SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE, HOST: There are concerns that Australia's rocky relationship with China might have prompted the death sentence given to Australian, Karm Gillespie. The Victorian born actor, who appeared in the police show Blue Heelers, was arrested in December 2013 on charges of drug smuggling and has spent seven years in a Chinese jail. A lawyer says the timing of his sentencing is no coincidence. Let's bring in Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Shadow Resources Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon – morning to you both Gents. Barnaby, do you think this death sentence – I mean, the allegations are, you know, an ice trafficking charge – is linked to Australia's political dispute with China?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, I can't say definitively yes or no. I can only suspect, and I suspect it is. I think this is that they know our position on the death penalty. They know that we find it abhorrent. And obviously, in this instance – now I don't know the substance of the allegation by appeal, which I'd say in China their legal systems has nothing – has no resemblance to ours whatsoever, but obviously even on that, the fact that a person is going to lose their life after what we would deem to be not even a proper trial, or proper trial to the extent that you'd have one in Australia is obviously abhorrent. The fact that the going to – another person is going to be responsible for killing another person to try and prove that killing is wrong, and prove the damage to other people is wrong. That doesn't make any sense to most people either.
ARMYTAGE: Yeah, Joel, this man – this Australian – went missing for 7 years, family didn't know where he was it turns out he was in a Chinese gaol and now right now the Chinese announced he's going to be executed by firing squad. What do you make is that of the timing of that?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Well, as you point out, Sam, the charge goes back I think to 2004, but the death sentence is far more recent. We do need to be careful because there is an appeal process and we don't want to be in any way impacting on that process. Suffice to say, I'm against the death penalty. Australians should always fight or argue the case for the abolition of the death penalty. And there's an important message here, I think, for all traveling Australians. Do not go to jurisdictions where they have the death sentence for certain crimes and do not allow yourself to be put in a situation where you're being accused of doing just that.
ARMYTAGE: Yeah, absolutely. All right now, infrastructure projects are being given a $1.5 billion boost by the federal government to help the country recover from the pandemic. Barnaby, this is – you can see what this will do – creating jobs, helping the broader economy, and I note it's a topic close to yours and my heart, dams are included in this. This is a big infrastructure build, isn't it?
JOYCE: It's vital, Sam, and this is a sort of stimulus you need because it's the sort of stimulus that sets up our nation into the future. I also note in excess of a $70 billion streamlining of projects, and this will need the support of the Labor Party, as we deal with things such as Environmental Biodiversity and Conservation Act, and basically cut that down so it's workable. So the inland rail, which we have money on the table – in fact the National Party drive for that – is not held up by a frog or newt or nematode, but it can actually get from Melbourne up to Brisbane. More dams, vitally important if it's for agricultural exports, to underwrite our industrial sector. If it's to underwrite people's standard of living and their capacity basically to wash their cars and get around the eternal water restrictions we seem to be dealing with in this nation, these are also going to be vital. I hope that in within that you'd have also future power plants so we can get more affordable power, but I commend the government. This is one of the reasons that Mr Morrison is going to, I believe, be part of the Coalition that wins Eden-Monaro and that's going to be a question for Mr Albanese and a great joy to Mr Chalmers who's looking at his Job.
ARMYTAGE: Okay, Joel, is Labor excited by this big infrastructure spend? Will Labor support this?
FITZGIBBON: Well, we've been calling for it for months, Sam, and we're still talking about it, and there's a speech today. Of course, we want this investment. The best way to stimulate the economy during a crisis like this is to invest in long-lasting infrastructure, which of course, continues to benefit the economy to live productivity for many decades into the future. So, if we can get some things done, that will be an absolutely good thing.
ARMYTAGE: Yeah, Barnaby, I understand the states and territories have come up with a list of projects. It's sort of like Christmas, isn't it? Write down your wish list, and will this see a real connection between the federal government and the states where you'll work together and get some stuff done?
JOYCE: Well, I think the what the Prime Minister has done with the National Cabinet, that is the Prime Minister and the Premiers, has been a huge step in the right direction and allows a greater coordination of this and I can see this National Cabinet going on into the future and having a very prominent role and being able to get things such as this through. I hope now that the Labor Party have said they're supporting it, that they'll support us on amendments to Environmental Biodiversity and Conservation Act, and the other vegetation management guidelines and other states, so we have a more workable platform so we can actually build these things, and not have the money been taken up by consultants and studies and reports that don't move so much as a shovel load of dirt, but move basically tons of paper backwards and forth between bureaucrats for the benefit of them, but not for the benefit of the project.
ARMYTAGE: Well we talk about this all the time don't we, we want to say bulldozers moving on these things. Joel, I mean, I love hearing....
FITZGIBBON: Just on that point, Sam, can I say?
ARMYTAGE: Yeah, yep, go.
FITZGIBBON: Can I just say that this government is in its seventh year. You know, Barnaby's talking about what the Commonwealth government should be doing. I agree. It's in its seventh year. So, great Barnaby, can we just start doing something now, instead of talking about it, if you do, we will welcome it mate.
JOYCE: I will get off and straight on. Now that we've got your endorsement for review and amendment of the Environmental Biodiversity and Conservation Act – you've done that on Sunrise – congratulations, Joel. We look forward to your support and we’ll hold you to it.
FITZGIBBON: You put out sensible changes, we will support it.
JOYCE: He's back in the way straight away. Good on him.
ARMYTAGE: Joel is there anything in your electorate – I like hearing about, you know, what is needed in the country. What is some infrastructure that you could say right now needs to happen in your area? What would you wish for?
JOYCE: Here they come, which are good.
FITZGIBBON: Sam, I have a whole basket of projects – infrastructure projects, roads in particular, that could be funded in my electorate. And you raise an important point because over the last couple of years, we've seen a whole range of programs which have been turned into pork burning exercises by this government. So let's hope that the projects that do receive funding are funded on merit rather than the interest in the Liberal National Party. What sort of projects?
ARMYTAGE: I mean, I'm really interested – yeah, I like this Melbourne to Brisbane rail line. These are cool projects, let's hear about them.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, well, we built the Hunter Expressway $1.7 billion through the Hunter but there are missing links now. We need a bypass of Singleton; we need a bypass of Muswellbrook. We need a ring road in Cessnock – the list is very long – we need the Glendale Interchange. So there's plenty of projects there that I'd like to see funded, Sam, absolutely.
JOYCE: And I absolutely agree with Joel. What he says there is correct, even though the Hunter Valley Expressway is of great benefit to the Member for Hunter, good luck to him. We need that; we needed that. We need the Singleton Bypass and we need the Muswellbrook Bypass and we need the duplication of Muswellbrook and we need the Tamworth Bypass, we need to drive on with the Tenterfield Bypass and we need more dams. And the dams issue is where the Labor Party starts to go to water themselves because they just never built one.
ARMYTAGE: All right. Well, hopefully they're on the way.
FITZGIBBON: Getting back to the things we agree on...
ARMYTAGE: I'm sorry to cut you off, Joel, but we do have to go. Thank you, we’ll see you soon.