ROD HENSHAW, HOST: But right now, being Wednesday, Joel Fitzgibbon, the Labor Member for Hunter. Good morning to you, sir.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: G'day, Rod. Is Stephen Cenatiempo on holidays again?
HENSHAW: Yeah, as I always say he's gone to some exotic part of the world. I think it's Watson, ACT. Somewhere like that.
FITZGIBBON: Well, I'm all for more money for Gungahlin.
HENSHAW: Yeah, that's good...
FITZGIBBON: ... I support that proposition.
HENSHAW: Yeah, by the way, I'll just sneak in a plug here. We're talking to Michael Moore after eight o'clock, he'll dissect what he knows about the budget. Do you know, Michael?
FITZGIBBON: Not personally, no.
HENSHAW: He's a former Member, Independent Member of the Assembly here and he was the former Health Minister. Ok, in your neck of the woods, by the way, you got a new Premier, Dominic... I keep going to call him Dom Perignon - Dominic Perrottet.
FITZGIBBON: I'm not sure he'd appreciate that.
HENSHAW: He probably wouldn't. But even that, you know, it's still being overshadowed by all this hullabaloo that's going on over ICAC, it's still making waves.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, Dom Perrottet is a bit of an unknown quantity for most people who live in New South Wales. They have heard of him, some at least. He's been Treasurer here for, I think, five years. But as a political entity, they don't know much. What we do know is he's a bit like an old DLP man Dom Perrottet – the old Democratic Labor Party. A staunch conservative Catholic, with very Catholic values. I think six children and one of thirteen kids himself. He's right out of that sort of conservative textbook. We'll see how he goes. He's off to a quick start trying to suggest he's going to be more liberal in his approach to lockdowns and the way the New South Wales Government handles COVID. For example, we're supposed to come out of lockdown next Monday. He's talking about it this Friday to give people an extra weekend. A bit of a sweetener.
HENSHAW: I think that was knocked out of the ballpark. Joel, I think he knocked that out.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, I'm not so sure about that.
HENSHAW: I defer to your superior knowledge. You're in New South Wales, I'm just...
FITZGIBBON: ... Well, there were mixed reports today, but I mean, the way he came to the leadership and the premiership is somewhere extraordinary. ICAC takes another victim, now three premiers, Nick Greiner, Barry O'Farrell, and now Gladys Berejiklian. All of them, of course, Liberal Premiers.
HENSHAW: There was a couple, too, from your side too, but they're not Premiers.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, that's true. Of course, I wasn't suggesting otherwise. But it's just ironic...
HENSHAW: ... Just keeping you in check, buddy, just keeping you in check.
FITZGIBBON: It's just ironic that Nick Greiner, the Liberal Premier who established ICAC was its first victim...
HENSHAW: ... I know.
FITZGIBBON: But the thing about these three Premiers is that none of them have ever been found to have done anything unlawful in the eyes of the mainstream legal system. And, you know, I think ICAC is now proven to be a bit of a kangaroo court. I mean, it doesn't have any standards of proof, it doesn't have any rules of evidence like our normal court system does and it's just capable of putting people out to dry – hanging them out to dry.
HENSHAW: Well, Joel, you mentioned all those cases where there was nothing untoward found to be the case and they you know, they got off scot-free, but they're their reputation, their career and everything else was not only tarnished, it went down a toilet with no, no recourse, no recourse at all. But I think if they find that there's nothing against Gladys, I reckon the blowtorch is going to go right on them. And I wouldn't mind – I wouldn't mind – I wouldn't mind betting that you'll see pretty solid reform.
FITZGIBBON: Well, let's see what happens with Gladys. I mean, I would be very, very surprised, in fact, shocked if Gladys was found to have done anything that involves self-enrichment.
FITZGIBBON: She might have down some really stupid things…
HENSHAW: Personal choices.
FITZGIBBON: … and no doubt involve herself in some shocking pork barrelling. But pork barrelling is pretty common politics. It's not a form of corruption. It's unwelcomed and we should have no tolerance for, of course, corruption in politics or public life generally. But pork barrelling we could do without, but it's hardly a form of corruption. I think politicians and political parties have been a bit guilty of it. So, we'll see where it takes her. But if it is a repeat of Nick Greiner, and indeed, Barry O'Farrell, she won't – and she's not found to have done anything illegal, then I think you're right. I think a lot of pressure will come on ICAC. I mean, one of the problems with ICAC, one of the more minor problems is its very name, as a corruption commission, just any form of a referral to it suggests corrupt practice or behaviour.
