Transcript - Radio Interview - 2GB - Friday, 11 September 2020

Transcript - Radio Interview - 2GB - Friday, 11 September 2020 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

11 September 2020

DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST : And it's a very good afternoon to Angus Taylor and Joel Fitzgibbon. Fellas, thanks for joining me. Now, first up Angus, be honest with me here. How annoyed are you guys with the behavior of the New South Wales Nationals? Should John Barilaro resign as Deputy Premier?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well there’s no time for these games, Deb. You know, New South Wales is facing a very tough situation with the virus – they’ve done a fantastic job. Obviously this is an issue where there’s strong feelings on the ground but you sort those out. And you don't - you don't escalate to this level, it needs to be sorted out. And we need to get on with dealing with the matters that we have to deal with in in these extenuating circumstances and so that's what we're doing and we ask the New South Wales government to do exactly the same thing.
KNIGHT: Joel, the koala laws are obviously hitting hard with bush voters. It's a big issue, it does need to be addressed.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Well it's been an interesting couple of days. This of course is all about the performance of the Nats in the Eden-Monaro by-election, where they absolutely tanked. But I wouldn't want John Barilaro running my political strategy, that's for sure. If you’re going to load the cannon, you need to be sure you're prepared to use it and he choked today and backed down. Now I understand the New South Wales Nats want to send the message that they stand for regional New South Wales, but you've also got to be able to demonstrate you have the capacity to stand up for regional New South Wales, and today John Barilaro failed that test.
KNIGHT: Well they’ve all put the spin that's a win – he’s saying, John Barilaro, it's a win for him, a win for voters in the bush, a win for the party.
FITZGIBBON: Everyone won?
KNIGHT: Everyone’s a winner, here. I don't know about the Koalas as if they've won-out or not, but yeah it seems to be an absolute disastrous way to go about handling politics. As you say, Angus, when we're in the middle of a pandemic there are bigger fish to fry.
TAYLOR: Yeah, look all governments have got to stay united and focused on the, on the big game here. Sort out these issues - they are important, I don't want to trivialise it at all. But you know the big issue we've got is opening up the economy, keeping people healthy and safe. We need a strong economy if we're going to pay for government services and ensure people have jobs. We’ve got to get that right and that's got to be our number one focus right now.
KNIGHT: Now we were overwhelmed here on this station yesterday, with calls, emails, texts - listeners in absolute tears at the fate of the cruelty and the callous behaviour being dished out by the Queensland Government with the border lockdowns. So many families denied the opportunities to fear well their loved ones, jumping through hoops just to say goodbye. And yet we've got the rich and famous – the AFL, the actors – coming in, getting exemptions left, right and centre. I mean, this is the state government, Angus, putting money over health, isn't it?
TAYLOR: Well, all of this is not about bringing down borders, let me tell you. It's about being able to show compassion. Now, we have seen from the Queensland Government, double standards. That's the truth of the matter and you just described it very well, Deb. You know, we've got to make sure that people are given a fair go here and the principles are clear and the principle they're held to – not double standards and we have seen double standards in Queensland.
KNIGHT: And where's Albo with this, Joel? Because with the Prime Minister - he called Sarah Caisip yesterday, directly. Made it a direct appeal to Annastacia Palaszczuk, and he tipped in some of his own money to help out Mark Keane's family, to ensure that they could actually go and see their dying father in Queensland. They've got to pay exorbitant amount of money for their travel and exemption costs. Has Albo reached out to any of these family members like the Prime Minister has?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Albo is doing the same thing he's doing in Liberal-controlled states like Tasmania and South Australia, Deb, where there’s been other examples…
KNIGHT: Well he’s the federal Labor leader. Has he spoken to Annastacia Palaszczuk directly, to ask her to show some heart?
FITZGIBBON: I don't know, Deb, but there have been similar examples in both South Australia and Tasmania where people have been denied timely access to their loved ones, but that's not getting the attention here because they are not going to election sometime soon. And Scott Morrison and his ministers are deliberately making this all about the politics. Now I, like all Australians, feel for those who have had their access to loved ones denied. And we all feel for them, of course we do. But let's keep it in perspective: Queensland is not Victoria. And while it’s desperately missing some of its inter-state visitors, not all of them, it's open for business and it's open for business because it has maintained tough, hard border restrictions. Now, while Premier Palaszczuk must surely be taking a bit of a hit, as a result of the recent controversies, it's apparent to me that she maintains strong support in her local communities, and much has been said about…
KNIGHT: Well, that’s why she's doing it. She thinks it's a vote winner.
FITZGIBBON: No, she's doing it because she's trying to keep the state relatively COVID-free…
KNIGHT: Okay, but how can you deny access to Sara Caisip, from the ACT, of which there hasn't been a COVID case in sixty-two days, and claim that it's a hotspot because it's surrounded by New South Wales? I mean, you've got to have the ability to give some leeway here with individual cases, don't you?
FITZGIBBON: Deb, I absolutely agree. I don't understand why the ACT is treated the same way as New South Wales for COVID purposes. I suspect that‘s maybe, I could be wrong, a decision of the national cabinet led by Scott Morrison. But I do know one thing: people keep talking about one rule for one person and different rules for others. I've taking a bit of time this morning to research this and the fact is that is not true. No one escapes isolation, other than those, of course, who have an agreed COVID plan, agreed to over time.
