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Interview with Deborah Knight, 2GB

26 June 2020

Interviewer: 
Deborah Knight

Subject: Energy

E&OE

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Let's dive in to Friday Question Time now, with Angus Taylor and Joel Fitzgibbon and lots to discuss. Let's kick it off first with Joel Fitzgibbon. Not a good time to be in the Labor Party, Joel? You've had branch stacking, alleged corruption in Victoria and now this New South Wales MP, Shaoquett Moselmane's home raided by ASIO officers – possible links to Chinese Government plot, to infiltrate local politics? It's a big worry.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Yeah, it's a frustrating time for every member of the Labor party, Deb, including those rank and file members who work so hard, and turn up on election day and stand there for 12 hours handing out how to vote cards. So, we need to tidy this mess up. We have processes in both Victoria and New South Wales, very well advanced in New South Wales, the restructuring here. And now, well and truly underway in Victoria. But we should have zero tolerance for this sort of behaviour. I mean, I'm not talking, in particular, about Shaoquett, because, you know, we don't know what the circumstances are there, there are no charges being laid. But, certainly, you know, he is one of these characters that float around in the upper house in New South Wales, as Adem Somyurek floats around in the upper house in Victoria, who are best known for their branch stacking activities and we have to put an end to it. And by the way, Deb, it's very nice to learn that you are COVID-free.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, it's good news. Thank you for that. But, look, just in terms of links with China, I mean, there have been warnings for all politicians on both sides to really reassess the ties with China, and attempts by the Chinese Communist Government to infiltrate the Australian Government through politicians. And you, Joel, when you were defence minister, you had to apologise for two trips to China which you hadn't declared? And you've been criticised for going against Labor party lines in relation to China. Do we all need to have a rethink here?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, many, many years ago, I think in about 2005, I took a couple of trips to China and I accidentally didn't declare them. I did apologise for that. But there were some subsequent articles which were somewhat creative and there were legal proceedings on that, which were concluded to my satisfaction, I feel an urge to say, Deb. But look, MPs do have to be very, very careful about potential infiltration. Not just from China, but from any country. We have to be on guard in security terms. We have to use common sense. We don't know whether Shaoquett was involved in something curious or was just a naïve victim of something, we just don't know that yet. But what we do know is that it's absolutely common sense, to be cautious in terms of your security arrangements. And he, obviously, hasn't been that.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now, Angus. We had a fundraiser that Shaoquett Moselmane was involved in for Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke last year in the lead-up to the election. Should that money be returned, now?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I don't know about those circumstances, Deb. But I do know that espionage and foreign interference are a serious threat to our sovereignty, to the security of Australians and the integrity of our institutions. And this is a very serious issue. It's a very strong focus for the Government. Of course, we've rewritten the laws applying to espionage and foreign interference, and there was bipartisanship on getting those changes through the Parliament. So, you know, we've got to be very, very cautious about this issue. In this particular case, my understanding is there's no threat to public safety and that's an important point to make. But we need to be on the lookout, because it's a very, very serious issue.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, it is. Now, devastating news yesterday with Qantas, of course, slashing 6000 jobs, 20 per cent of the workforce going. And Alan Joyce the CEO, he's calling on the Government to extend JobKeeper for airline employees. The Prime Minister said, Angus, this morning with Ben on Breakfast for 2GB that they will be looking, your government will be looking at targeted relief and continuing JobKeeper beyond September. That help is desperately needed.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I mean, JobKeeper is going to September. It's six months. Most countries only went for three months with equivalent programs. So, that's buying us time. We'll announce where we go with it in July, as we've said many, many times. But we know that there are sectors that continue to be heavily affected and they will need continued support and of course, airlines is at the forefront of that. I've got many airline workers in my electorate who travel to the airport and elsewhere every day. And you know, we need to make sure we look after them, going through an incredibly tough time, both Qantas and Virgin, of course. Good news on Virgin today that here is a buyer, that's great.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yes.

