MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Well look, he took a swing and he didn't miss at my next guest either. But I know that this former Cessnock Goanna can handle it. Joel Fitzgibbon, good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Great to be with you, Marcus.
PAUL: Alright, so Joel, look, I want to get to the issue of defense in just a moment. Of course, we have this report that will be made public in the coming weeks, and we need to steel ourselves for it. Just in relation to the last couple of days, have things settled down a little between you and your colleagues within the Labor Party?
FITZGIBBON: All things relative, I think is the correct or accurate response, Marcus. We're all going home today. Many have already left Canberra, back to their respective states and electorates, but you can be sure that I will continue to do all I can to rebuild the party and to make it more competitive. And of course, Marcus, to put the labour back into the Labor Party.
FITZGIBBON: And push my people to get out there more into the region's talking to hi-vision, blue collar workers.
FITZGIBBON: Those who keep the wheels of our industries going and those who earn us all that export income. And of course, those who do so to put food on the table for their families.
PAUL: Alright, Mark Latham, just a moment or so ago said that Stuart Bonds from One Nation gave you the freight of your life. I don't know what he meant by that. You want to elaborate? I mean, they're trying to muscle in up there, Joel. Watch out.
FITZGIBBON: Well, why wouldn't they, Marcus? The Labor Party has been sending the people by pursuing for a vote, we haven't treated them all that well. We haven't been sending them the right messages. We haven't been telling them that we respect what they do at the workplace. We haven't been telling them how important they are to our economy in the Hunter region. The coal mining industry is responsible for up to seventy-five thousand jobs directly and indirectly. Now still, Bonds was the One Nation candidate. He didn't campaign, by the way.
FITZGIBBON: asking our boys to go on very long rotations more regularly than is usual. They were concerned about their capacity to secure medevacs, for example, when someone was wounded, concerned about others, of course, like close air support.
FITZGIBBON: And you know, I heard one of our VC's on Remembrance Day this week by talking, paying tribute to his team and how good it is to know that if you're wounded, the team is going to do all in its power to get you out of there safe and well. And you can't do that without a medevac. And I have had a lot of arguments with a range of people about making sure that medevacs are always available, and they were not always available. But in addition to that, Marcus...
FITZGIBBON: When you send your boys in to put themselves in the line of fire, they want to know they're doing something meaningful, and they always were, but they also knew that the strategy in Afghanistan was vague, at best. They also knew that the likelihood of overall success in the, not mission themselves, but the overall campaign in Afghanistan was very, very doubtful. So there was a lot playing on their mind. If you're there for the eighth rotation, then it’s hardly surprising - oh, and one other important point, Marcus. Our boys were playing to their, not playing, I should say fighting, to their rules of engagement, and the constraints of international law, but their enemy, played to no rules.
PAUL: Of course.
FITZGIBBON: And won more, but they were capturing prisoners, risking their lives in doing so. The prisoners obviously shooting at them at the time...
PAUL: ...And then they released them.
FITZGIBBON: And they finally released them, yeah. Very dispiriting for our boys out there beyond the wire.
PAUL: Alright, mate. I've got to leave it there. News is on the way. We'll catch up. I want to talk in a bit more detail once the reports released with you. I mean, you were the defense minister during this period. So we'll catch up again soon. Thank you, Joel.
FITZGIBBON: And just on that point, Marcus. I count myself, of course, about raising the need to be accountable for what went on. I was one of the people at the top.
PAUL: Yep, very true.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks mate.
PAUL: Alright. There he is, Joel Fitzgibbon.