SUBJECT/S: Senator Dastyari, Dairy Crisis, Omnibus legislation, Same Sex Marriage plebiscite, budget repair, APVMA relocation


SUBJECT/S: Senator Dastyari, Dairy Crisis, Omnibus legislation, Same Sex Marriage plebiscite, budget repair, APVMA relocation
HOST:  Thank you very much for joining us.


HOST: We are going to be talking to the Agricultural Minister, Barnaby Joyce a little later on this afternoon.

FITZGIBBON: I look forward to that.

HOST: Before we get to matters of agriculture, can I ask you about Sam Dastyari. This seems pretty strange to me. I get that donors might want to donate into a political party or fund a trip to look at something, but to simply help you cover a bill, that should come from your own pocket.

FITZGIBBON: I think the first point that needs to be made is he has technically done nothing wrong. But he has conceded himself that, in hindsight, there may have been better choices and he has decided to donate that money to charity.

HOST: Has he done nothing wrong? Correct me if I’m wrong here, but MPs get a $95,000 travel allowance, so he has gone beyond that.

FITZGIBBON: I understood it was staff travel.

HOST: I will check that, either way, someone’s travel has gone over that. He gets a bill from the finance department and then he rings up the $1600 and then he rings up a Chinese company that he knows and says, ‘can you pay this one?’

FITZGIBBON: The first point is, I’m not surprised Sam is over budget, because he works hard and has been doing great work exposing the failings of the Turnbull government.  It is an unusual way to go about it but he could equally have asked them for a donation and paid them out of his own cheque book. He did it in a very transparent way. He certainly wasn’t trying to hide anything. As I understand the payment came directly from the entity involved and of course he declared it straight away. So has done nothing wrong and there is nO question about that.

HOST: Let’s go to, particularly Chinese companies, and this one does have some connection to the Communist Party in China, what are they trying to do, what are they trying to achieve? Why are they willing to pay?

FITZGIBBON: This would be okay if it was an American entity and that always intrigues me just a little bit. Sam could have asked this guy to buy $1600 worth of raffle tickets, okay, and not declare it. Malcolm Turnbull likeS this declaration threshold at $13,000, we think it should be at $1000. He could have sold the raffle tickets, put the money in his pockets and paid it out of his own cheque book and no one would have known the difference. Sam Dastyari chose not to do that. He has conceded there may have been smarter ways to do this thing in hindsight, but he has been very transparent.

HOST: He is the one who rails against corruption and the banking industry in particular with dodgy dealings and so on. I get your point that yes, he could have made a donation to the party of Sam Dastyari as a politician, is that what you’re saying?

FITZGIBBON: Sam Dastyari and his staff are compensated for the work they do on behalf of the Australian people. He didn’t over spend because he was buying a beer. He over spent because he was working hard and they were doing more travel than they were entitled to do under the cap. I’m sure he thought, well I’m doing good work here. We do all sorts of things under sponsorship from people. For some reason he decided he might seek some assistance. Again he has come to the conclusion that it wasn’t smart in hindsight and he has done his best to compensate.

HOST: Do people go over the cap much? Have you ever done that?

FITZGIBBON: I don’t  know? I don’t believe I’ve ever been over the cap. I am obviously not working as hard as Sam.

HOST: Okay, well Maybe the cap needs to be addressed for hard work

FITZGIBBON:  Maybe it does? Particularly if it is his staff. If his staff travel to Canberra or wherever in support of his work, and he has been doing lots of good work then, maybe the cap does need to be looked at.

HOST: Alright, we’ll check that out, whether it’s the staff or Sam Dastyari directly. Let me move on to a couple of other things. Today we have seen a lot of back and forward over banks as well. The government has announced a further inquiry into, it will be run by the small business ombudsman into how the banks treat small business. Malcolm Turnbull’s point is they are doing practical things.

FITZGIBBON:  Whether it is strengthening ASIC or making the bank bosses front the parliamentary committee or whether it is setting up another enquiry into small business and how they are treated. Labor Royal commission approach isn’t terribly specific. Malcolm Turnbull has effectively now belatedly conceded we have a problem. But he is trying to come up with every solution other than the one being promoted by the Labor party. That’s all he is doing. Now on Same Sex Marriage he wants it to be determined by the people. Well you know David, the overwhelming majority, I think there was poll done on this recently. The overwhelming majority of Australian people want a banking royal commission. Why doesn’t Malcolm Turnbull just look please put his pride and ego behind him and just give them the royal commission they want?

HOST: Well if you take that measure that the Australian people want it, they want a plebiscite on same sex marriage too.

FITZGIBBON:  I’m just contrasting his approach to these things. The only reason he won’t have a royal commission is because it is the Labor Party’s idea.

