Transcript - Radio Interview - 2GB - Friday, 3 December 2021

Transcript - Radio Interview - 2GB - Friday, 3 December 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

03 December 2021

DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: Well, the final sitting week of the parliamentary year has come to an end and thank goodness for that, frankly, because it was a shameful display from all sides of politics. Senators growling, Senators telling women to keep their legs shut, a Minister stood down with allegations of an abusive relationship. All as the Jenkins review was handed down this week with our Pollies supposedly committing to do better. Well, they talked the talk but they certainly didn't walk the walk. Angus Taylor is the Minister for Energy and Industry, and Joel Fitzgibbon is the Member for the Hunter. They're on the line for us now. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. And Angus, I reckon you lot made school kids look like angels this week, it was a shameful display what unfolded in both Houses of Parliament this week.


ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY, EMISSIONS REDUCTION AND INDUSTRY: Well look, Deb, there's always drama in Canberra but it usually isn't reflective of what's really going on, on the ground. We passed three national security laws these sitting weeks. In my portfolio, we passed important legislation for our electricity market, and we've moved electoral reforms, legislation for medical research. But there is game playing going on, I certainly don't endorse that. We had the Leader of the Opposition, politicising a charity gift drive. And this is, look, people get tired towards the end of the year, but from my point of view, getting on with the job has to be the focus. I'm up in the Snowy Mountains today talking about Snowy 2.0 and the amazing work that is going on here as we bore into the mountain to shore up our electricity supply, deliver affordability and reliability and that's my focus.


KNIGHT: Well, it's clear that the culture needs to be improved. And I mean, in terms of the behaviour and the performance, I think across the board, this isn't political, this is just, you know, on a human level, you need to do better. And Joel, how's it fixed? How do we improve what happens when people get to Parliament House in Canberra?


JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: The findings of the Jenkins report were shocking, Deb. And we all collectively have to do much better. Let me say first of all, though, the report doesn't say we're all guilty. I mean, too many instances of bullying, harassment, including sexual harassment, but it doesn't mean the majority of MPs and Senators are the perpetrators and no doubt in many of those cases, it will be that those women have been victim of the same person. But it's far too much and we need to fix it. I think there are two major causes. The first is ego and there's not much we can do about that. The second is alcohol. It's a real problem in Parliament House, it's a problem across society. But we are rightly held to a higher standard, it's not good enough. I believe the Parliament should be sitting very different hours, I don't think we should be there beyond five o'clock, when people typically might start drinking. I'm pretty confident, I hope I can be, that not too many people are drinking before five o'clock. We can start earlier, Deb, and we can get rid of some of the silly games we play that are just time consuming, and serve no real purpose. In other words, we can be more efficient, we can lift our productivity, get people out of the building, so they're not congregating in large number, and not drinking inside parliamentary offices where no doubt most of these problems have occurred.


KNIGHT: Well, alcohol and banning it inside parliament was one of the recommendations of the Jenkins Review. And Angus, we saw that members of the crossbench were saying they were prepared to actually sit for a few more days to get the review passed. But that wasn't adopted by either Labor or the Government. When will we see this Jenkins review adopted, all of the recommendations and when will we see some actual commitment to change, rather than just talking about it?


TAYLOR: Well, can I say up front, Deb, every single Australian has a right to feel and to be safe at work. And certainly, I can say from my part in both my electorate office and ministerial office, I seek to create an environment where people feel safe and are safe. And that's very important from my point of view. I've employed people throughout my career and that's something I understand to be hugely important, but as Joel says, there have been instances that are not acceptable. But as a first step, what needs to happen now is the Minister for Finance and Special Minister of State, need to consult with the Opposition, we need to work right across the Parliament, minor parties and independents as well, on a way forward to respond to the review. It's crucially important this happens in a de-politicised environment focused on the outcomes and I certainly support that very strongly.


KNIGHT: Well, there's not many sitting days before the next election, when's it going to happen?


TAYLOR: Well, it needs to be happening now. I mean, right away and it is so important. Look, we are in a very political environment now because we're approaching an election, because we're getting to the end of the year, and there's game playing going on which I dislike intensely. But, you know, that's the situation, people are playing games, we need to get beyond it for this very, very important issue because it does need to be resolved. I agree with you, Deb.


