SUBJECT/S: Donald Trump election win, Backpacker Tax


HOST: Thank you very much for joining us. Can I just start by asking, these anti-Trump protests that we have been seeing going on for a while now in the major cities here in the United States, what do you make of what is going on and are you concerned by this sort of thing happening after a presidential election in the United States of America?

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: I am pleased David they have been largely peaceful. I don’t think we should be surprised. They were fairly traumatic events which we saw there yesterday. It was a surprising outcome after a very, at least, vigorous campaign. I’m not surprised people are expressing their emotional thoughts.

HOST: But this is democracy at work isn’t it? As unappealing as many might have found Donald Trump, this is how the system works and people were able to cast their ballot peacefully. The transition according to Barack Obama is going to happen smoothly. We need to give Donald Trump and need to approach his presidency with an open mind says Hillary Clinton. Again does it surprise you that some aren’t at this stage, willing to accept that?

FITZGIBBON: Well certainly what we saw yesterday was democracy at work and I do believe people should accept the decision of the people and start working to unite the community and to give Donald Trump every chance to show the person who we saw during his victory speech, rather than the person we saw during the campaign.

HOST: Can I just ask you your thoughts on Bill Shorten’s reaction to the Donald Trump victory in his speech to Parliament today. He has said that it is never acceptable to mock people for their disability and never acceptable to ridicule prisoners of war for their service and when we see a woman being disrespected, we have an obligation to speak up. Does the Labor Party in Australia see Donald Trump as an unacceptable president in some ways?

FITZGIBBON: All of us here in Australia have to give Donald Trump every chance. There is no more important relationship than that which we have with the United States. Again, we will see which Donald Trump shows up in January. I feel hopeful at least he will surround himself in the coming weeks and months with the right sort of people. People with the expertise needed to give him the right sort of advice to make America strong economically and socially and therefore all the implications that has for the global community. I thought Bill Shorten made a fantastic speech today. He was, I suppose in part, responding to the taunting from the Government in a most hypocritical way. Julie Bishop, Josh Frydenberg, John Howard and more were lining up to be critical of Donald Trump throughout the campaign and now they dare to attack anyone on the Labor side who may have reflected-

HOST: The point is now we have the Democratic result here in the United States and move beyond that campaign period   isn’t it now the point at which Australia, which holds the alliance so dearly and rightly so, to respect the will of the American people and the office of the president?

FITZGIBBON: Yes, to strengthen the relationship and to build on the partnership, but send a very clear message that we expect it to be an equal partnership in which we are entitled to have our views on a whole range of issues.

HOST: Let me ask you about, well, if there is any of the sentiment behind the Trump vote here in the United States, here in Australia? You come from the Hunter from an area where we have seen manufacturing and coal mining workers, I guess in some parallels, in a similar situation to those who voted for Trump here in the United States. Do you detect any similar sentiment in your neck of the woods?

FITZGIBBON: Of course I do David. We have been going through a dramatic economic restructuring here in Australia for three decades, if not more. Particularly in the regions- including regions like mine. When One Nation popped up the first time around, it did very well. When Palmer United popped up it did very well for a while. Now One Nation is doing pretty well a second time around and that’s because they are able to tap into the discontent of those who are reform fatigued and see inequality growing in our country and are not content with the status quo. At the very least, they want to send a powerful protest vote and I think that is what happened in the United States yesterday and believe anyone who is not doing well - whether it be in the income front or the family front or whatever it might be, the jobs front, expressed the view that what I have been doing for a long time hasn’t don’t me very good. I will take the risk and flip the switch to something else and see what happens

HOST: In your experience and from your electorate in particular, are their differences here too in that, incomes are generally higher in Australia, workers in some industries are generally more unionised than in the Unites States. Are they looking for the protest vote as much in your experience?

FITZGIBBON: I think we have a much stronger social welfare net here. We do have very significant Government services and I believe much better health and education than generally they have in the Unites States. In that sense we are a more advanced economy. The backlash isn’t as large as it is or has been in the Unites States. But be in no doubt, there is a lot of reform fatigue in Australia and there is an anti-establishment sentiment and are those who are really concerned that the status quo isn’t delivering for them. So protest votes are likely to continue here in Australia, just as I believe the idea of any Government securing at least two terms may very well be a thing of the past. The electorate is becoming more volatile, here and elsewhere.

HOST: That’s a really interesting point that this reduces the lifespan of Governments to two terms if they are lucky.

FITZGIBBON: That’s right and I think what is notable and I haven’t heard anyone else talk about it, from the perspective of Donald Trump, that Trump was in no way captured by process, yet he was leading a major party without any recourse from the processes of a party. So much so that most of the party deserted him in the final days of the campaign but it gave him flexibility and austerity. He was able to switch to any issue at any time he liked without having to consult others. That did him enormous damage in his party and damage he will need to repair, but the electorate is volatile now and they are looking for immediate responses for voters who seek to lead. Those who lead major parties, and he’s the obvious exception to the rule, find it difficult and shouldn’t always provide immediate responses when it is only reasonable that when leading a major party that they make reference and seek reviews from those within the party. I think this is a major problem for major parties and something Donald Trump managed to get around by simply ignoring his party and refusing to consult his party.

HOST: It’s a really fascinating point you make there and I’m not sure how major parties get around having to consult with the rest of the party and being able to respond to (inaudible) concerns people are raising and say - forget about the party, here’s what I’m going to do.

FITZGIBBON: I’m certainly not advocating it David.

HOST: No and I’m sure plenty on the back bench wouldn’t like that either. Let me ask you about the backpacker tax now Joel Fitzgibbon. Now this has been coming to a head today in the Senate where the Senate, as I understand it, tried to bring on the vote, but the Government filibustered to make sure it didn’t. At the end of the day, the Government’s point here is, if it can’t get it’s 19 per cent tax rate though, it will automatically go back up to 32 per cent for backpackers. That’s no good for anyone.

FITZGIBBON: That’s the process the Government itself put in place and is the Government’ fault. I know defamation law well and the truth is in the defence of defamation. In the Parliament today, Barnaby Joyce lied to the Australian people, he lied to the Australian people on a number of counts and even tried to say this backpacker tax had its beginnings in the Labor Government. It was not even heard of back then and that is a ridiculous thing to say. He is talking about this inequality between overseas workers and Australian workers and that is just a complete lie and is not backed by the facts and he is saying we are delaying the bill. Now last time we were here, this bill was so urgent that it had to be passed in one week and we couldn’t have a Senate Inquiry because we couldn’t wait a day, and now, they have had all week to put the- the Senate Committee has reported- they have had all week to put it in the Senate for debate and they have refused to do so. So today we tried to do it for them and used the numbers in the Senate with the support of the Crossbenchers to bring it on for debate and the Government did everything in its power to frustrate us.

HOST: Well Joel Fitzgibbon, Barnaby Joyce argues that Labor is the one that sank the savings ahead of the election and is now (inaudible) the measure. We are overtime, I don’t have time to get right into that. Once again I’m sure we’ll have that debate when I’m back there when Parliament returns. Thanks for your time this afternoon Joel Fitzgibbon.
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby Joyce will still be spinning when you get back David.

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