HOST: His other arguments are that it is just a lawyers’ picnic and it’s not actually going to achieve anything. That it might undermine the confidence in the banks.

FITZGIBBON: There have been a few royal commissions of late that we could have said that. The inconsistencies are ongoing.

HOST: Now a few other things. There is a…the main priority for Malcolm Turnbull is budget repair. He makes that clear, moral challenge and so on. Labor is still not saying it will necessarily support this Omnibus savings bill, the $6.1billion of measures, that Labor said it would back during the election.

FITZGIBBON: Malcolm Turnbull took a superannuation policy to the election and we had a pretty good debate about here on your program with Arthur Sinodinos and I. We saw how messy and confused it was then and now he is telling us it is going to take him to until Christmas to decide exactly what that superannuation policy is. He wants us, a day or two after a very complex and weighty piece of tax legislation and other legislation, in Omnibus form, is to give him an answer.  We have just learned today, which is mentioned in question time here is the costings, they are $107 million out. Now as the opposition we say, well if there is a $107 million costing error in the bill, what else is in the bill that we don’t know about? So we will take our time David and that is perfectly reasonable.

HOST: And that is fair enough.

FITZGIBBON: They know this.

HOST: You’re going to have to have a good look at it. We know that Labor did commit during the election campaign to take away, or back the government to take away the clean energy supplement. I know within the Labor ranks there is a bit of an argument now about this.

FITZGIBBON: There is a legitimate debate there. Absolutely

HOST: Even though you said at the election you would take It away?

FITZGIBBON: People are entitled to have the debate and they are certainly having plenty in the Liberal Party room.

HOST: They are over superannuation.

FITZGIBBON: We will take… there are two questions here really. You are asking to say  if we are going to be consistent with what we said pre-election, well we have still have go that under discussion. By the way we had a caucus meeting before this bill was introduced by the way this week. And we have another caucus meeting coming. Having seen that error we are entitled to take our time and check that what they are producing is what we agreed to before the election.

HOST: But surely you would say you will do what you said you would do?

FITZGIBBON: We have process to go through and the bill was introduced after we had a caucus and we’ll have another discussion at the next caucus meeting and indeed at the next shadow cabinet meeting.

HOST: Now let’s turn to your portfolio. We have been talking about dairy and you have been saying Barnaby Joyce needs to get tough with Murray Goulburn, Fonterra, do you accept he had been doing more? He has had symposiums. He’s meeting tomorrow with farm groups.

FITZGIBBON: Four months after the event he’s finally had a little bit more to say. Why didn’t he commission an ACCC inquiry three and half months ago? This is the great curiosity of this question. Barnaby Joyce’s approach to this dairy crisis has been somewhat bizarre. Not prepared to criticise Murray Goulburn and then finally he did over the board members and the executive pay rises. But he was very, very specific, notwithstanding the clear case that Murray Goulburn did the wrong thing by their suppliers, their dairy farmers. He has not been prepared to criticise them. The loans thing is a joke. He affectedly admitted that in question time today. He goes on about the farm household allowance which is an unemployment benefit for farmers. That’s always been available. He has done nothing special there. Now the belatedly and finally he’s going to ask the ACCC to have a look by the way some of the reference are the suggestions I have been proffering for the last three months.
HOST: You’ll be happy about that?

FITZGIBBON: Well I am happy. About that. It’s about time. He has been pretty slow to the party.

HOST: What about his comment that $1 litre milk we can’t continue with that. Do you agree with that?

FITZGIBBON: Well none of us want to continue with $1 a litre milk. He complains about it incessantly, but he never suggests he might do something about it.

HOST: What should he do about it?

FITZGIBBON: Look we are not going to start…the Commonwealth doesn’t have the price control by the way. It seems to me the only thing the Commonwealth can do is put a levi on it. The solution is not to put a tax on a consumer. We don’t save the dairy farmers by putting a tax on consumers. He said three years by the way. He’s talking up a litre of milk into China at $13. He’s raving in question time. Effectively taking credit for that. Now he hasn’t said anything about dairy prices unless he is really forced. It’s alright screaming about a problem but as the Minister he has the responsibility to offer solutions. And by the way, we have got this ridiculous chemicals regulator move form Canberra to his own electorate. A pork barreling exercise. He was forced to do a cost benefit analysis on that by the Prime Minister and guess what. Now he won’t release it. Why won’t he release it, because it’s a disaster for him.  We will pursue it David, you can you sure about that

HOST: Well we will be talking to Barnaby Joyce about that and a few other things a little later on.

FITZGIBBON: I hope you ask him about the APVMA.

HOST: I will endeavor to do so, Joel Fitzgibbon good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.

FITZGIBBON: Always a pleasure.

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