Doorstop - Transcript - Canberra - Tuesday 15 August

 SUBJECTS: Barnaby Joyce dual citizenship


JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: I have just been watching George Brandis the Attorney General, again hopelessly trying to explain the differences in the cases between Senator Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce. There is no difference, they are almost identical cases. Of course George Brandis again this morning refused to release the Solicitor General’s advice. Malcolm Turnbull told us last week he is a strong leader. Well today he has an opportunity to prove it. He should tell Barnaby Joyce it is time to step down as Deputy Prime Minister, as a Member of his Cabinet and to relinquish his vote in the House of Representatives until the High Court makes a determination on his validity as a Member of the House of Representatives. If Malcolm Turnbull does not insist Barnaby Joyce stand aside, we can only assume he is doing so to save himself. We can only assume he refuses to do so because he desperately needs Barnaby Joyce’s vote in the House of Representatives and he desperately needs the support of the National Party to remain Prime Minister of this country.

We all know Barnaby Joyce’s style. He tends to be a bully, he is aggressive and I have no doubt Barnaby Joyce is telling the Prime Minister that if he walks or is forced to walk, he is likely to take others with him and that of course means the end of the Turnbull Government. All that aside, Malcolm Turnbull has a responsibility to the Australian Government to demonstrate some integrity and to restore the integrity of the Parliament.

The other point here is that Barnaby Joyce is in charge of no less than four portfolios. All of them very important portfolios. All the people who rely on those portfolios, those industry sectors are entitled to be reassured they have a Minister in place who has respectability in the global community and has the valid power to make decisions on their behalf. We don’t want a situation that in the months ahead, people are challenging the decisions of Minister Joyce because he had no right to be making those choices. Barnaby Joyce is in charge of some very important areas including biosecurity protections in this country. If there is a breach of our biosecurity laws then they need to know- the people who rely on those industries and his decisions - need to know we have a person on the job who is competent to make those decisions. Barnaby Joyce sits on the National Security Committee of the Cabinet. We need to know we have a person in there as Deputy Prime Minister no less, who is in there legitimately. Malcolm Turnbull needs to act and he needs to act quickly.

JOURNALIST: Why won’t Labor release the evidence?

FITZGIBBON: This is simply a distraction. We have a very serious situation here. A Deputy Prime Minister whose entitlement to sit in the House of Representatives is under question, referred to the High Court by no less than the Prime Minister. We don’t want to be bogged down by the distraction. We want Malcolm Turnbull to act and we want him to act now.  

JOURNALIST: Won’t it resolve the matter?

FITZGIBBON: As many have explained Labor has a very rigorous process. I, like every candidate have been through it. Any candidate who declares they have a father or a mother born overseas is forced to go through a second rigorous process and another process after that and faces the scrutiny of a team of lawyers. We are not going to be distracted from the main game. We don’t want to be doing comparisons whether a  backbencher in opposition has questions to answer when the Deputy Prime Minister of the country, who is on a daily basis making legal decisions. There is no comparison. We want to focus on what is important to the Australian community and what is important is they have a Deputy Prime Minister and a Cabinet Minister who has the capacity legally to make those decisions on behalf of the Australian community on a daily basis.

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