ANGUS TAYLOR: But this is a very, very tough time. Of all industries, it's been hit amongst the hardest and they will need, it's an industry that will need continued support. I should say, I mean, we've had a massive package, $1.3 billion package in support for the sector on top of JobKeeper. So, we're very conscious of the issues.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: And Joel, do you think that Alan Joyce should have waited until that announcement, for the Federal Government? They're due to make an announcement on the future of JobKeeper on July 23. The unions have been screaming saying they should have waited until then before they announced this decision to sack the 6000 workers. Do you agree?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I see it the other way around from your original proposition - should Alan Joyce have waited? No. Scott Morrison should not have waited. Businesses right around the country, big and small, are trying to plan for their future and they need to know whether the Government is going to extend some of their support programs or not. But, of course, the Prime Minister has decided to kick that decision down the road beyond the Eden-Monaro by-election and that's making it very, very difficult.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: What, you think he's playing politics here?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I absolutely do. Yeah, I have no doubt, Deb. That review is complete. It could be announced now. But the Prime Minister doesn't want to be announcing any tough decisions. And we all acknowledge there may need to be tough decisions, I don't walk away from that, but he doesn't want to be making them prior to the by-election next weekend.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Angus your response?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, Albo's playing politics here, that's very clear. And look, we have we have, there's no question, provided enormous support for an extended period of time - longer than most countries in the world. That's bought us time to be able to make sure we get this right. You know, rushing into these things when we've got a program that's going for six months, is the wrong way to approach it. Albo just wants to play games, you know, with a by-election coming up. He's clearly concerned. So you know, we're going to focus on getting this right, on getting the decisions right, on focusing on the sectors that need the support. There's other sectors that are going well now, and that means giving ourselves time to make the right calls.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Alright. Now Joel - probably some congratulations are in order for you. I think you finally convinced your colleagues that coal isn't so bad after all, after Anthony Albanese wrote to the PM Scott Morrison saying he wants to work hand-in-hand on a bipartisan energy policy. Are they finally coming around your way of thinking that coal is not too bad a thing?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, Deb, the reality is the Labor Party always has, and always will support the coal mining industry - and other industries like the gas sector, and of course the manufacturing sectors which they both fuel. So, this is nothing new but what is new again, is the extension of a bipartisan hand, an opportunity to work with the Government to put downward pressure on electricity prices, to reduce carbon emissions, and to create jobs in this country. And if Scott Morrison rejects that bipartisan hand it will be for him to explain to the Australian community why he is not prepared to work with us to settle what has been a more than a decade-

DEBORAH KNIGHT: But why should he? Why should he work with you? You're in opposition, he's in government.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, because we are bleeding in the economy, Deb. We've had this investment drought driven by investment uncertainty, in turn driven by a lack of an energy policy now for seven years. And all the major corporations are saying it, we need a settlement here, we need an energy policy architecture in place so we can restore investment certainty, get investment flowing, and to get jobs growing again in the economy. And at the moment it's Scott Morrison versus the Labor Party, and just about every representative group in every major corporation in the country. And, by the way Deb, every premier in the country - Labor and Liberal - want a settlement on this issue, and we're offering one.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Angus, are you going to hold hands with Labor on this? Or hang on, is that a pig that's just flying past my eyesight right about now?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, I think Joel will acknowledge he's got a lot of work to do to win over the hearts and minds of his colleagues in terms of coal workers, and those working in coal related industries, Deb, in response to his earlier comments. But look you know, we welcome the fact that Labor at least is saying that they like our policy of technology not taxes. But it remains to be seen whether the actions fit with the words. And we saw within 24 hours of this so called bipartisanship, we had Mark Butler and Albanese out there on the attack again - within 24 hours. So the question is whether this is genuine and sincere. We're looking carefully at what they've put to us. But frankly we'd like to see the actions meet in line with the words.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Alright. Just quickly a fun one –

JOEL FITZGIBBON: And hang on, they were attacking Angus because Angus said that Anthony Albanese failed to rule out a carbon tax. And Angus, that is just spin, that is not true, we're not proposing a carbon tax. It's not on our agenda, hasn't been on our agenda for the last two elections.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Alright.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Not even a sneaky one? Not even a backdoor one? Can you put that on the record?

DEBORAH KNIGHT: A never ever, not another never never on a carbon tax - haven't we had that one already promised before?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Sorry, Deb, are you talking to me now? No there won't be, no. Never, ever, ever.

ANGUS TAYLOR: That’s the point we’re making you know, if you, Joel-

DEBORAH KNIGHT: There won't be a carbon tax under any government I rule - didn't-

ANGUS TAYLOR: Joel talks about a settlement here, Deb. Joel talks about some, you know, he uses these great words like framework and architecture. Well in the past that's always translated to a carbon tax. And so you know, the question here is whether this is sincere and genuine? And we want to know it is.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Alright, just a fun one. Russell Crowe's out there trying to educate the world about Aussie-isms and New Zealand-isms - words like bugger all, budgie smugglers, carked it, all the rest of it. What's your favourite Aussie-ism, Aussie phrase, Angus?

ANGUS TAYLOR: God, there's so many I don't know where to start. God, you know: Go hard. Go hard.

[Laughter]

DEBORAH KNIGHT: What about you, Joel?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: You've obviously stumped Angus and you're stumped me a bit too. So look, how about: she'll be right mate.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: She'll be right mate. She will be right mate too. Good on you fellas. We'll talk to you again next week.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Thanks, Deb.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Deb.

ENDS