Transcript - Sky News Karvelas - Sunday 3 September 2017

SUBJECTS: Barnaby Joyce dual citizenship; North Korea; marriage equality






PATRICIA KARVELAS: My next guest tonight is the Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, he is the opposite number to the Deputy Prime Minister.  Welcome to the show.


KARVELAS: Although he has a few opposite numbers now that he has an expanded portfolio.

FITZGIBBON:  He certainly does.

KARVELAS:  Parliament is back this week, will Labor delay all votes in the Lower House until Barnaby Joyce steps down from Cabinet?  Is that the tactic that you are going to plan on using?

FITZGIBBON: I think Patricia we have a responsibility to hold both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to account.  We believe this is an unacceptable situation.  Parliament House is a place where history is often made but at the moment we are making history for all of the wrong reasons.  We have a Deputy Prime Minister who is probably not a legitimate member of the House of Representatives.  Forget about Alan was saying about Solicitors General’s advice.  All the senior lawyers, all the constitutional lawyers, including George Williams at the National Press Club last week, are saying the same thing, that is, that it is unlikely Barnaby Joyce will survive the test in the High Court.  And on that basis Patricia, he really should step aside until that decision is finally made.  We will use all the Parliamentary processes available to us to make that point and to give him the opportunity, both he and the Prime Minister the opportunity, to do the right thing.

KARVELAS:  OK, so you will use all tactics, and we know what those tactics are, using every trick to make the Parliament not work, to be dysfunctional, delay votes, all of those tactics, do you think those are appropriate tactics and that Australians can be bothered watching this?

FITZGIBBON: Well, what Barnaby Joyce is doing, or failing to do, goes to the very foundation of the Westminster system.  Anything we do this week will be in the name of both holding him to account and making sure the Constitution is upheld.  Making sure decisions of the Parliament are capable of being defended in the courts of law. We want to make sure we have Ministers who have the legal capacity to make these decisions.  Now Barnaby Joyce this week will continue to make decisions as a member of the executive, under executive powers, decisions that might well be challenged in the future in the courts.  But even more particularly, trust and confidence in our politicians and in our institutions is at, I think, an all-time low and nothing could do it more damage than the idea that the holder of the second highest office in the land is sitting in the House of Representatives illegitimately and refusing to stand aside because of some personal interest.  It is just wrong and, even worse in the case of Malcolm Turnbull, because we all know why Matt Canavan is gone as a Senator and why Barnaby Joyce is not gone, because he needs Barnaby Joyce’s vote to hold his Government together in the House of Representatives.

KARVELAS:  So will Labor walk out of the Parliament if Barnaby Joyce fills in as acting Prime Minister as he is expected to do?

FITZGIBBON:  Look I remember the last time someone, or a group decided to walk out of the Parliament – it was the National Party because Warren Truss got suspended or expelled from the Chamber.  They all walked out and embarrassingly, found it necessary to walk back in a short time later because they had to vote on something I think.  That would be an extraordinary move and I can say our tactics committee at no point discussed the idea or the option of walking out.  We will use all the measures available to us to hold this Government to account and isn’t amazing when you hear Greg Hunt and Christopher Pyne talking about disruptive tactics in the Parliament, they made disruptive tactics in the Parliament an art form when they were in Opposition and Julia Gillard was the Prime Minister.  It wouldn’t matter what we did this week, it could not ever be as what they were in the 43rd Parliament.

KARVELAS:  Well, you know what, they certainly were disruptive, but is it an eye for an eye? Is that how it works?  Is this about payback? Is this about karma?  Because they may have been disruptive but doesn’t justify the behaviour happening again.  Is it incumbent upon Labor to show that you are bigger than that?  That you are going to make the Parliament work and wait for the High Court to make its decision rather than taking that action yourself?

FITZGIBBON:   Well they did make an art form of it certainly, they ran suspension motions every day in the House of Representatives, every day.  We only have one objective, and that is to restore and maintain the integrity and respect of the House of Representatives.  We don’t believe the general public can have confidence in our parliamentary system while you have a Prime Minister refusing to act, for his own political survival, and a Deputy Prime Minister refusing to act out of self-interest.  People look at that and it just undermines the integrity of the Parliament.  That is our objective, to restore and maintain the respect and confidence people have in our Parliamentary institution.

