Radio interview - 2HD Newcastle - Monday, 7 August 2017

SUBJECTS: Newcastle Knights, same sex marriage, banking royal commission, Coalition Agreement, dual citizenship.


HOST RICHARD KING: Welcome Joel Fitzgibbon. You’d be very pleased by the performance by the Knights? Your nephew Lachlan Fitzgibbon had a terrific game on Saturday Joel.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONIAL AUSTRALIA: No one is more happy than me Richard. It was a great win and well deserved. The boys lifted and young Lachy is going very well, I’m very proud of him.

KING: We now have as part of the program Alan Jones commenting, he was talking about a banking royal commission and certainly in the wake of the revelations and allegation by AUSTRAC, that’s the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre, the allegations of serious and systemic breaches of anti money laundering and terrorism financing laws, I think 53,000 plus breaches. There are calls again for a royal commission into our banking or our major banks. Are you for that? Do you think we should have a royal commission?

FITZGIBBON: Absolutely Richard and Labor has been arguing the case for more than a year now. Malcolm Turnbull tried to sidestep it by establishing regular appearances by the banks before the House of Representatives Economics Committee but it pales into insignificance. In a way I think we would be doing the banks a favour. They are now down there with politicians and door salesman, they need to restore some credibility and some trust and I think flushing themselves out in a royal commission and facing the gaze of the court is the best way to do so.

KING: Federal parliament is back this week, same sex marriage and the future of dual citizen Senators is going to dominate discussions early on. Liberal MPs will be thrashing out their differences I believe at a meeting this afternoon ahead of a joint party room meeting with the Nationals on Tuesday. Just firstly on the dual citizenship, do you think there should be some sort of a universal disclosure for all politicians prior to the next federal election?

FITZGIBBON: Absolutely Richard. I don’t support constitutional change. It is expensive and unpredictable. This is very easily fixed, you just enforce it and make sure every candidate presents evidence as they nominate to demonstrate they are not a dual citizen. It is very easily fixed. The other problem with the constitution and that is profit under the Crown and this idea you can’t earn any income from the Commonwealth is anachronistic and does need fixing. It was originally designed as a sort of separation of powers between public servants and politicians but it’s now catching all sorts of people like school teachers and one guy now because he is a landlord and he has an Australia Post licensee in his supermarket complex which is being challenged. It’s very, very mess and it does need tidying up.

KING: The other hot one, and it’s been bubbling away for a long, long time now, the issue of same sex marriage. I think a lot of government MPs are using the argument - oh we made a commitment to the public prior to the last election we would have a plebiscite. Do you think that washes? How many commitments are broken by parties that go into an election and then win then say, for whatever reason, we can’t do that. Do you think that’s a good enough argument to push it with determination to have a plebiscite Joel?

FITZGIBBON: There certainly is some inconsistency there Richard. Both Tony Abbott and Malcom Turnbull have broken a whole range of promises. Look if a promise is a bad one, there might be a case for breaking it. This is ridiculous to have this thing dragging out into a referenda in the next term of government. It needs to be determined and it needs to be determined now. It should be settled by the parliament itself. We make lots of big decisions here Richard without going to a plebiscite. In fact when John Howard changed the Marriage Act last time, to insert the words “man and a woman”, he didn’t take it to a plebiscite. This thing can be done and dusted this week and it should be.

KING: You were on Twitter this morning saying that Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said that MPs don’t know what’s in the Coalition Agreement, release it. I wasn’t aware of the fact of your push until a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from one of our listeners saying that you have been pushing for this for quite some time. In fact it has now gone to the Federal Court. I do speak every Friday morning with Bernard Keane,’s political editor based in Canberra about this and he had this to say about your push to make this public.

        KEANE: It is a political document between two political parties. It seems to me that the importance of this document to the           continuance of the Government, because without the Nationals support, Malcolm doesn’t have a hope of governing in his own         right, we should see it and that’s why I think it should be subject to freedom of information laws, but freedom of information         laws are primarily designed to retrieve government documents and I think Joel Fitzgibbon, even if he does manage to crowd           source the funding for that, he’s going to struggle to actually mount an effective case that the document needs to be brought         in under freedom of information. Good luck to him but I fear he is not going to have much luck.

KING: Well, okay regardless of the outcome of this, why are pushing so hard to have this document made public Joel?

FITZGIBBON: As Bernard points out, nothing could be more fundamental to our democracy than this document. The Labor Party is the single largest party in the House of Representatives where the government is made and unmade. Malcolm Turnbull only governs because of a deal he’s done with Barnaby Joyce and I believe the Australian community is entitled to know what deals have been done and what deals haven’t been done. It’s just about transparency. We want to know what Malcolm Turnbull promised or gave up for the right to be Prime Minister. Just on Bernard’s point, I don’t share his pessimism. My lawyers tell me we are on pretty strong grounds. Here’s the question, if this is not a document of Government, then why is Malcolm Turnbull spending tens of thousands of taxpayers’ money trying to keep it a secret? If it is a political document of political parties, then let them spend their own money keeping it a secret from the Australian community.

KING: Okay, so what’s the process you have gone through so far? You, I gather initially just made a request to have a look at it?

FITZGIBBON: I wrote a letter saying I’d like to have a look at this Coalition Agreement. I was denied, I went under freedom of information, I failed because they claimed it was not a document of government. I went to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal where the member there, they call him a member but he’s a judge in effect, in that jurisdiction was frustrating the process. My lawyers wanted to sight the document in a confidential way. He wouldn’t allow them to do that in fact he wouldn’t even look at it himself. My lawyers advised that the best course of action now was to appeal that decision in the Federal Court and that’s where we are. I partly funded the case out of my own money initially then the Labor party threw in a few bucks. Now we are hoping, given they are being forced to fund Malcolm’s case, people might volunteer small amounts of money, but in aggregate a fair amount of money, to back my case.

KING: Alright, how do we go about doing that if listeners chose to maybe give you a hand here?

FITZGIBBON: They just go to my Facebook page where they will find the video where I talk about how fundamental this is to our democracy and there is an opportunity there to click a button and make a small donation.

KING: Alright if you’re on Facebook, Joel Fitzgibbon, that’s the place to go and you can lend your hand to that one. Lachy, it looked like he was gone for all money, your nephew in the second half with a bad leg injury then all of a sudden, he’s the epitome of what Novocastrians like to see in their Knights - five seconds later he scored a try. It was great win. Are you happy with the Wests deal? Hopefully we’ll find out the results of the voting ASAP. But do you think that’s a good move by the NRL for the Wests Group to take over the Knights?

FITZGIBBON: First on Lachy, courageous effort by him and great talent but I fear though he’s injury prone like his old man and his uncle. I absolutely back the Wests bid and I think it is the best future for the Knights and think it’s a good investment for Wests. I look forward to it being a success and subsequently having a very successful team next year and in the years ahead.

KING: Hopefully we’ll knock over Parramatta on Friday evening.

FITZGIBBON: It’s a big call, but I’m backing the Knights.

KING: Good on you and thank you very much for your time. Have a great day Joel.

FITZGIBBON: Good on you Richard. 

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