STEVE PRICE, HOST: Do you think Sydney might need to localise a tougher lockdown if they're going to shorten the amount of time that everyone's going to be locked up?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: I wish we weren't having the conversation, Steve. I wish you didn't have to ask me that question. And if Gladys had locked down hard and fast immediately after the Bondi breakout, we wouldn't be in this situation. But I long ago came to the conclusion that the only lockdowns that work are those which are quick, of short duration, and are comprehensive, and that's what we needed and sadly, it's probably what we still need now in Sydney. But we also need to properly compensate people because families, businesses everywhere are doing it very tough.
PRICE: I’ll get on the JobKeeper in a sec. I mean, it won't surprise you that I've not always been a massive fan of Daniel Andrews, but I've got to say, as we sit here today with the two biggest cities, Joel, in the country, going in different directions, you've got to say that his hard line on this has worked.
FITZGIBBON: It's amazing how quickly the tables can turn, isn't it? I mean, Gladys was the queen of non-lockdown, and Dan Andrews was pilloried right around the country for taking a different course. And, of course, Mark McGowan in Western Australia and was a hard lockdown man, and I've never seen a more popular politician in my life than Mark McGowan in Western Australia. So, it's an interesting dynamic, and, I mean, Gladys at the moment just looks like a rabbit in the spotlight when she appears on our television screens eleven o'clock every day. She seems not know, to know what to do next. And she'll need more support from the Commonwealth – a Commonwealth which has failed us both on vaccinations and on quarantining.
PRICE: One of the toughest things here, Joel, and I was talking to Ross Greenwood about this earlier. I mean, you've got a payment in New South Wales which has been stitched together by Dominic Perrottet, the Treasurer, which allows a worker to get $600 a week if they've lost up to, I think it's 20 hours of work. The problem with that, of course, is – and I keep using this example of someone I know has been working on the tunnel project, the Westconnex, they're making $600 a day on that job, and they're being told, okay, we're going to take, you know, they're working six days a week, six shifts off you and give you $600. Well, that doesn't pay the rent, doesn't pay the mortgage, doesn't put enough food on the table.
FITZGIBBON: No, it doesn't. We can talk about average wages, median wages over time, but the fact is that $600 for many people will not pay the mortgage and will not pay the rent. That's before even thinking about groceries and each of the other necessities of life. So, it's not good enough. You know, Scott Morrison was dragged reluctantly to JobKeeper the first time around, but he got there in the end. It cost a lot of money, but it works, Steve. I just don't understand why we don't revisit something that worked so well.
PRICE: Particularly if you're going to have an announcement today which, you know, we suspect, and I allude back to what I was saying at the beginning of this conversation, that we lockdown harder on parts of southwest Sydney. Now, we've now seen the numbers that the number of workers who live in southwest Sydney who travel out to do the work around the rest of Sydney is huge. And the movement of those workers is essential work. I mean, they're going to, you know, they're going to man the shelves at supermarkets. They're working on the checkouts. They're the tradies on projects that still have to go ahead. If we going to not not lock those people down harder, Joel, surely what you've got to do is in concert with Canberra say, ok, we're going to lock you down harder but you're going to get JobKeeper?
FITZGIBBON: Absolutely, I think we've all learned a little bit more about how our country works throughout the pandemic. Look at my own region. I mean, wine tourism in my backyard survives almost entirely on visitation from the Central Coast and Sydney, and those people just aren't coming at the moment. We're doing it tough too, so it makes sense for all of us now we have a better understanding about the way people move around in our economy to lock the place down but to fully compensate people. The government will get the money back in the long run if we get our economy up and running more quickly and people start paying taxes again.
PRICE: How hard is your community doing it currently?
FITZGIBBON: Oh really tough, although it's mixed. Obviously, those who work in the coal mining and like industries aren't being too effected and where you’re able to move around of course freely. But if you're in anything like the services sector, wine tourism, restaurants in the vineyards or a supplier of food to those restaurants, say, you are doing very, very tough and they are receiving very, very little assistance.
PRICE: Federal Labor Party are going to the next election without the negative gearing policy that so damaged Bill Shorten and the party has said it will back tax cuts for higher earning Australians, do you support both those things?
FITZGIBBON: I say hallelujah.
PRICE: I thought you might.
FITZGIBBON: We are a more competitive party than we were two and a bit years ago, not just because Scott Morrison is in trouble, but we've dispensed with all these unsellable tax policies, franking credits, negative gearing, capital gains and that crazy proposal to take legislated tax cuts back off people. We've got Senior Shadow Ministers now visiting coal mines on a regular basis talking about the importance of that industry and its workers to our economy. We've wound back our obsession with climate change – an important issue, Steve, but not more important than people's capacity to pay their mortgage and their household bills and the school fees and the like and I trust we've dropped the idea of a medium term target, Steve, to 2030 or 2035. We have a very solid commitment on net zero emissions, which I support, and I believe is achievable largely through new technologies, but trying to set a medium term target in competition with the government, from Opposition, his political death and dumb.
PRICE: It seems to me you've come back to the centre which you've urged for a long time because if you're going to win a federal election against Scott Morrison, you've got to convince some of the voters that drifted off to the Coalition, particularly those people in Queensland, then you've got to have policies that fit with what they expect their life's going to be in the next five or six years.
FITZGIBBON: That's right, Steve. Labor has always been most successful when it’s floating it's around that centre ground. That's where Hawke and Keating were, and they had more than 12 years in government. That's where Kevin Rudd was, in fact, outflanking on the right John Howard on economic policy. Remember he condemned John Howard for his reckless spending. That's where we need to be. We are a social democratic party, we're about lifting people up those people who need assistance. But you can only do that if you've got a strong economy, you can't have a strong economy without a competitive taxation system one which incentivises work, and, of course, those important export industries we so much upon – the mining industry, the oil and gas industry in particular.
PRICE: Did you end up getting a jab?
FITZGIBBON: No, I'm still trying, I'm booked in for two jabs of Pfizer.
FITZGIBBON: Well, three days before I was due to receive my AstraZeneca, ATAGI told me I was too young – I really enjoyed that bit. But then, of course, I had to shop around for Pfizer. I locked two appointments in. They're coming soon, one early August; one early September. I just hope Gladys doesn't decide to drop me to provide more vaccines to people in southwest Sydney, as much as they need it.
PRICE: Wouldn't you have AstraZeneca if you could get it?
FITZGIBBON: Well, when ATAGI changed their advice, my doctor told me he couldn't give it to me because he would be legally exposed if he did so. And now while that has changed, if I went and had an AZ jab this coming weekend, then I will get my second job later than I will receive my Pfizer jab, so I'm better off sticking with the Pfizer.
PRICE: That's part of the problem and that's part of the problem with the rollout now, I think. I mean, it's just – it has been bungled from the beginning and I'm not sure it's getting too much better. I mean, we spoke last night on the Project to Lieutenant General Frewen about all of that and he tried to explain it and I'm still in the – in a muddle, I still don't understand.
FITZGIBBON: Look, Steve, when Scott Morrison stuffed it up so comprehensively in the beginning, not just vaccines but purpose-built quarantine facilities, it becomes so bad that you just can't play catch-up. I mean, sadly its history now, but it's difficult to catch up. So, we are going to be living with those mistakes for a long time to come.
PRICE: Good to catch up again. Thanks for your time.
FITZGIBBON: A pleasure Steve.