DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And with us every Friday, Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy, Emissions Reduction and Industry and Joel Fitzgibbon, the Member for the Hunter. They are both representatives of regional electorates in New South Wales, so I'll get their reaction to these first up. Angus to you, what have voters in your neck of the woods been saying about this decision to push back regional travel to November the 1st?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY, EMISSIONS REDUCTION, AND INDUSTRY: Well, look, we have extremely high vaccination rates now, much of my electorate, or all of my electorate, in fact, Deb. Over 99 per cent across big swathes of it. And second doses are right up, of course, into the 80's, and moving to the 90's.
KNIGHT: So then, why should you be hit with this blanket decision? It just doesn't make sense.
TAYLOR: Yeah. Tourism in the Southern Highlands, of course, parts of the Southern Highlands are in my electorate, hugely important industry, they want to get back up and going again. And well, look, I can understand that there needs to be a degree of caution in areas where there's lower vaccination rates. Of course there does. But we do have large swathes of regional Australia, New South Wales now, where we have very, very high vaccination rates, and it's time to get on - we can't live in a hermit kingdom. And we do need to get on and get out from under the doona.
KNIGHT: So, you think this was the wrong decision?
TAYLOR: Well, I mean, I think I can understand the need, the important need to ensure that those in those areas with very low vaccination rates, you need to exercise caution, absolutely. But I think where you've got regions with very, very high vaccination rates, it's time to get moving
KNIGHT: And Joel, your area of the Hunter, you've got rising case numbers, does it make sense to you and to your constituents in the Hunter region that despite high case numbers, they can now roam freely throughout the regions, but Sydney residents with really high vaccination rates and low case numbers can't.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: The community is split, Deb. Many, of course, want us to open up to get the economy going again, and to visit relatives in Sydney, for example. Others are fearful because of our relatively low vaccination rates that Sydney is going to bring COVID to us and there are so many ironies in this decision. One of them, of course, is that one of the reasons our vaccination rate is so low is the decisions of government, including the decision to redirect our Pfizer back to Sydney. But the overwhelming irony is that people were complaining very publicly, that the politicians, the Premiers, etcetera, had ceased to become leaders and they were letting the bureaucrats make the decisions. And Gladys was often accused of that. Dominic Perrottet made it very clear that he was going to make the decisions, and now he's making very bad decisions, and doesn't have the health advice to back up those announcements. So a big disappointment for so many people today.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. And with the other decision that came as a real surprise from the Premier as well, and we're told as a complete surprise to the Prime Minister's Office, Angus, was this call and announcement to say that by November the 1st, you can travel into the regions eventually and then we'll also be opening up to the world with quarantine-free travellers, international travellers, if you're double-dosed. Did that come as a surprise to the PM's office and to the Federal Government?
TAYLOR: I wasn't expecting it. I can't speak for the PM's office, obviously, Deb. But what I would say, I think Dom Perrottet is doing a good job in opening things back up again, we have got very high vaccination rates through much of the New South Wales...
KNIGHT: ... Which makes this decision even more disappointing.
TAYLOR: Well, it's time to get on with it. It is, you know, we don't, we can't live in a hermit kingdom. And I think it is appropriate that we start allowing people to come back into the country if they're double-vaxxed, without having to quarantine, that's absolutely appropriate. We've got to move back to normal as quickly as we can and recognising those areas where we have lower vaccination rates, and we've got to get people up to those higher numbers. But as I say, much of regional New South Wales is in very good shape on this now.
KNIGHT: Now, the other big issue, of course, is the Glasgow Climate Summit which is coming up and pressure on the Prime Minister to attend and to commit to net zero emissions and the pressure is coming from big business in Australia, even the big emitters, like BHP and Rio Tinto, and we saw News Corp papers on this big, massive net zero campaign as well. Even the Queen, the Queen is annoyed, caught on camera describing world leaders who won't attend next month's climate summit in Glasgow as irritating. And when the Queen's irritated, you know you're in trouble. And I asked you about this last week, Angus, I'll ask you again this week. Will the Prime Minister now be going to Glasgow?
