LAURA JAYES, HOST: Joining me live now is Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Joel Fitzgibbon, good to see you. This was quite a story from your electorate yesterday.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good to be with you, Laura. Yes, look, I don't have any special insight. It all played out in my electorate, but we're in lockdown here and it's probably around 60 kilometres from my hometown. But I do know a number of the people who were involved in the search and rescue, and I'm very proud of their efforts. But like everyone else, I was just watching it unfold on the television screen. And, you know, I woke up feeling pretty pessimistic about the whole situation yesterday morning. I was quite shocked, but pleasingly shocked, to see the revelation and that vision of young AJ from the air in the water was just amazing and we will never see anything like that in our lifetimes in my view.
JAYES: It was an amazing rescue effort from the family and authorities all the same. And I think we all had that great sense of relief feeling. It was a miracle and the good news that we needed yesterday, because as you say, we are all in lockdown. John Barilaro told regions yesterday in a briefing that he's never going to put the region's into lockdown because they don't work. Do you welcome that?
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, I welcome John's contribution. I'm a little bit disappointed that it took speculation that the curfews might be extended to the regions for him to speak out. I mean, he's been presiding over the emergency cabinet meetings where decisions were made to lockdown people in Western and Southwestern Sydney, something my federal colleagues have been complaining about for some time. So it seems there's one rule for the city, another rule for the bush. I suppose I should welcome the fact that for a change the bush is being treated better, or potentially will be treated better, than our city cousins.
JAYES: Yeah, look, this curfew issue is a big one to be frank, do you agree that there's no evidence that they do work?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I'm getting more than anecdotal evidence that people are just ignoring them now, both in Melbourne and in Sydney. Obviously, I know a lot of people who live in both of those cities and they say the streets are becoming more vibrant. We've tracked the traffic both on the roads and pedestrian traffic every night, people are just giving up, just ignoring the rules now. So, if they ever worked, I suspect they're certainly not working now.
JAYES: No, it doesn't feel that way. Now, the Prime Minister is in focus today. Let's say he got an exemption to travel back to Sydney for Father's Day, then he's gone back to the ACT. Do you have a problem with that?
FITZGIBBON: He will get no criticism from me, Laura. I think if he made a mistake it was to ignore the advice of his own advisors. I'm sure he would have been told that this is not going to pass the front-page test or the pub test. And it would probably be better that he didn't go. But he had a legal exemption. He's been separated from his family for some time. It was Father's Day. And, of course, he's our Prime Minister, Laura. I mean, I know people say that one rule for some, another rule for others. But I think, I still think being the Prime Minister means something. And, you know, we're pretty tough on our leaders, and he's had a pretty tough time of it. People might have their views including me about what sort of a Prime Minister he is. But he is our national leader and, look, I think he's entitled to take the opportunity to be reunited with his family.
JAYES: Yeah, look, it's been difficult where people have spent lockdown for weeks and weeks, almost three months in parts of Sydney. But, you know, this all in it together moto we've heard doesn't quite feel it sometimes. Now, I'm not criticising Anthony Albanese but he didn't spend or hasn't spent the whole 11 weeks in a Sydney lockdown either.
FITZGIBBON: Well, I don't know whether it would have been in the rules – within the rules but it might have been better if Scott Morrison had just driven himself back to Sydney and done the round trip. But, you know, the rule it does appear sometimes that maybe that he got special treatment, but he was in a different jurisdiction. He made the application. I've seen some terrible stories about people not being able to get into Queensland. That's a different jurisdiction, different rules. He made the application; it was approved; he did it within the rules. And again, I'm not going to be too critical.
JAYES: All right, let's ask you about the UN then because you might change your tune on this one saying that coal workers need to find new jobs within 10 years. What did you think of that report?
FITZGIBBON: Yeah happy to offer plenty of criticism on this one, Laura. It was an extraordinary speech for a number of reasons. I mean, first of all, it contained a heavy criticism of Scott Morrison on his home turf, in his own capital city. He praised – the special adviser praised the state Premiers in Australia for signing up to zero net emissions and, therefore, by exclusion was highly critical of the Prime Minister for not doing so. And, look, Scott Morrison should sign up to net zero emissions, the whole world is doing so, our leading companies are doing it, our Premiers are doing it, it's the right thing to do. And I predict by the end of the year he will do so; he'll have no choice. But on the other side of the equation, it was extraordinary because I thought it was poorly researched and demonstrated a poor understanding of Australia, our economy and our markets. And I mean we are – we have an enormous uptake of renewable energy in this country. And we will need our coal generators in the system, our younger ones for more than a decade, to keep that, to keep the grid stable and to get more renewables into the system. I mean, our youngest generator is in Queensland, it shouldn't retire until 2050. We will need these generators in the system for a long time to come. Second, it fails to demonstrate any understanding of our markets. I mean, 80 per cent of our coal is exported to our partners in Asia, including developing countries like India and China. If we stop digging up our coal, Laura, the lights just go off in those countries. I don't think that would be a good thing. And, of course, our coking coal and metallurgical coal fuels their development, allows them to manufacture the steel they just so desperately need to further the progress their development in those countries. So, we did – we can't stop, we can't stop exporting coal, Laura. We shouldn't stop exporting coal. We are doing the right thing here in Australia. We are decarbonising our economy. Our per capita emissions have fallen 46 per cent since 1990. We should make the commitment to net zero emissions but what we need to do is more enthusiastically and energetically embrace low emissions technologies, which the world will need, the International Energy Agency tells us, if we are to meet our aspirations on net zero emissions.
JAYES: Yeah, a longer conversation required about net zero emissions, but we will have it soon. Joel Fitzgibbon, we'll have to leave it there though. We'll see you soon.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks, Laura.