DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And the Member for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon, and Energy Minister, and now Industry Minister, Angus Taylor, join us now for Friday question time. Congratulations on the promotion, Angus. It's a big portfolio, goodness me. Energy, Emissions Reduction and Industry. You'll pull it off.
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY, EMISSIONS REDUCTION AND INDUSTRY: It's a great honour, Deb. Can I just say up front, by the way, I'm terribly sorry to hear about your mother in-law, and I want to condemn those grubby, anonymous social media cowards for their comments. Absolutely disgraceful...
KNIGHT: … Yeah look, I appreciate that.
TAYLOR: I endorse what you said earlier.
KNIGHT: And I really welcome the Prime Minister wanting to crack down on social media sites like Facebook, because the rubbish that gets spouted on these platforms, reform is well overdue.
TAYLOR: You're absolutely right, Deb, and I feel very strongly about this. And your point was right, you wouldn't do it on the street, so why do you do it on social media? And I think that's the right way to measure what is appropriate.
KNIGHT: Yeah. It's interesting, though, Joel, because I mean, you guys are in public life. You cop a hell of a lot of rubbish and cop a hell of a lot of criticism sometimes warranted, sometimes not. But it becomes very difficult when it is people hiding behind anonymous identities, which is what seems to be happening on these social media platforms. Have we got Joel? Yeah, there he is.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Yeah, I too congratulate Angus, Deb. I suspect there won't be much time to get the push bike out now. But Russell is not only a grub, Deb, he's a coward. As you both pointed out, he wouldn't do it in the street, he does it from the privacy and safety of his home. Angus and I, I'm sure Angus does, maybe it's just me, I might stand corrected but we deal with these people all day, every day. And of course, the best way of dealing with them is to try to ignore them. But of course, social media has amplified the voice of every individual. And we as humans - I support more regulation - we as human beings have to be more sensible too. I mean, what is going on in the mind of someone like Russell, seriously.
KNIGHT: And honestly, why should you ignore them? Like why should we have to just cop it and ignore them? Because that's been the argument on social media for a long time that you know, I'll just block don't worry about them, don't let them get to you. But I mean, if they're directly targeting you and saying that they hope that your children die, for goodness sake.
FITZGIBBON: I actually like winding them up on occasion, Deb. That can be a bit of fun. Yeah, I might recommend that to you.
KNIGHT: Has its place, has its place. But yeah, I agree. I think reform is well overdue in that space. Now, a big shock this time last week, of course, with Gladys Berejiklian resigning due to the ICAC investigation and the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, also calling it quits. So we've got a whole new leadership team in New South Wales, including Angus, your sister in law, Bronnie Taylor, promoted to the Deputy Nationals leadership role. Now I want you both to have a listen to something that Bronnie Taylor said to my breakfast colleague, Ben Fordham, this week.
BRONNIE TAYLOR, NSW NATIONALS DEPUTY LEADER: Well yes, I am. But look, Ben, I do have to tell you that I am really married to the most fabulous Taylor boy who is, Duncan. And there's four Taylor boys and mine is the absolute cracker.
KNIGHT: Oh, that's a bit of a dig isn't it, Angus? Your brother's the cracker, not you.
TAYLOR: It's pretty tough feedback. But we have four boys in the family. We're pretty loyal to each other, I think he's a good bloke too. He's a farmer at Nimmitabel in Southern New South Wales. But you know, the real judge of this is my wife, she hasn't had her say. But anyway, I hope she's on my side on this one.
KNIGHT: You'd hope so. But what do you think of the new leadership team, Joel, with – Angus, I'll get your views in a minute too – with Dominic Perrottet as the new Premier?
FITZGIBBON: Well, thanks for not taking me into the battle Taylor.
KNIGHT: Yeah, I don't want to tip you in that.