KARVELAS:  You have mentioned a few times the decisions Barnaby Joyce might be making that could be subject to a challenge, are there any specific decisions that you are concerned about that you think are about to emerge, that you are raising here? Is there anything you can point to?

FITZGIBBON:  I don’t want to raise specifics at this stage, but those of us who have been Cabinet Ministers know that on a daily basis Ministers sign off on a not insignificant number of decisions.  Barnaby Joyce has been making significant appointments to Boards and Research Development Corporations et cetera.  He has got that crazy relocation of the Pesticides Authority [APVMA] to his own electorate.  Nothing would make me more happy than if that fell over because it is so damaging for the agriculture sector.  Barnaby Joyce, as a Minister of the Crown, is making decisions under the delegation of the executive authority on a daily basis and that should be a real concern, and I know it is a concern to those in the sector because those stakeholders in his portfolio need to know that they have a person in that portfolio making decisions in their interest which are not going to be subject to legal challenge in the future.  This could involve an expense to people in the sector that ran into the millions of dollars if, at some point in the future, his decisions, decisions made while he was sitting illegitimately, are successfully challenged.  Why take that risk?  What is the argument for taking that risk?  Why not just go and sit on the back bench for two or three months until the High Court makes the decision?

KARVELAS:  Is Labor talking to Tony Windsor about contesting Barnaby Joyce’s seat if there is a by-election? Is Labor prepared to help him?

FITZGIBBON: Look I know Tony Windsor well, he won’t be guided or influence by anyone outside his immediate group or immediate family.  He will make his own decision.  But I do know if Tony Windsor runs against Barnaby Joyce, if indeed that is the outcome of the High Court decision, then he will poll very, very strongly and will do very, very well.

KARVELAS:  North Korea has detonated a hydrogen bomb with perfect success according to the country’s secretive state media.  The PM wants the UN Security Council to consider further strong measures for North Korea to change its course according to a statement.  I know you have been Defence Minister before, do you support that statement by the Prime Minister?  Should it be the UN that now takes further action on sanctions?

FITZGIBBON:   Patricia, regardless of how it is sanctioned, obviously sanctions against a country is part of a toolkit but alone it won’t be enough to change the attitude of Kim Jong-un.  Of course the United States, China, those major powers, are best placed to have the appropriate influence and lead the way there.  But I don’t disagree with anything the Prime Minister has said, I just simply make the point that whoever authorises it is not that important and that we need to understand there is not just one single solution to what is a very, very serious problem.

KARVELAS:   But this news today, we now have a pretty dramatic escalation I would say in the frequency here, clearly North Korea is pushing for a reaction from the United States.  These are very sensitive times.  What should be happening beyond pressure on the United Nations, what should we be doing?

FITZGIBBON:   This is a very complex problem Patricia, there is no easy answer or set of easy answers.  It is a very serious situation.  We need to be careful we don’t give Kim Jong-un exactly what he is looking for, or a reaction that gives him the coverage and notoriety he is looking for.  So it is a very difficult one.  I do agree with those who say China is of course key to securing a welcome and appropriate outcome.  But it will take a concert of nation states working together, and a tool kit of responses, not one single response as Malcolm Turnbull might have been suggesting.

KARVELAS:  Just before I let you go, the High Court is going to decide this week whether this same sex marriage survey can go ahead legally, obviously many questions around all of that, if it decides to strike it down is there some pressure on Labor to support a full plebiscite with all of the rules that a proper plebiscite election would have given there are now obviously very strong and funded yes and no campaigns?  How many is it, 95,000, that’s from memory, putting themselves on the electoral roll or updating their details, clearly people are engaged now for a vote, isn’t there some pressure on Labor to allow for a proper vote to take place?

FITZGIBBON:  I am sure there will be pressure on Labor but not sufficient pressure for Labor to change its view on this matter.  We don’t need to be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a plebiscite.  I think we can confident in what we know about the community’s view on this issue.  The last Newspoll had support for the change at more than 60 per cent.  I was in the Parliament when John Howard inserted the words “between a man and a woman”, we didn’t need to go to a plebiscite, we had a vote in the Parliament, that is why we were elected, that is what we are paid to do, and that is what we should do and we should do it soon. 

KARVELAS:  Joel, thank you so much for your time.

FITZGIBBON:  A great pleasure.

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