thing. I mean, the Productivity Commission clearly agrees with you and I, and we've been talking about this forever and a day. But without that federal leadership and that leadership from the Prime Minister, it's just never going to happen.
FITZGIBBON: And I see Dominic Perrottet, the Treasurer in New South Wales, did not rule out that option recommended by the Productivity Commission. Although, you have to say, in New South Wales, energy policy is all over the place. You have got Matt Kean on one end wanting renewables everywhere, now you've got his Cabinet colleague playing footsie with nuclear, and of course, half of them are against coal. So there are mixed messages coming out of NSW. But I'll give you a tip – tomorrow morning in Canberra's Parliament House there'll be a briefing with the Friends of Nuclear Energy which will give us an update on the progress of those small nuclear reactors and progress generally, in the industry. Nuclear power will become more affordable.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, I think that's the case. But unless, you know, unless we lift that moratorium, it's all just talk, isn't it?
FITZGIBBON: Well, courage is all too rare a commodity in Parliament House these days, I have to say, Stephen. Of course, you're right. You don't need bipartisanship, or you can't sit back and wait for bipartisanship. Sometimes you just need to lead and show leadership. And that's lacking in Canberra at the moment.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, no two ways about that. Which leads me to my next topic. And you, I know, well, you saw me there, I was at Question Time last Wednesday. And I have got to say, I was embarrassed for the nation by the behaviour of, I guess your side probably more so. But that's usually, it's usually the opposition that always looks more unruly. But the government – even Tony Smith even pulled his own side into line because they were carrying on like pork chops and above your head was a group of schoolchildren. It was almost embarrassing.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah. You really looked like you were enjoying yourself, Stephen. I noticed you up there. Yeah look, it all looks pretty juvenile at the moment. We need to put these things aside that mean nothing to people outside the bubble or the beltway, and stick to talking to things that really matter. And what really matters to people is their financial security, and the health and safety of their families. We need to get back to those issues. Of course, it's the job of the opposition to hold the government to account. Sometimes it gets a bit colourful. And I have to say, Tony Smith, he's not one of ours, of course, is the best speaker I've served under. And I've served under plenty.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, I thought he was he was quite scathing of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer which and I think they needed to be pulled into line.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, deservedly so.
CENATIEMPO: Which brings me to the Australia institute's poll that they put out this week, asking whether the capital of Australia should be somewhere other than Canberra. Now, I for the life of me don't know who's suggesting that. He was also talking about whether or not the Prime Minister should live in the lodge. And should politicians spend more time in Canberra? Apparently, overwhelmingly, the responses is yes, politicians should spend more time in Canberra, but I think you guys are at your least productive when you're here.
FITZGIBBON: Well, I'd like to spend more time in Canberra because I love Canberra. Great bars, great restaurants, great people. But I mean, some of these think tanks are just running out of things to survey, aren't they? I mean, why are we asking this question? The founding fathers did a smart thing much more than 100 years ago, they said the national capital has to be more than 100 miles from Sydney, Melbourne or any of the other state capitals, so it didn't favour any particular state. That's what they did. They got on their horse and buggy and found this big sheep station, and they said this will do. And it's worked out pretty well, I have to say. And imagine Canberra without the nation's government. That will be a calamity economically. But why would we spend more time in Canberra when we've got a electorates to service?
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, absolutely.
FITZGIBBON: I mean, as I said, good restaurants and bars, but I don't think any of my constituents would want me down here doing, spending all of my time there. Good golf courses, I should say too.
CENATIEMPO: Which we know is important for you. Now, technology these days lends itself to more remote activity. Is there something to be said for maybe looking at, and I've always had this theory, and it's a bit pie in the sky, that we should only have four sitting periods a year in Canberra where we talk about the big stuff and all of the minor stuff that gets handled on a day-to-day basis can be done electronically from your electorates. Is there something to be said for trying to utilise modern technology bit more?
FITZGIBBON: No, I don't think so. Maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but I don't think there is anything like person to person. I'd hate to think, you know, well, I wouldn't say I'd hate to think, I don't think Menzies and Chifley when they sat down for a scotch and cigar and talked about the future of the country on the edge of the Second World War could have done so as effectively over zoom, Stephen. I just don't see it.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, if only Albo and Scomo would sit down and have a scotch and a cigar together from time to time.
FITZGIBBON: Could help.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, absolutely. Planning is underway for Canberra's first gas free, all electric Town Centre in Molonglo. It's being seen as a model for planned phase out of fossil fuels as part of the ACT's bid to cut greenhouse emissions and you know, zero, net-zero by 2045 and all that rubbish. According to the RiotACT, there's going to be no new connections to natural gas, natural gas mains network. Is this the right, is this a smart move?
FITZGIBBON: Well, good luck, Canberra. I did say it's a great city and full of great people, but for me, this is rather symbolic. I mean, the National Electricity Market, the grid we all rely upon, including Canberra, is still 65 per cent fossil fuels. And that's where you get your electricity, Stephen, in Canberra, from the National Electricity Market. Yeah, you've got some solar, etcetera, but that's where the bulk of your power comes from. And I love gas. I love my gas hot plates and my gas heaters. There's no better warmth. And, you know, if I was developing land, if I owned the land and was developing it and then selling it, I'd like to be able to say, you know, you'll be able to put a gas hotplate, cooktop in your house if you buy here and they won't be able to say that. So, it's a choice by the ACT Government. I think it's a silly one, frankly.
CENATIEMPO: It's the one thing miss, one real thing I miss having moved to Canberra from the Hunter Valley is cooking with gas, I have got to say. And I don't mean that as a euphemism, I used to love cooking with gas.
FITZGIBBON: Former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, told us it's a relatively clean the efficient fuel and makes sense, and a perfect transition fuel to more renewables. So, I don't really know what this ideology is all about, really.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah. Well, we won't get into the differences you have with your own party at the moment. Now, you posted a photo on social media last week, COMCAR driver, Tony Harriott, is going to retire this month after driving politicians around Canberra for the last 50 years. If the walls of his COMCAR could speak.
FITZGIBBON: Oh yeah, Tony Harriott. What a legend, 50 years. Imagine the book he could write. It would be a best seller. But best wishes to Tony Harriott. He's a great guy, 50 years is a long, long time, a long period of service and I wish him the very best and his wife Rosemary, his kids and his eight grandchildren. And Tony likes a hit of golf too. So he looks forward to getting that golf handicap down a little lower.
CENATIEMPO: Good on him and hopefully no extinction rebellion people gluing themselves to his COMCAR anytime soon.
FITZGIBBON: He has seen it all.
CENATIEMPO: I imagine he has. Joel, good to talk to you. We'll catch up again next week.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you, Stephen.