FITZGIBBON: It would have been more concerning if Bronnie had nominated one of the other brothers. I think the happiest person in New South Wales now is Opposition Leader, Chris Minns, isn't he? I mean on any objective analysis, Gladys was a pretty good Premier. She certainly had strong support, including the support of the media. I remember last year when I kick-started these things, you know, people, you know, shock jocks if I can call them that, you that, were very supportive of the Premier. So she was a tough competitor. So, Chris Minns is the winner. Dom Perrottet and Bronnie are yet to be tested, I suppose. They're off to a pretty quick start. We'll see where it takes us.
KNIGHT: Well, I tell you what, the Labor Party would be sitting back thinking, well, we're on a good wicket here if we see more mistakes like that by Paul Toole, today, the new Nationals Leader completely stuffing up, telling people in Sydney that you can go for day trips to the regional areas as part of the lifting of freedoms on Monday and Brad Hazzard, the Health Minister had to step in to intervene. So let’s hope we don't see any more mistakes, bad ones like that. But what are your thoughts, Angus, on Dominic Perrottet as the new Premier?
TAYLOR: Well, I think he's absolutely the right person for the time. I mean, I, like Joel, think Gladys did a great job. And she was popular for the right reasons. So, it was sad to see her go, of course. But I think Dom is perfectly suited to helping New South Wales out of COVID, recover from COVID. He has a deep understanding of the New South Wales economy...
KNIGHT: ... And he's not frightened to stick it up to the PM as well, who called him some colourful words.
TAYLOR: Well, you know, that's part of the job of a state Premier, but I have no doubt we'll have a very strong relationship with the New South Wales Government under Dom's leadership. And I think we're very aligned on doing everything we can to open things up, get back on our feet and get going again, which is what we all want.
KNIGHT: And this has renewed calls for a federal ICAC to be set up as well, in the wake of the New South Wales ICAC, with the investigation into Gladys Berejiklian, and a lot of people aren't happy with the fact that she did resign in the wake of that investigation. And I know that you, Joel, have described the ICAC in New South Wales as a kangaroo court, but not your colleagues. The Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus disagrees with you there. I mean, there's a role for the ICAC, isn't there? I mean, we wouldn't have had Eddie Obeid or Ian Macdonald exposed, had it not been for ICAC.
FITZGIBBON: You know, Deb, most of your listeners would know someone born to privilege, educated at wealthy schools, and now highly qualified, but completely without common sense. And the point Mark Dreyfus was making was a moot-point, he was saying that because ICAC doesn't have prosecutorial powers or the power to convict, you know, my description was a wrong one. But the point is that while it can't itself send people to jail, it can destroy lives and has destroyed lives, without the important parameters that courts work within. So in the courts, it's innocent until proven guilty. And in ICAC, it seems, once you're referred, it's guilty until proven innocent. So I believe in having a federal corruption commission of some sort. What I'm saying is that we should not use ICAC as a guide when building that architecture, in fact, we should look at ICAC and do something much differently. Because after I made those comments, I was inundated with people who have had their lives destroyed by ICAC, and some of them are just very low level, local government, for example, without ever being found guilty of anything or prosecuted for anything. It's been a failed experiment, in my view, despite the fact that it has flushed out a few corrupt people.
KNIGHT: And will there be a federal integrity commission set up, Angus? Because a lot of people are questioning the current model on the table, saying it's not tough enough.
TAYLOR: If Joel's position holds inside the Labor Party, there will be a sensible Commonwealth integrity commission, but I completely agree with Joel on this. We don't want to star chamber. We don't want an organisation to trash the presumption of innocence. We need fair process. They are absolutely crucial parts of our democratic system. We're seeing what happens when you've got a star chamber that goes well beyond that in New South Wales – third Premier. You know, I'm old enough to remember Nick Greiner going and, of course, more recently Barry O'Farrell, and they were both cleared. So, you know, this is just outrageous what we're seeing. So this could be done the right way. And I'm very much at one with Joel, I hope he can persuade his colleagues in the Labor Party to stick by those important principles.
KNIGHT: Well, you better get on with it. You'll be gone by the next election, Joel.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just quickly say that you would swear that corruption was rife in Canberra, Deb, the way this conversation is proceeding and I don't see any evidence of that whatsoever. I'm not saying it doesn't exist. I can't know that. But gee, in my 25 years...
