DAVID CAMPBELL, HOST: Former Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has weighed-in on the war crimes report which contains credible information that Australian Special Forces soldiers murdered 39 people in Afghanistan.
ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Joel Fitzgibbon says that those involved should rightly pay a significant price for their actions and he joins us now from Kingscliff in New South Wales. Joel, thanks for your time this morning. The statement that you've put out yesterday which basically says that responsibility needs to go all the way to the top, to Cabinet. It was a very powerful statement, powerful words yesterday, from you?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: And I believe that to be true, Ali. These people were put in the most difficult of circumstances. They were fighting a war against an enemy which plays to no rules, they were given what I would describe as vague mission objectives, the overall strategic objective was also uncertain and often changed. And of course we have this capture-and-release system, which, you know, causes them to observe people being released after almost giving their lives to capture them. So there was a lot going on there. And rotations were regular and too long. So, you know, there's no excuse for the alleged actions. Absolutely not, and they will pay a very heavy price for their alleged actions, but I think that people right up the chain of command and right up, right into the Committee of National Security. The Cabinet, the Committee of the Cabinet. We all have to take some responsibility for what we're seeing played out here.
CAMPBELL: And after, you know, the shock of hearing about the 39 unlawful deaths that have occurred there, the murders that occurred there, the other thing that I think a lot of us took away from that, Joel, was the term, the culture that was wrong there - the Warrior Culture that they kept talking about. What was known about that while you were Defence Minister?
FITZGIBBON: Well, interestingly, ‘warrior’ is a term politicians have regularly used to describe those young people who we melt-down and rebuild into fighting machines, so it's interesting now to see it used in a different context. But obviously the culture had emerged and that culture now needs to be dealt with and culture does start at the top, and we all collectively now, I believe, have a big challenge ahead of us to ensure that that culture is dealt with and these things could never possibly happen again.
LANGDON: Joel, I just want to ask you about this report in the Daily Mail about you taking down Albo, quoting you us saying, “I've given him a big warning and another chance and we'll see whether he can grasp that opportunity, or if we'll have to go to the next step.” Mate, you're dropping bombs everywhere. What's the next step?
FITZGIBBON: The point I was making, Ali, is that millions of Australians rely on the Labor Party to form government from time to time, and none of us are bigger than the Labor Party. The Labor Party is a party that's delivered for people in the past and we all want it delivering for people in the future. So the next step is to ensure that we have the right policies and the right messaging to give people reason - enough people reason - to vote for Labor at the next election, because only in government can you pursue the key ideals and objectives of the Australian Labor Party.
CAMPBELL: Okay, when are you going for the spill?
FITZGIBBON: Well, there is not a spill. Anthony Albanese is the leader of the Labor Party, and he maintains my support. What I've been doing is encouraging him to spend more time thinking about looking at, thinking about, talking to and designing policies, which are designed to win the hearts and minds of the people we've traditionally represented. That is typically what are hardworking Australians in blue-collar or Hi-Vis, those who go to work proudly every day to do good things for our nation. We have to be very clear in our messaging: we support them, we're proud of what they do and they should be proud of what they do.
LANGDON: Do you have ambitions for the top job, Joel?
FITZGIBBON: No I don't, Ali. My ambition is for Labor to win the next election, to give all those Australians who are relying upon Labor to win the election the opportunities in life that Labor would like to deliver for them.
LANDGON: All right, Joel. We appreciate you coming on this morning. Thank you