FITZGIBBON: And that's very, very hard to overcome. And there have been a whole number of victims, I know many of them personally, who have had their careers and injury lives destroyed and come out of that without any adverse legal finding against them.
HENSHAW: Yeah, it was there lies – there's the rub. You know, this is the whole thing, because they only have to be named by ICAC and you're buggered. Gone.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah. And I'll make another point, right. ICAC doesn't seem to have any statutory obligation to ever make a finding or deliver a final report. So, people can spend years with the ICAC inquiry hanging over their head without any closure. Try going to secure yourself and your family and have another job…
FITZGIBBON: … when you're still going to an ICAC finding hanging over your – well, the lack of a finding hanging over your head?
HENSHAW: Forever cloud, isn't it? Well, just a last word on this one talking about vaccine mandates. But last word on that. Could you see Gladys getting into the Federal Parliament? She won't be across the aisle from you anyway, because you won't be there.
FITZGIBBON: I won't be there, Rod. Oh look, anything is possible. Certainly, she won't be coming into the Federal Parliament while ever ICAC is still deliberating.
FITZGIBBON: And that could take a number of years. And that makes it, I think, unlikely, but you know, I've learned never to say never in politics.
HENSHAW: I've heard you say never
FITZGIBBON: Many times, actually. But not never, never.
HENSHAW: Okay, vaccination mandates are on the agenda across Australia. We've got them here in the ACT. They've been made mandatory for various frontline health workers. Similar story in your neck of the woods again, but a group consisting of health workers and teachers are banding together to bring the matter to the courts.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, look, I just don't understand this Rod. Our only path back to economic and community normality is high rates of vaccination. And, you know, obviously some people have underlying health conditions which make it difficult for them to have a vaccination but the overwhelming majority of us don't and I don't really know what is the problem for these people. But they are making it more difficult for the rest of us and you know, people have a right not to be vaccinated. But we have a right, those of us prepared to be vaccinated to protect ourselves and our families and I think that's a really important right, and you know, people don't want to be going to work working alongside someone who's not prepared to enter the system and then of course go home to their children who can't be vaccinated. We don't have an effective vaccination for young children yet. So, you know, I think the rights of the majority are very, very important too.
HENSHAW: Yeah, well Will has made the point here that lots of healthcare workers and teachers have been required to get flu shots each year haven't they? Why do they think that's okay but this isn’t?
FITZGIBBON: Yeah of course. And, you know, I had one teacher write to me locally complaining that she was being forced to give up the fourteen-year long career she loves so much because she refuses to be vaccinated. That, Rod, I just don't understand.
HENSHAW: I don't get it either. The other thing is, too, I mean, if she's not going to teach that one teachers position that we've got to fill.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah but sadly the positions we can't fill, like aged care workers for example are amongst those who have a vaccine hesitant and we desperately need more of them and won't be able to fill some of those positions. So, it is a real worry. So, I hope that we can establish an education program or something to convince these people that it's ok to be vaccinated. I've had two AZ jabs and, Rod, I might say some silly things from time to time, but I feel okay.
HENSHAW: Yes, strange so long being good ... no effect at all. No, I had mine too and I couldn't wait to get the second one. It was good and you know you feel better for it.
FITZGIBBON: Somebody said to me Rod, look, you don't even know what's in that stuff. I said my I don't know what's in a Panadol either, but I just know it works. I mean, I don't analyse everything that I take.
HENSHAW: Good point. Okay, just before you go, are you settling into retirement already or still not?
FITZGIBBON: Oh no, I mean, I don't retire from politics until the next election which could be as late as may of next year. Who knows? You know, COVID obviously, is keeping all MPs…
HENSHAW: Not even winding down? Come on, you're not even winding back?
FITZGIBBON: Trying, trying. But not yet Rod, but I'm sure the time will come.
HENSHAW: Good on you mate, good to talk.