KNIGHT: And because of the game playing, we sit back as voters and think, well, what the hell are you lot doing there? I mean, there's these key promises from the Prime Minister at the last election - the Federal Integrity Commission, the Religious Freedom Bill, all of that's on the back burner. I mean, why, Joel, is the game playing... I mean, I get it politics is, you know, you say it's full of ego, you've got to have an ego to go in there. But I'm so sick of hearing, oh well, if you don't have a thick skin, you shouldn't get into politics. No, you should do better. And I just find it such a disappointment. And Joel, I don't know, you leaving the place at the next election, you want to go out on a high, but when you see a performance like this, then you leave the building with your tail between your legs, don't you?


FITZGIBBON: Well, of course, I'd like to go out on a high and there's no doubt that our standing in the community is falling further. And why wouldn't they be concerned about how slow the Government might be to implement the Jenkins reforms, when they still haven't legislated this Government, for the things they promised at the last election almost three years ago. I mean, this week, their two headline bills were religious freedoms and voting, the voting ID, and they got neither of them through, Deb, in fact, they had to withdraw them, because they can't get their own people in their own Coalition of parties to agree with them. So you know, the old saying, if you can't manage your own party, then you're not much good at managing the country. And they certainly aren't doing a good job of managing the country at the moment. This week was the worst week I've seen for a government in the 25 years I've been there.


KNIGHT: And Angus, the government and the Prime Minister does like to say that your team gets things done. But we haven't seen any action on this key legislation. We haven't seen any action on what was promised with the Integrity Commission and the Religious Freedom Bill. Two cases in point.


TAYLOR: Let's take the religious freedom bill for a start, Deb. It's been introduced. It's been introduced, it's going to committee, there was unbelievable game playing on an issue I feel personally very strongly about, as Labor and the Greens decided to try to push it into committees so they could manipulate it. You know, this is so sad that this stuff goes on. It shouldn't. But it has been introduced, we've worked through it very carefully. And of course, we've been focused on the Coronavirus over the last 18 months. So, it's understandable it's happening now. But you know, we have got to get above this game playing, get this legislation through...


KNIGHT: ... But you've even got members of your own party with the Federal Integrity Commission saying no, we're not happy with this. It's not just the Greens and Labor.


TAYLOR: But there's people in Labor who really dislike religious freedom. There's no question about this. And you know that to be true, you know that to be true, Joel. And this legislation needs to be treated with the respect that the issue deserves. And that's what we're asking for, and then we'll get it through. But the Parliament has to work and that requires all sides of the Parliament to respect the important role Parliament plays.


KNIGHT: I want to talk about...


FITZGIBBON: ... Labor is nothing but respectful, and constructive on this issue, Deb. No game playing.


KNIGHT: Alright. I want to talk about climate policy, because Labor has released its climate policy today. But Joel, you guys seem to be having a bit of an identity crisis here. You're trying to be all things to all people. But for a party supposedly committed to action on climate change, what's been released today is not exactly inspiring.


FITZGIBBON: I disagree, Deb. The mistake we made at the 2019 election was to set a target, but we weren't really able to tell people how we might get there. What we've done...


KNIGHT: ...Well, where's the detail from this today? There's none.


FITZGIBBON: It will be released today, including the modelling. What we've done this time is develop a policy and let the modelling determine the target, which I think is very, very important. So, a 43 per cent target is hardly modest. I mean, that's pretty ambitious. But the modelling demonstrates that we can get there and in doing so fulfill three objectives - to put downward pressure on electricity prices, to bring carbon emissions down, something the overwhelming majority of Australians are asking us to do, but the third point is a really important one too, to make sure we don't forego jobs, but indeed create a lot more jobs. This is a pretty creative and clever policy. It's pretty robust. I still need to have a look at all of the detail, but I think it's a good policy and I think it will be welcomed by the Australian community.


KNIGHT: But how are you going to do all that, reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 Without a carbon tax?


FITZGIBBON: Well, there'll be no carbon tax...


KNIGHT: ... We have heard that before.