TAYLOR: Well, he'll be doing what's right for Australia and for the Australian people, Deb. And that's what he does every day. He's spent much of this year in quarantine, because he has been going...
KNIGHT: ... But quarantine is now no longer an issue. As part of this new announcement, he won't have to quarantine when he comes home.
TAYLOR: That's quite right, of course. But the point here is that he has to make sure he gets the right balance between being in Australia and being overseas. That's an important conference and we will be well represented there. And we are committed to net zero. There's no question about that. But we've got to, and all through this debate, act in the interest of all Australians, particularly regional Australia, Deb. And we're hearing proposals coming forward from all sorts of quarters with vested interests, in most cases, wanting to add costs on for people in regional Australia, do things that are going to raise the price of energy, do things that are going to slash our traditional industries in agriculture and in the manufacturing, and mining. We're not going to go down that path, we're going to act at every stage on this way, as we always do, in the interest of all Australians with a particular regard to the people who will be most affected by these decisions if they're the wrong ones, and that's the people in regional Australia.
KNIGHT: And what, Joel, will be the consequences if the Prime Minister doesn't attend?
FITZGIBBON: Significant, Deb. You've asked Angus twice today to defend the indefensible and he hasn't done much of a job of it. He hasn't shown any energy or enthusiasm for doing so. I said last week that the Prime Minister has to be on the playing field. I mean, it is just ridiculous to suggest he might not be there, and those who want less action and those who want more action should want him there arguing Australia's case. And Angus said that we are committed, his government is committed to net zero emissions - not true. I mean, the National Party are having a fight at the O.K. Corral this coming Sunday. And after that spat, they're going to tell the Prime Minister whether he's allowed to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 or not. It's all rather messy, Deb.
KNIGHT: The O.K. Corral, I think it's probably a fair assessment of this National Party meeting on Sunday, Angus, and Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest was suggesting that if push comes to shove, you should break up the Coalition. Is it going to be bringing it down to those sort of extremes on this issue?
TAYLOR: That's complete rubbish there from Joel. Can I respond to that, Deb? First of all, first of all, when we signed the Paris Agreement a number of years ago, we committed to a pathway for the world to get to net zero, this is not new. Now, what's crucial here is that we get the balance right, particularly...
FITZGIBBON: ... What are you fighting about then? What's the National Party fighting about then?
TAYLOR: Let me finish, Joel, you had your go, let me finish. And members of the National Party and members of the Liberal Party as well, want to make sure that policies are always in the interest of all Australians. Not just people, not just people in the metropolitan areas, Joel. And you, of course, you of course, have been part of a party that's imposed carbon taxes on people in regional Australia...
FITZGIBBON: ... You have one now too.
TAYLOR: Slashed manufacturing and mining... that is just rot...
FITZGIBBON: ... Safeguard mechanism it's called.
TAYLOR: That is absolute rot, Joel. Slashed mining jobs, slashed manufacturing jobs. We're not going down that path.
KNIGHT: I want to ask this though, Angus, I want to ask this. If the Nationals and the Liberals do come to an agreement on this, on net zero emissions, how can someone like Keith Pitt, the Resources Minister, stay in that role, because he's been dead-against net zero? And if that is the way that you progress, and it looks as though that's what the Prime Minister wants and that's what, if the Nats go down that route, how can he stay on and defend the indefensible on that score?
TAYLOR: You know, the only people in the parliament, Deb, who stand up for regional Australia every day on a consistent basis are people from our side of politics. Joel - Joel is from regional New South Wales, but he's pretty much on his own in the parliament, within the Labor Party in giving a hoot about regional Australia. Well, we give a hoot about it. Keith gives a hoot about it. We all do. And so...
KNIGHT: ... So, you think he'll sign on to net zero?
TAYLOR: These policies, we'll make sure that we do what is right for Australians. We'll make sure that we underpin the future of industries like agriculture and manufacturing, and of course mining. And we will always act in the interests of all Australians, not just those in the metropolitan centres.
KNIGHT: Alright, I want to get through a couple of other things. Joel, I just want to get through a couple of other things. Your Victorian colleague, Anthony Byrne, has resigned from the Federal Parliament's intelligence committee. He admitted at the Victorian corruption body's hearing earlier this week that he took part in branch stacking, misuse of Commonwealth funds, doing the wrong thing. He's got to go, hasn't he? Why hasn't Anthony Albanese forced him out of the Labor Party?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Anthony Byrne has admitted before the Commission, the inquiry, that he's done the wrong thing. Has he done anything illegal? We don't yet know. No one can force an MP out of the parliament unless they have been guilty of a criminal offence. That's very, very clear...
KNIGHT: ... But it completely undermines Anthony Albanese's position on trying to be strong on fighting integrity issues and standing up and, you know, arguing for a federal corruption body, it just undermines him and makes him look weak, doesn't it?
FITZGIBBON: And that's why I was about to say the real question is not whether he sits in the parliament, but whether he continues to sit in the parliament as a Labor member. And that in the first instance, is a matter for Anthony Byrne. He's a highly regarded and highly respected MP, not just in the Labor Party, but across the political divide. You've heard plenty of people from the Liberal Party saying just that. So, I think he deserves a bit of space to come to his own conclusion on that question, and it becomes, I suppose, a matter for Anthony Albanese and us collectively if we take the view he hasn't come to the right decision and I think...
KNIGHT: ... Do you think he should go?
FITZGIBBON: I have no doubt, knowing Anthony Byrne very well, and he's a mate of mine. I have no doubt that he'd have that matter under consideration, and I think he deserves that space.
KNIGHT: Well, I think that the leader of your party should show some leadership on this score and actually step in if he feels strongly about it, then he's got to show some spine here.
FITZGIBBON: Contrast it with some of the stuff that has been going on, on the other side, Deb. People still sitting in the cabinet with pretty big issues as well. So I think he deserves some space.
TAYLOR: Can I respond to that, Deb? I mean, Anthony Albanese lectures constantly on how he's purer than the driven snow. And, you know, when it comes to practice, on his side of politics, it just doesn't stand up. You can't be each way Albo on this stuff. He's got to make a call. I agree with Joel's assessment on Anthony Byrne, but that's not the issue. The issue is Anthony Albanese.
KNIGHT: Agreed. I agree on that. Now look, I want to end on something nice because it's always good to do that on a Friday. I don't know if you saw this bloke in Bosnia who built a rotating house for his wife, no less, who couldn't make up her mind about the views so he said right, I'm going to build you a house that rotates so you can have views whatever you choose, it took him six years to do it. What have you done for love, Joel Fitzgibbon?
FITZGIBBON: I'm a fan of who wants to be a millionaire, Deb. Am I allowed to pass?
KNIGHT: Talk about each way Albo, it's each way Joel.
FITZGIBBON: Look, I'm not going to pass muster here. I couldn't give you a good example of me going beyond the call of duty. I'll tell you what I did do, Deb. You know, I think your listeners might know my wife is a beauty therapist. She runs a salon in my hometown. Monday was opening day, so it was all hands on deck and I was down there doing a bit of, sort of, tradies work getting the place up and running again. So, at least I can give you a recent example of me providing a bit of love.
KNIGHT: Oh, there you go. I thought you were going to say you were doing some waxing to help her out. But that's good.
FITZGIBBON: She won't let me, Deb.
KNIGHT: She's smart.
FITZGIBBON: I don't understand why.
KNIGHT: She's smart. What about you, Angus?
TAYLOR: Well, look, it's not me that's gone to extreme lengths for love in my relationship with my wife. It tends to be my wife, frankly. And even on our honeymoon, I forced her out on a road trip through some beautiful parts of the United States, but also through New Mexico and we stayed in a hotel in Gallup, New Mexico, which was really - I think it cost us $5...
KNIGHT: ... On your honeymoon, Angus?
TAYLOR: On the honeymoon, and I have to say, that was a pretty extreme length for love.
KNIGHT: Well, there you go.
FITZGIBBON: Smartest thing you've said today, Angus.
KNIGHT: You're romantics at heart, which is redeeming you after our discussion today. Good on you, fellas. We'll chat again next week.