SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE, HOST: Now parliament is this week expected to pass the Foreign Relations Bill, which will give the federal government the power to cancel agreements that state and local authorities make with other countries. The move is expected to further antagonise China after diplomatic tensions escalated last week over a fake image tweeted by a Chinese official. The ongoing dispute is threatening billions of dollars in Australian exports with our largest trading partner, and for their take we're joined by the backbenches Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon. Morning to you both Gents. Now the fake image of this Australian soldier with a knife to the throat of an Afghan child fanned the flames of this dispute but, Barnaby, this dispute goes way beyond that. What do you think – what do you think is going to be the reaction to this Foreign Relations Bill by the states?
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Well, it's certainly vastly less than what China has control of its own resources on its own infrastructure, its own industry, in its own nation. And it's fair to say that, you know, we keep on dancing around the facts because we don't want to be provocative, but China is actually trying to interfere in other nations, not just Australia, around the world. This is the process they play, probably most evident in Africa. Now, very evident in Australia in areas. We must put our own nation first. And if this is what is required to do that, then that's precisely what we should do. And the Australian people would think no less of us for doing it. In fact, they'd be rather bemused if we didn't try to protect our own national interest for vital infrastructure and vital resources. Might I say this is why years ago I fought against Rio being sold Chinalco, which at the time even from my side, I was told I was a bigot and a racist. Imagine them trying to do it now.
ARMYTAGE: Joel, China I imagine we'll be watching this Foreign Relations Bill very closely, and which, you know, agreements that are about to be struck, and of course, I guess, you know, the Victorian Government, their deal on Belts and Roads sort of prompted this bill to be brought into being, what do you think is the reaction from the states here in the next week or so?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: What will matter, Sam, is our national interest and the government must always do what is necessary in our national interest, despite what China or what anyone else might think. The big question here – we will support this bill, but the big question here is: what is the bill designed to do which the government doesn't already have the capacity to do? Now we've seen the sale of large pastural leases in Australia on this government's watch. We've seen the sale of the port of Newcastle, and we've seen the sale of the port of Darwin, I think when Scott Morrison was Treasurer, certainly he was involved in that process. Now, the Territory is a perfect example of an area within Australia where the federal government has total control, yet it encouraged the sale of that port by refusing the territory government – a Liberal Territory Government – the funding, the infrastructure funding it needed to upgrade that port back in 2014 and 15. So, I suspect this legislation we'll be debating this week will never be used. I think it's another attempt by Scott Morrison to capitalise domestically on growing fear in the Australian community about Chinese influence in Australia, but we will support the bill, we're not going to stand in the way of a bill, which will probably never be used to do anything.
ARMYTAGE: I guess we'll wait and see, do we – do we even know how many deals are being done by the states and the council's out there?
FITZGIBBON: Well, let's hope we know - let's hope we know, Sam...
ARMYTAGE: I know.
FITZGIBBON: … the government has proper oversight of these things and it's doing its day job.
JOYCE: Well, I mean, I can go back to the sale of Cubbie Station, Sam, where certainly the Nationals, we pushed, and I certainly was very prominent in that to change the Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines to wind them down because we could see that this was heading off the rails and at the time the zeitgeist in this building was that that was also outrageous and we had nothing to fear that everybody was just benevolent spirits in the world, and that's all now been proven wrong. Now with the Port of Darwin, yeah that shouldn't have gone through. But people think of it as a port. It was kind of a second-hand birthing dock with a second-hand crane. It wasn't a remarkable piece of infrastructure. Nonetheless, it shouldn't have been sold. A new cost.
JOYCE: Yeah, geographically very important; shouldn't have happened. But it's not like – it's not like it was a pristine port. It was pretty rundown, dilapidated, and would not be seen at first blush as a primary asset. Newcastle, I think that's only 50 per cent sold, but Joel would probably know more about that than me. I think it's only 50 per cent ownership.
ARMYTAGE: Yeah, yeah. So that's what he was just talking about. Listen, we need to change topics before we go. There have been rumours this week of threats to Anthony Albanese, his leadership. Joel, what are you hearing inside your party? Any rumblings?
FITZGIBBON: Well actually, Sam, I'm hearing more rumblings out of the National Party on Michael McCormack than I am on my own side. Look, Anthony Albanese will lead us to the next election. And if we stick...
JOYCE: I hope so. I really hope so.
FITZGIBBON: ... to a narrative focused on family health – family health and safety, economic prosperity, and financial security and aspiration for Australian families, we will win the next election too because let's be frank, the current mob aren't doing that good a job.
JOYCE: No, it's not. Look, look, he can't hold a straight fight and say that. They know they got two choices. Either they reset and go to someone who could have a chance of challenging an election, because he's dead right. We will – the Coalition will win the next election because of Anthony Albanese. They either reset or accept they lose the next election and reset after it. It's up to them. They probably – now is about the time they should be doing it. Anthony Albanese – we always thought he would be a great threat; he's not he's not cutting through. And I know that Jim Chalmers or Richard Marles, or even my dear friend, Joel Fitzgibbon, are sitting back there and they're not wishing him a Merry Christmas. They're wishing him a horrible Christmas and they're going to try and provide him a horrible Christmas. Because he's – poor ole Anthony, he's just not up to it. He's finished.
ARMYTAGE: Joel's face – I don't know if you can see him or not but it is...
JOYCE: I can imagine it.
FITZGIBBON: Sam, record – Sam record debt and deficit, rising unemployment, more and more job insecurity, stranded – people stranded overseas going into Christmas, the list is very, very long…
JOYCE: Joel is on the backbench – Joel is stranded on the backbench like myself.
FITZGIBBON: … [inaudible] and we're coming after you Barnaby.
JOYCE: Your tactics are hopeless in your show. I reckon my [inaudible] have better tactics than the Labor Party.
ARMYTAGE: Listen, it's the last week of seating, so I imagine this might be the last we see of you this year. Would that be correct?
JOYCE: I don’t know. It’s up to you.
ARMYTAGE: Oh, okay.
FITZGIBBON: We're always available, Sam. And I reckon Barnaby might buy me a beer this week for Christmas, I hope.
JOYCE: I think I will.
FITZGIBBON: Alright you two. Go and have a coffee at Aussies cafes together.
FITZGIBBON: Will do.
ARMYTAGE: All right. We'll talk to you soon. Thanks for your time.