FITZGIBBON: Well, we have a number of policies in the marketplace already. And today, there's been an announcement about changes to the so-called safeguards mechanism, something created by Angus' Government, not by us, which will ensure that we help those companies which have themselves committed to the net zero emissions by 2050, get there and maybe even get there more quickly, or incentivise their capacity to do so and help them do so. So, we're not losing any jobs, we're creating new jobs, and making sure no existing job is adversely affected by this policy.


TAYLOR: Deb, can I say, I really feel sorry for Joel on this one today, because Albanese said that 45 per cent was a mistake. And Joel himself said a 45 per cent reduction at the last election, Labor's last election policy was a mistake. And yet now, they're committing to 43 and saying that's not a mistake. I mean, you can't make this stuff up, you really can't. And any change to the safeguard by Labor will be a change to turn it into a carbon tax. You know that Joel, you know that to be true...


KNIGHT: ... but I guess, Angus, at least the ALP has a medium-term goal, which is more ambitious than what the Governments got.


TAYLOR: We absolutely have a medium-term goal that gets the balance right between electricity prices, jobs, and bringing emission reductions down on our way to net zero.


KNIGHT: So, a goal but not a commitment?


TAYLOR: Well, we absolutely have a commitment, we have a target, we have a 26 to 28 per cent target and we're now on track to get to 35. So that's our position. But I'll tell you what, it's going to be bloody hard for Joel up there in the Hunter Valley, saying that 45 per cent was no good, but 43 per cent is okay, I don't know how he's going to do it...


KNIGHT: ... Could be why you're getting out, Joel.


FITZGIBBON: That is not right, Deb. Angus' target, or Scott Morrison's target, is Tony Abbott's target. Now, when I said 45 was a mistake, I did that for two reasons. One, we couldn't demonstrate how we were going to get there. And of course, at that time, we were at a much slower point on carbon emissions. Angus now says himself that we're now on track under their policy of 35, Deb. That's a big change.


KNIGHT: Well, let's see the modelling and see how it plays out


TAYLOR: Very valiant, Joel, very valiant.


FITZGIBBON: The modelling will be out today, and it will demonstrate it can be done and at the same time, putting electricity prices down, they've gone up under Angus, of course, as well as getting emissions down but also retaining and creating jobs.


KNIGHT: Alright, well let's get the detail before we can pass full judgment. Now to finish, today of course, the last day of the HSC. And this year's graduates, they've done so well after two years of interrupted schooling. And the teenage years, we know it can be so terrific when you make amazing friends and formative years, but they can also be very awkward, a lot of embarrassing moments. So I want to hear from you, in all honesty, Angus and Joel, your most embarrassing moment or memory from being a teenager. Who wants to kick it off, Joel?


FITZGIBBON: Yeah, well, I was a pretty cool dude, Deb...


KNIGHT: ... If you don't say so yourself.


FITZGIBBON: I do have this memory. I was playing fullback in a rugby league game and the other side kicked for the line, it was a very high ball and I had to walk backwards as I was assessing whether it was going to go out on the full or not, or whether I catch it. And I think at the last moment, last split-second, I looked back to see where my foot was to see whether I was on the line, over the line and as I turned back to the ball, it actually hit me in the face and knocked me over. Wasn't a big crowd, but it was big enough to be pretty embarrassing.


KNIGHT: Not your most gracious moment, nonetheless. And how about you, Angus?


TAYLOR: Well, there's a lot of those moments, Deb. We should all remember them. Don't always want to. But look, back in my teenage years as with Joel no doubt, we used to write letters. And my kids managed to stumble across the letters of my wife and I, back in those days. And I have to say I hadn't looked at them for a long, long time, Deb, there was a fair bit of embarrassment there.


KNIGHT: But how wonderful that you've kept them. And that's great that they were able to actually see them. I would love to read the letters, well, maybe some of them. I don't know if I'd like to read them all.


TAYLOR: Yeah, anyway, we have kept them for whatever reason, and sadly the kids found them.


KNIGHT: That's great. That's a lovely memory. That's embarrassing, but nonetheless a nice embarrassment. Well, Fellas, always good to talk. Thanks for stumping up, we'll chat again next week.