KNIGHT: But you can't tell me, Joel, you can't tell me, Joel, that the hotel quarantines that are being dished out to the AFL families in the resort, where they can swim by the pool under the bubble, is as fair as being dished out to people who've got to sit alone in their hotel rooms recovering from brain cancer. I mean, that's not fair.
FITZGIBBON: Deb, all I'm saying is that no one has an automatic exemption from isolation. Some of these bigger organisations have COVID plans developed over time, just like we had with the NRL, in the pandemic, and agreed to by the state government. Let's be frank, that's a little bit different than someone who wants to come over the border in a short timeframe to visit a loved one, as heart wrenching as that is.
KNIGHT : Angus, is the Prime Minister playing politics here?
TAYLOR: Well no. That is a disgraceful allegation. I mean, this is about someone from Canberra, where there has been no cases for sixty-two days, getting to the funeral of a loved one. I mean, seriously. If that's playing politics, you've got to be joking. This is just compassion. It's humanity. We've lost enough in this crisis, we don't need to lose our humanity.
KNIGHT: Well, I'm in agreeance.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just say Deb, that the Opposition Leader in Queensland, of course, wanted to open the borders completely from July 1 of this year and you’ve had a look at Victoria: imagine what the outcome of that would have been. Look, I'm not saying the balance is absolutely correct here. These are tough times. We are effectively at war with this virus, and tough decisions need to be made and of course, heart-wrenching stories emerge from all of that, but they're emerging in Liberal states as well.
KNIGHT: Alright, let's talk China because we've had a tough week for our relationship with China yet again. The evacuation of the last two journalists from Australian media outlets earlier this week. shockwaves, of course, being sent around the world. They've been told that they were persons of interest in the Cheng Lei case, which again, throws out the whole idea of mutual respect which China's appealing for. But are we engaging in a tit-for-tat here, with China? Because we've also seen ASIO questioning four Chinese journalists in Australia, Angus. And after that questioning to Chinese academics had their Visas revoked on national security grounds. Are we doing the same as what they're accusing us of doing?
TAYLOR: No. Look, we are defending Australian citizens, as we should, and as they expect. We're doing the right thing by the Australian people in China. And that is what people expect of us and it is exactly what we're doing. Obviously, in Australia, we have to be always cautious of foreign interference. It's something that is a serious issue. We know that. We are principled on this and we must remain principled on this. That's what the Australian people expect, and it's the right thing.
KNIGHT: Can we repair this relationship with China, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, first of all, I'd ask Angus what principle he's talking about. No one in the Government has enunciated that. What we all do agree...
TAYLOR: I just have, Joel. I just have.
FITZGIBBON: What's the principle, Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, I have just laid out the very clear principle that Australians in China expect us to act for them. And we've done exactly that. To do the right thing by them. Now, that's exactly what we have done. And any Australian should and does expect us to do that. So that's the principle. And when it comes to what's going on inside Australia, foreign interference is not acceptable. And I know you agree with that, Joel. So, they are principles, they're very clear.
FITZGIBBON: Well Deb, Angus has just made the point. There isn't anything we disagree on. Now, we all stand behind the national interest. We all are robust in our approach to any foreign influence and interference. But what we...
KNIGHT: So, you won’t be critical of the government then on the handling in China if you're in lockstep?
FITZGIBBON: Well, no. I'm critical of the failure of diplomacy and statecraft in this country over the course of the last five years. A failure, which has allowed our relationship with our largest trading partner to fall below the low point it reached during the Tiananmen Square disaster. And as a consequence, our farmers and beef producers and others are suffering. Our wine producers are in the gun, our thermal coal exporters could be in the gun, and all unnecessarily, Deb. All completely unnecessarily. There is a way of walking and chewing gum at the same time. We don't have to be belligerent in our approach and language towards China. We need China in our trading relationship. We have managed the complexities of it for many decades and we've failed to do so over the course of the last five years, or so.
KNIGHT: Alright, let's move on. We're out of time, unfortunately. but formals. I want to talk to you quickly about this. Year Twelve students getting that great news this week in New South Wales that formals and graduation ceremonies will happen in term four. Talk to me about formals back in your day. What did you wear? Who did you take? Did you get up to any strife, Angus?
TAYLOR: This is a terrible admission, Deb, but I don't remember.
KNIGHT: Ooo! Because of what you'd imbibed or because it was so long ago?
TAYLOR: I'll tell you what I do remember. I remember going on a road trip up to the Gold Coast. We arrived there, and the Queenslanders told us it's great, you've arrived at the inaugural Schoolies. And I have got to say, it was a great week. Sad that Schoolies has changed dramatically since then.
TAYLOR: But I do remember that week.
KNIGHT: Oh, there you go. And Joel, I've been sent a photograph of you, my friend, and I know that you didn't go to a formal because you were busy doing an apprenticeship. But, look at you. I've got a photo of you on the tools, working hard. Being overseen by someone. Yeah, you’re a good-looking rooster there.
FITZGIBBON: A good-looking young man right there, Deb. Yeah, I'm a proud tradesman. Left school at the age of fifteen to pursue my dream of doing a trade and I'm very, very proud of that background. I do with some trepidation, remember the school formals of my kids, which of course is a somewhat more stressful time than should be necessary. And I do recall Schoolies as well, which is somewhat more stressful.
KNIGHT: Yeah, there's many a parent probably not as upset as the kids are that the Schoolies celebrations are put on hold for this year. But nonetheless, it's good that the formals are happening. Fellas, thanks for joining us yet again.
TAYLOR: Thanks Deb and Joel.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure.