DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: Let's dive into Friday Question Time now with Angus Taylor and Joel Fitzgibbon, and lots to discuss. Let's kick it off first with Joel Fitzgibbon: not a good time to be in the Labor Party at the moment, Joel. You've had branch-stacking, alleged corruption in Victoria, and now this New South Wales MP Shaoquett Moselmane’s home raided by ASIO officers. Possible links to a Chinese government plot to infiltrate local politics. It's a big worry.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yeah, it's a frustrating time for every member of the Labor Party, Deb, and including those rank and file members who work so hard and turn-up on election day, stand there for 12 hours handing-out how to vote cards. So we need to tidy this mess up. We've, we have processes in both Victoria and New South Wales - very well advanced in New South Wales, the restructuring here – and now well and truly underway in Victoria. But we should have zero tolerance for this sort of behavior, I mean I'm not talking in particular about Shaoquett because, you know, there are… We don't know what the circumstances are there. There are no charges being laid, but certainly you know he's one of these characters that float around in the Upper House in New South Wales, as Adem Somyurek floats around in the Upper House and Victoria, who are best known for their branch-stacking activities. And we have to put an end to it and by the way Deb it's very nice to learn that you are COVID-free.
KNIGHT: Yeah it’s good news, thank you for that. But just in terms of links with China. I mean, there have been warnings for all politicians on both sides to really reassess the ties with China and attempts by the Chinese Communist government to infiltrate the Australian Government through politicians. And you Joel – you, when you were Defence Minister, you had to apologise for two trips to China, which you hadn't declared, and you've been criticised for going against Labor Party lines in relation to China. Do we all need to have a rethink here?
FITZGIBBON: Well, many, many years ago I think in about 2005, I took a couple of trips to China and I accidentally didn't declare them. And I did apologise for that but there were some subsequent articles which were somewhat creative and there were legal proceedings on that which were concluded to my satisfaction, I feel an urge to say, Deb. But look MPs do have to be very, very careful about potential infiltration, not just from China but from any country. We have to be on guard in security terms. We have to use common sense. We don't know whether Shaoquett was involved in something curious, or was just a naïve victim of something. We just don't know that yet, but what we do know, is that it’s absolutely common sense to be cautious in terms of your security arrangements and he obviously hasn't been that.
KNIGHT: Now Angus, we had a fundraiser that Shaoquett Moselmane was involved in for Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke last year, in the lead up to the election. Should that money be returned now?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well I don't know about those circumstances, Deb. But I do know that espionage and foreign interference are a serious threat to our sovereignty, to the security of Australians and the integrity of our institutions. And it is a very serious issue, it's very strong focus for the Government. Of course we've rewritten the laws applying to espionage and foreign interference and there was bipartisanship on getting those changes through the Parliament. So, you know, we've got to be very, very cautious about this issue. In this particular case, my understanding is there's no threat to public safety, and that's an important point to make, but we need to be on the lookout because it's a very, very serious issue.
KNIGHT: Yeah it is. Now devastating news yesterday with Qantas, of course, slashing 6,000 jobs, 20 per cent of the workforce going, and Alan Joyce the CEO, he's calling on the Government to extend JobKeeper for airline employees. The Prime Minister said, Angus, this morning, with Ben on Breakfast for 2GB, that they will be looking - your government will be looking at targeted relief and continuing JobKeeper beyond September. That help is desperately needed.
TAYLOR: Well, I mean, JobKeeper is going to September – it’s six months. Most countries only went for three months, with equivalent programs. So that's buying us time. We'll announce where we go with it, in July, as we've said many, many times. But we know that there are sectors that continue to be heavily affected, and they will need continued support and of course airlines is at the forefront of that. I've got many airline workers in my electorate, who travel to the airport and elsewhere every day and you know we need to make sure we look after them going through an incredibly tough time, both Qantas and Virgin of course. Good news on Virgin today, that there is a buyer, so that's great. But you know this is a very, very tough time – of all industries it's been hit amongst the hardest, and they will need – it's an industry that will need continued support. I should say, I mean we've had a massive package: $1.3 billion package in support for the sector on top of JobKeeper so we're very conscious of the issues.
KNIGHT: And Joel, do you think that Alan Joyce should have waited until that announcement from the federal Government? They’re due to make an announcement on the future of JobKeeper on July 23. The unions have been screaming saying they should have waited until then before they announced this decision to sack the 6,000 workers. Do you agree?
FITZGIBBON: I see it the other way around from your original proposition: should Alan Joyce have waited? No. Scott Morrison should not have waited. Businesses right around the country, big and small, are trying to plan for their future. And they need to know whether the Government's going to extend some of these support programs, or not. But of course the Prime Minister has decided to kick that decision down the road beyond Eden-Monaro by-election. And that's making it very, very difficult…
KNIGHT: what, you think he's playing politics here?
