SUBJECTS: Agriculture in Queensland’s Central Highlands, Scott Morrison bus tour, Coalition instability, Labor candidate for Flynn, Zac Beers.
MICK CALVERT: Joel Fitzgibbon, good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Great to be with you Mick.
CALVERT: You hit here at the right time, well I wouldn’t say there is rain about - there’s just a sprinkle here and there, but it’s a cooler day.
FITZGIBBON: As you can see I’ve come in my joggers. Getting my early walk in.
CALVERT: Yep, got to keep the exercise up.
FITZGIBBON: People expect their politicians to be fit don’t they?
CALVERT: Okay is this your first time in the Highlands?
FITZGIBBON: Oh no, I’ve been here many, many times. I know I don’t look that old Mick but I have been in the Parliament for almost 23 years and I have been in a whole range of ministerial portfolios and shadow ministerial portfolios in that time so I have been a regular visitor here and I spent a full day here with Zac Beers Labor’s candidate yesterday looking at your agriculture sector which is just amazing. It’s so innovative and productive. Places like Swarm Farm and the robotics. You really are at the cutting edge here in the Central Highlands. That is going to be great for your future, but there are some things we need to do around your road and port infrastructure in particular. We had a discussion with your mayor and others about that yesterday.
CALVERT: The thing is it’s so diversified here on the Highlands in agriculture isn’t it?
FITZGIBBON: You have everything. I mean beef still dominates of course.
CALVERT: And hoping very much, sir, for an abattoir.
FITZGIBBON: Yes I know a bit about that too and have had those discussions. But you know, in addition to cotton you have so many crops and so much diversity which is a great thing. On the export market we are subject to the vagaries of the commodity prices and the more diversity you have the better. You certainly have diversity here and you certainly have a lot of energetic and smart people doing the latest things.
CALVERT: Fantastic. So you’ve met with the Mayor and had a dinner and everything like that. What’s today’s agenda? Are you out of here or do you still have a day left?
FITZGIBBON: I’m going home Mick, about mid-morning but I started in Gladstone yesterday and had a trip through Rockhampton and did some things there including giving Scott Morrison a bit of a hard time over his bus tour. It was revealed that indeed the bus tour was an LNP fundraising exercise for the coming election campaign so I don’t think he appreciated that being raised. I met with some producers who were very keen to talk with Scott Morrison but they were told if they wanted to do so, they had to go to a luncheon and pay anything up to $5,000 and I think in our democracy that is somewhat of a disappointment. People should have an opportunity to speak with their political leaders particularly given he was presenting his bus tour as an opportunity for people to do just that.
CALVERT: Now, I seldom invite a politician to do a bit of party bashing but on this case I just will do so. I’m just totally disappointed at what has been happening lately. Why would you send a deposed Prime Minister overseas to represent you in that frame of mind?
FITZGIBBON: It’s one of the most extraordinary things I have seen in politics. I mean sending any ex-Prime Minister on a job like that is rather unusual but to send someone who you just effectively politically executed and who is angry about that situation on such a trip is just inexplicable. I think Scott Morrison probably thought he might settle Malcolm Turnbull down and get him back in the tent, be nice to him and Malcolm in turn might have gone a little bit lighter on him, but you know he is about to appear on ABC’s Q&A program and I don’t think he is there to help Scott Morrison and his Government.
CALVERT: So how did that work out for you Mr Morrison? The other thing I want to have a little pick at too, and I’m really tired, and a lot of people are – I talk to a lot of people, 4HI would cover possibly one of the largest areas of any radio station in Australia. We go right up to North Moranbah and we have got transformers going up there and go into all the coal mines and down south to Rollestone. A lot of people are really sick and tired of the squabbling. They are sick and tired of the mismanagement and sick and tired of us looking after people that come here from overseas and then sending money overseas when our own country, well it’s a mess, it is. We are in debt. It’s terrible. And then you have guys like Joe Hockey sitting overseas going ‘yah hoo you little beauty, I have a parliamentary pension’. They cut it out in 2004 I believe. Is that correct?
FITZGIBBON: That’s right, the system, that program, that scheme was closed off in 2004. Ironically driven by a bloke by the name of Mark Latham who is back in the news this week. Zac Beers and I were having a conversation about this yesterday. What’s really important, I believe, in my 23 years is for political parties to be united and when you’re united you’re strong and focusing all your energies on good policy and the things that are good for our country. That’s not what’s happening now on so many fronts. Look at energy for example where we are paying ridiculously high power prices when we don’t need to and we shouldn’t be doing so. We are campaigning on that unity and that strength of purpose. Zac Beers is a fantastic candidate and I think everywhere I went yesterday people acknowledged that and we believe he would be a great representative there and think we have good policies that would do good things for Queensland.
CALVERT: Fantastic mate, thanks for coming in this morning and I’m sorry to cut into your breaky time but that’s the way it goes.
FITZGIBBON: Exercise time Mick. It’s a great pleasure.
CALVERT: Joel Fitzgibbon he’s the Federal Shadow Agriculture Minister for Agriculture. When do you see yourself coming back?
FITZGIBBON: I don’t know? I sort of get pointed in the right direction and just get told to go but I imagine that between now and the next Federal election you will see me in the Central Highlands quite a bit.
CALVERT: We are looking forward to that and we are looking forward to the next Federal election.
FITZGIBBON: I’m sure you are.
CALVERT: Cheer’s mate.