CHRIS KENNY, HOST: Let's go to former Labor Frontbencher, Joel Fitzgibbon, and former Labor Minister of course Joel Fitzgibbon. Good to talk to you, Joel. Just quickly that sort of stuff from an elected official, just not on, is it?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Just dumb, Chris. I have no idea. There's a golden rule, I don't know what time that was posted, but there's a golden rule, you know, about using social media at particular times.
KENNY: Yeah, indeed, indeed. Just don't do it. Now, what about this India ban? I mean, as I said, I've railed against it from the get go. I think it's a fundamental right of a citizen to return to their country. We've got quarantine in place. I see the challenge against this ban in the Federal Court has been thrown out already, so it's staying in place untill Saturday.
FITZGIBBON: I never had any difficulty with the ban, Chris, as difficult it was for so many people. My complaint was with the decision to threaten to put Australian citizens in jail if they sought to breach the ban. I thought that was terrible overreach. The Prime Minister has of course said, oh we were never going to do that. Well, if he wasn't going to do it, why waive the big stick, Chris? It was a mistake...
KENNY: ... Well, that's the authority, isn't it? You can't do that. That's the authority under which you have the ban. You can't issue a ban without the legislative authority. And if it's under that act, then those penalties come with it.
FITZGIBBON: Well, Chris, you and I both have been in the Ministerial office. Someone suggests that we evoke the Quarantine Act, the Biosecurity Act, and the first question you ask is, what will that mean? And when the official tells you that it means we're going to threaten to put Australians in jail if they breach the ban, then you have a rethink, don't you? I mean...
KENNY: ... Well, I have would, yeah.
FITZGIBBON: Common sense, surely, should have prevailed. It didn't prevail and now it's up to the Prime Minister to explain why. It's not good enough to say oh well, I didn't really mean it, I wasn't going to use it.
KENNY: Yeah, it's a hell of a worry. We'll hear more about that in the future. Of course, I hope you...
FITZGIBBON: You were talking about judgement, Chris. Here's talking about judgement.
KENNY: Indeed. Now speaking, again, then about judgement. What's it like to have a former Liberal Prime Minister in your bailiwick campaigning against the Coalition candidate in the state by-election?
FITZGIBBON: It's fantastic, Chris. I hope he comes back every day. And I hope the Liberal Party has the good sense not to expel him from the Liberal Party because Malcolm Turnbull is currently the best thing we've got going for us.
KENNY: It's a hell of a field you've got up there. There's a bunch of independents, there's One Nation, Shooters and Fishers, Greens – they're all in there. But the Nats' candidate and the Labor candidate very strongly supporting the coal industry; of course, Malcolm's not. Malcolm Turnbull is out there saying it's time to move on from coal in the Upper Hunter. Is he getting a few decades ahead of himself?
FITZGIBBON: Well, one thing is certain, Chris, you are right. We all love coal now. All the parties capable of getting 10 per cent or more – Labor, Nats, Shooters and Fishers and One Nation – are all strongly supporting the coal mining industry. I think that's a good thing because we can – we should be able to then set that aside as an issue, having agreed on that issue, and move on to other things that are really important to communities – health and education skills, training, TAFE etcetera. But, you know, Malcolm comes up to his ranch, when he's not at Point Piper, in the Point Piper mansion, and preaches the gospel to us all, and tells us, you know – 13,000 people directly employed in the industry and up to 75,000 directly and indirectly – and tells us that we've got to get rid of coal. I mean, it's just crazy. It's, I hope he's got some security up there on the ranch. He'll need some soon, if he's not – if he doesn't start moderating his language.
KENNY: Joel Fitzgibbon, I'd love to talk budget with you. I think we might see one of the best Labor budgets since Paul Keating tomorrow. But we're out of time. I have to leave you there.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you, Chris.