FITZGIBBON: I absolutely do, yeah. I have no doubt, Deb. That review is complete, it could be announced now. But the Prime Minister doesn't want to be announcing any tough decisions and we all acknowledge there may need to be tough decisions. I don't walk away from that, but he doesn't want to be making them prior to the by-election next weekend.
KNIGHT: Angus, your response?
TAYLOR: Look – you know, Albo is playing politics here, that's very clear. And look, we have, we have - there's no question - provided enormous support for an extended period of time, longer than most countries in the world. That's bought us time to be able to make sure we get this right. You know, rushing into these things when we've got a program that's going for six months, is the wrong way to approach it. You know, Albo just wants to play games in, you know, with the by-election coming up. He's clearly concerned. So, you know, we're going to focus on getting this right, on getting the decisions right, on focusing on the sectors that need the support. There's other sectors that are going well now, and that means giving ourselves time to make the right calls.
KNIGHT: All right now, Joel probably some congratulations are in order for you. I think you've finally convinced your colleagues that coal isn't so bad after all, after Anthony Albanese wrote to the PM Scott Morrison saying he wants to work hand-in-hand on a bipartisan energy policy. Have they finally come around to your way of thinking, that coal’s not too bad a thing?
FITZGIBBON: Well, Deb, the reality is the Labor Party always has, and always will, support the coal mining industry. And other industries like the gas sector and of course the manufacturing sectors which they both fuel. So, this is nothing new but what is new, again, is the extension of a bipartisan hand, an opportunity to work with the Government to put downward pressure on electricity prices, to reduce carbon emissions, and to create jobs in this country. And if Scott Morrison rejects that bipartisan hand, it will be for him to explain to the Australian community why he's not prepared to work with us, to settle…
KNIGHT: But why? Why should he work with you? You’re in Opposition, he's in government.
FITZGIBBON: Well because we are bleeding in the economy, Deb. We've had this investment drought driven by investment uncertainty in turn, driven by a lack of an energy policy now for seven years, and all the major corporations are saying it. We need a settlement here. We need an energy policy architecture in place so we can restore investment certainty, get investment flowing in to get jobs growing again in the economy. And at the moment it’s Scott Morrison versus the Labor Party and just about every representative group and every major corporation in the country, and by the way, Deb, every premier in the country – Labor and Liberal - want a settlement on this issue, and we're offering one.
KNIGHT: Angus, are you going to hold hands with Labor on this, or hang on is that a pig just flying past my eyesight right about now?
TAYLOR: Look, I think Joel will acknowledge he's got a lot of work to do to win over the hearts and minds of is colleagues in terms of coal workers and those working in coal-related industries, Deb, in response to his earlier comments. Look, you know, we welcome the fact that Labor is at least saying that they like our policy of technology not taxes, but it remains to be seen whether the actions fit with the words. And we saw within 24 hours of this – this so-called bipartisanship – we had Mark Butler and Anthony Albanese out there on the attack again, within 24 hours. So the question is whether this is genuine and sincere. We’re looking carefully at what they've put to us. But, frankly, we'd like to see the actions meet – in line with - the words.
KNIGHT: Just quickly, a fun one…
FITZGIBBON: Hang on, they were attacking Angus because Angus said that Anthony Albanese failed to rule-out a carbon tax, and Angus that is just spin, that is not true. We're not proposing a carbon tax, it’s not on our agenda, it hasn't been on our agenda for the last two elections.
KNIGHT: All right…
TAYLOR: Not even a sneaky one, not even a backdoor one? Can you, can you put that on the record?
KNIGHT: Not another ‘never, never’ on a carbon tax? Haven't we already had that one promised before?
FITZGIBBON: Are you talking to me now, Deb? Never, ever, ever.
KNIGHT: There won’t be a carbon tax under a government I rule?
TAYLOR: Joel talks about a settlement, here, Deb. Joel talks about some… he uses these great words like framework and architecture. Well, in the past, that's always translated to a carbon tax. And so the question here is whether this is sincere and genuine. And we want to know it is
KNIGHT: All right, just a fun one. Russell Crowe is out there trying to educate the world about Ozzy-isms and New Zealand-isms. Words like bugger all, budgie smugglers, carked it - all the rest of it. What's your favorite Aussie-ism, Aussie phrase. Angus?
TAYLOR: Oh god, there’s so many I don't know where to start. Umm, Go hard! Go hard!
KNIGHT: What about you Joel?
FITZGIBBON: You obviously stumped Angus. It stumped me a bit too. Look, how about, she'll be right, mate?
KNIGHT: She’ll be right mate. She will be right, mate, too. Good on you fellas. Talk to you again next week.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks Deb
TAYLOR: Thanks Deb.