SUBJECTS: Bushfires, Jim Molan returns to the Senate
DAVID KOCH, HOST: 110 bushfires across New South Wales and Queensland. We’re being warned, worse may still be to come. Three lives have been lost and more than 150 homes destroyed.
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE, HOST: Authorities are warning of a catastrophic fire danger tomorrow for Sydney and the Hunter. Queensland’s worse day is expected to be on Wednesday. We’re joined now by former Nationals leader and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, from Armidale – smokey Armidale – and Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon in Cessnock. Morning to you both gents.
BARNABY JOYCE, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Morning.
ARMYTAGE: Barnaby your area has been one of the hardest hit – let us know what’s going on out there. I mean, it’s always windy in Spring, but these winds are unbelievable this year.
JOYCE: Well Sam, first of all we had the tragedy of two people who were killed at Wytaliba. I was up there yesterday, obviously couldn’t get to Wytaliba – absolutely hellish conditions what we are seeing. We’ve got cooler conditions at the moment; this is in front of where I live. So what you’re seeing behind me is where I live, we’ve got a new fire out in (inaudible). We’re just saying to people, “Stay safe.” And for Sydney, it’s catastrophic on Tuesday. Remember fires will burn through cities, they’ll burn through your northern suburbs – anywhere the bush is, so be careful. Don’t do anything stupid.
People get hurt in fires, and we’ve got 64 fires in the state, 40 are out of control and the wind is going to pick up Tuesday and, yes, we’re having a really tough time here in the New England – a really tough time. And, you know, people are scared in areas, they’re upset and when you wake up like this we had smoke all through our house, you wake up like this, the first thing that everybody says it, “Okay where’s the fire? How close is it? What do we do next? Have we got a plan? How do we get out of here if we need to?”
KOCH: Yes, Joel, it is frightening. Not just Sydney is being branded catastrophic tomorrow, but your region in the Hunter as well – the worst is yet to come.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning team. Yes, that’s right Kochie. We’re now in the gun, and I extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone who has been, so far, adversely affected. We’re all reflecting on those people who, of course, lost their lives and we’re thinking of the firies and all the emergency services personnel. This is really scary, it’s approaching a calamity, and let’s all pray for some rain. That would be fantastic, both the bushfire front end, of course, the drought front.
ARMYTAGE: Joel, I was in Scone about a month ago and it is so dry. The drought is so bad up there that you would think there would be nothing left to burn. I mean, how bad can this get?
FITZGIBBON: Well, according to the experts it can get a lot worse, and is likely to tomorrow. So, certainly Barnaby and I are as one on this. We do appeal to people to listen to the advice of the experts, and when they say to leave, then get out of the place. So, we can rebuild homes. We can’t revive people, and bring people back. So, let’s hope that things improve – the weather, we’re in the hands of the weather basically, and let’s hope conditions improve.
KOCH: Now, former Senator…
JOYCE: Sam, can I just say…
KOCH: Yes, go Barnaby.
JOYCE: Just saying, look at this. See this – there’s not much in this. This is just straw, but if you get a fire and you get a hot wind, that will just run across the ground. So don’t think because there’s no feed that the fire can’t get to you, and once more – I commend the Rural Fire Brigade. A lot of those people work for nothing. They’ve come in from all around Australia for nothing to fight these fired
ARMYTAGE: Yes. Too right.
KOCH: Yes. They really do make an enormous difference. Now, former Senator Jim Molan is returning to Canberra after the Liberal Party chose him to fill the vacancy created by the departure of Arthur Sinodinos to take up a diplomatic post. The pre-selection of the retired army Major-General comes after he lost his New South Wales Senate seat at the May election. Barnaby, will Jim Molan be an asset to the Coalition in the Upper House?
JOYCE: I think so. Jim’s a very strong character. He has an incredible life experience and an incredible, competent military person. Well-liked, obviously of the right side of politics, and you’ve got have that balance of all people from all sides of politics to get the proper perspective of what the Australian people want in their representation. And, you know, I think Jim is an incredibly capable person and we look forward to him coming back and doing a good job.
ARMYTAGE: Yes, it’s been so strange what’s going on between Jim Molan and the Liberal Party lately, Joel, and he says he won’t seek re-election once his term expires in two-and-a-half years. Should this perhaps have gone to someone who was, you know, in there for the longer haul?
FITZGIBBON: It’s basically, Sam, a matter for the Liberal Party. I congratulate Jim. I respect Jim. He’s a former senior military officer – led our troops in Iraq. As a former Defence Minister I know him well. He made a silent contribution to the Senate the last time around, and I’m sure he’ll do so again. Of course, he ratted on the Liberal Party at the last election encouraging people to vote below the line. So, it’s a fairly significant win notwithstanding his antics at the last election
KOCH: Alright gents, we’ll leave it there. All our thoughts to you and your communities over the next couple of days. Stay safe. Good to see you.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks team.