KNIGHT: ... But surely you've got to have an independent body because, I mean, we're not saying it's rife with it, but as you say, there could well be corruption occurring and if there's not an independent body to sniff it out, we're in strife.
FITZGIBBON: I agree, but we keep talking about this so much, we'll convince people that 90 per cent of the people in Canberra are corrupt, we need this body. We do need the body but just let's, you know, let's settle this conversation down a bit. I think it's gone crazy.
KNIGHT: Alright, you two are singing from the song book too much. We'll see what you think about this. The Glasgow Climate Change Conference, which is coming up and, Angus, is the PM actually going to go to Glasgow in person.
TAYLOR: Well, he hasn't made that final decision yet. But what I do know is that his first priority and his first focus will be on Australia and Australians, not to international bureaucrats or conferences. So that is his focus. Look, he's had over 50 days in quarantine so far this year. He's had an enormous amount of international engagement, of course, including the AUKUS agreement, security partnership, was an enormously important step forward for our national security...
KNIGHT: ... And in the wake of that AUKUS agreement, is it more important for the PM to go to Glasgow in person, because it's more than just an environment meeting considering you've got both the US President, Joe Biden, and Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, they're both big advocates for ambitious climate targets. Should Scomo be there to keep that relationship on track and cement it further?
TAYLOR: Well, I think that the relationship is very much on track. I don't think that's an issue. I mean, you only have to listen to the comments that have been made by people like Nancy Pelosi on that. But look, the Prime Minister has to get the balance right here. As I said, over 50 days in quarantine. Deb, this is a crucial time for Australia as we come out of COVID-19 lockdowns and so on. We've got to get the economy open, we've got to get ourselves back on our feet. And at the end of the day, that has got to be the Prime Minister's first priority.
KNIGHT: And Joel, what do you think? Should he be there in person?
FITZGIBBON: Well, you get your wish, Deb. We're going to vehemently disagree on this one. This is a big conference, all the world's leaders will be there. They've all got their problems at home, too, with this pandemic, of course. And it's preposterous, the idea that Scott Morrison might not be there. Now, you know, he doesn't need to argue he needs to be there to promote a more aggressive stance on climate change, he might want to argue that he's there to make sure that the conference doesn't overreach on climate change. Either way, Deb, we've got to be part of the conversation. We can't expect to complain about any outcome, if we weren't prepared to front up and argue our case.
KNIGHT: Alright, we'll see what the final decision is...
TAYLOR: ... Can I just quickly respond to that, Deb? We are part of the conversation. But the conversation, as you know Joel, in these things, much of it happens in advance. And we need a plan that is relevant to all Australians, not just those in Sydney and Melbourne who are focused on international conferences. We've got to focus on Gladstone, the Hunter Valley, and so on.
KNIGHT: Alright. Now quickly, Monday, Freedom Day. What's the first thing you're going to be doing, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: Well, sadly, Deb, for me it's the same thing I do every Monday. I start with a 6:45am television interview with one of my other sparring partners, Barnaby Joyce, and I end the day with a 9pm television interview with a few other sparring partners...
KNIGHT: ... Oh, it can't all be work, Joel. Come on.
FITZGIBBON: So what do I do that's really fun, Deb, in between without getting myself in trouble on the evening interview?
KNIGHT: Well, a schnitty and a beer might make it more interesting.
FITZGIBBON: Well, I haven't had a schooner of beer for a long time. I mean, drinking it out of a bottle is a first world problem, I know. But at some stage next week, I'll be in a restaurant somewhere you can be sure about that.
KNIGHT: That is good. How about you, Angus?
TAYLOR: It's got to be a haircut. It's got to be a haircut. But it'll also be a schooner at one of Goulburn’s great establishments. Looking forward to doing that.
KNIGHT: Yeah, we'll all be doing one of those things, eating out, getting haircuts, and hopefully, all of the above. Good to talk, fellas. Thanks for joining us.