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Interview with Deborah Knight, 2GB Afternoons

8 May 2020

Deborah Knight

Subject: Interview with Deb Knight, and Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, discusses COVID-19, National Cabinet, and Eden-Monaro by-election


DEBORAH KNIGHT: As we do every Friday, Joel Fitzgibbon, Shadow Agriculture Minister, and Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister, are on the line for us now. Fellas, great to have you with us. We've had this announcement from the Prime Minister in the wake of the National Cabinet today, a clear three-step plan has been announced, but it is now to the state and territories to put it into action. And I guess Angus, we've seen schools with the big issue that they're not always on the same page here. How do we avoid the confusion we've seen this schools and make sure that there isn't this discrepancy between the states and territories with implementing this plan? Angus.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the clear point here is the principles have got to be the same. What the Prime Minister has just announced is a clear three-step process. Every state will implement it at a different pace. That's appropriate because each state is facing different risks and opportunities to reopen. But the important point here is a very clear pathway forward, and you know, Australians want to see the economy reopening in a way which keeps people safe. That's exactly what this plan lays out. The first step of course is all about getting gatherings of up to 10 happening again, and a whole series of things underneath that - people back on the golf course in Victoria, for instance - and we want to see these things happening, and we'll go from there. And critical right through this is testing, keeping the testing regimes strong, tracing - download COVIDsafe - and trapping. That is if there is an outbreak, and there will be outbreaks, just as there have been in recent weeks, we're trapping those outbreaks and ensuring that they don't get out into the broader population.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah and it's important not to sugar-coat this, which the Prime Minister has been very, very upfront about. And I think that's really important, Joel, to say that there'll be mistakes made here, it's not going to be perfect but we need to get on with ensuring that we come out the other side of this.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: That's true, Deb. It's surprisingly ambitious, I have to say. But look, if the health experts-

DEBORAH KNIGHT: What's ambitious about it?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, I think the timeline sounds quite ambitious, and I'm pleasantly surprised by it. But if the experts, health experts in the room can convince the National Cabinet that this can be done in this fairly quick way, then I'm very happy. And Angus makes the point, it will be up to the states now to determine the actual pace of each of the steps, but obviously, there was broad agreement in the room, they believe they can do so. So, we can get this economy going again, get people back to work, get kids back in schools, et cetera, in a relatively quick time without setting ourselves back on the health front, well, we will all be very happy.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Do you think it's achievable though by July, end of July?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, again, I'm a bit surprised by how ambitious it is. But, you know, they're acting on the expert advice, and the premiers in particular have shown how cautious they are on the health front. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is for us to move forward, have a spike in infections, then be forced to lock the place down again. So, we don't want that false start, but if the Premiers have agreed that this can be done on this ambitious, I think, fairly ambitious timeline, then we should all be happy, and we look forward to getting life back to normal.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah. Hear, hear. That we do. Now, look, I want to talk about Eden-Monaro because that's been an absolute disgrace this week. And Angus, your side of politics, the Coalition - David Littleproud summed it up nicely by saying you all deserve an uppercut here. I mean, this has been appalling behaviour by both Andrew Constance and by John Barilaro.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, let's look at the result of this. The result of this is-

DEBORAH KNIGHT: The result is that Labor's going to win.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, hang on - well, okay, you can make predictions here - predicting elections is not something that I spend every day doing but I'll tell you what Deb, what is clear here is, number one, that the grassroots members of the party will choose a candidate, a local candidate that is the best candidate for Eden-Monaro. And number two, we're going to focus every day from now to the by-election and beyond by making sure the people of Eden-Monaro and the people of Australia have a strong economy and are kept safe. The Prime Minister has laid out a three point, three stage plan, very clear plan. It is ambitious, but it requires people from across Australia to do the right thing as they've been doing and demonstrating in recent weeks. I think, you know, the people of Eden-Monaro should judge us on that. It's hard to win a by-election like this from government, no doubt about that.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Well, particularly when you've got this sort of stuff going on in the background.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, let's see. I mean, ultimately democracy is going to play out here as it has been playing out here, and the result is the people of Eden-Monaro, the branch members of Eden-Monaro will choose their candidate and we'll get on with it. But it's a tough thing to pull off, but I think the people of Eden-Monaro will also judge this Government well on what it's been doing and the clear plan that we're putting forward.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: It's been a gift for you, Joel, and Labor.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: It has, Deb, and Angus sounded just a touch sensitive to the issue there. But as someone said to me, it's been like a mix of the Beverly Hillbillies and F Troop. And for the sake of regional Australia, I hope they sort themselves out. But when this is all said and done, this by-election will be like all of them. The key focus will be on jobs and cost of living, and with respect to many parts of Eden-Monaro, the aftermath of the bushfires. Labor will ignore what's happening on the other side - the three-ring circus - and just get on with focusing on those issues. We've got a great candidate in Kristy McBain, the Mayor of Bega. She's already on the ground while they're fighting, and of course that gives us a bit of a head start. But we won't rest on our laurels, we'll continue to campaign very hard all the way to polling day.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, the focus should be on voters, and just quickly-

ANGUS TAYLOR: Can I just say, can I just say, look, the faceless men and women of Labor make the choice of candidates. We do it on the ground, and this is a process of people on the ground making that choice, and I think we'll get the right outcome.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Okay. Alright. Just quickly, positive note. Angus, Mother's Day. How are you going to be celebrating it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'll be with my wife. We've got all the kids at home. The uni student kids who are normally away at this time of year will be around, so it'll be a great chance to celebrate the incredible role that my wife plays in the family. You know, it's a tough family with a politician as a husband and we'll be saying how much we appreciate her on Sunday, as we try to every day.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Wonderful. And how about you, Joel?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well Deb, after double-checking the rules, I'm hoping to visit my mum. I'll call her in advance to see how she's travelling. She's in her early 80s and we don't see much of her of late, of course, and I hope we have that opportunity to catch up over the course of the weekend.

DEBORAH KNIGHT: Yeah, love to all of the mothers. And fellas, thanks so much for joining us. We'll talk again next week.