SUBJECTS: Video on Scott Morrison’s twitter account; Government drought policy failings; Wagga byelection; Wentworth byelection, Religious freedoms
DAVID SPEERS: Welcome to our panel, Joel Fitzgibbon and special drought envoy Barnaby Joyce. Good to have you here, and timely, as we have got a bit of drought to talk about today, in particular here was a tweet from Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, today, in which a video was linked and the video has a couple of farmers talking about the drought. We will play just a little bit of the comments here, in particular about whether drought is a necessary evil or not, have a look:
MICHAEL MACCUE, WILGA FEEDLOT BELLATA: In a way a drought is a necessary evil. It can help cut out that bottom 10 per cent that probably shouldn’t be there anyway. We would never let our stock get to that. That’s not our business, I mean we made the decision 12 months ago, not necessarily from the drought point of view but it helped push us along. We halved our breeding herd.
Now Joel, I will start with you on this because you asked the Prime Minister about this in Parliament this afternoon. You obviously disagree with that sentiment, that it is a necessary evil in some ways, the drought?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: It is an extraordinary thing for a farmer to say, and there is a legitimate debate about drought policy going forward, but the words they chose to use I think were quite offensive to what they describe as the 10 per cent at the bottom that, I think, shouldn’t be there.
SPEERS: The farmer is entitled to hold that view, as an official farmer, if he feels that way.
FITZGIBBON: Of course. But for the Prime Minister to authorise that video on his social media and promote it as an interesting and different exchange or view about the drought is somewhat extraordinary.
SPEERS: What do you mean “authorise” it? Are you saying -
FITZGIBBON: At the end of the video, and I will read from the transcript: voice over – authorised by S Morrison Liberal Party Canberra. Now they were pretty offensive words towards struggling farmers. Now if he wants to have a legitimate debate about a different approach to drought, which I have been calling for, you go out to the prime ministerial courtyard, you toughen up, and you say look we need a new direction and we need to talk about some people who continue to struggle and -
SPEERS: I don’t think he is doing that. Barnaby Joyce, what do you think about that sentiment, that comment?
JOYCE: I think you should let him keep talking. He is cooking his own goose here.
SPEERS: What do you think though? This farmer, do you think it was appropriate for him -
[constant interrupting ]
SPEERS: We will try and keep it under control. What do you think about that idea?
JOYCE: What I think, quite obviously, every political piece has to be authorised by someone. Cyclone here reckons Scott Morrison has said it, he has got that one completely wrong. A farmer in Bellata said it. A farmer in Bellata is entitled to whatever view he wants to have. And I think another person, namely you [Joel], has talked about the “great benefits” of the corporatisation of farming and I remember taking you on about that, saying, no I am going to stand behind family farms.
FITZGIBBON: Did you call me a cyclone?
JOYCE: What’s wrong with that?
FITZGIBBON: I don’t even know what that means.
JOYCE: A storm. It’s a big storm. It makes a lot of noise.
SPEERS: Back to this point though, do you disagree that drought can be a necessary evil and that 10 per cent of the market should drop out?
JOYCE: No, I believe you have got to try to help everybody. When you talk about the people who are going to drop out what you are talking about is people who are under immense hardship and hurt. And I believe that top have a right to prosper but I think we have a duty to look after all. That is not the view that is held by a lot of people. Many people in other areas, I’ve been part of discussions where they say, well it should just be the way of the world. It’s not. I want to make sure we are compassionate.
FITZGIBBON: Surely by posting that video on his social media the Prime Minister was endorsing its content. I know you are only the junior envoy but you wouldn’t post that? You wouldn’t post that.
JOYCE: You are just burning on this issue. You have got to give up.
FITZGIBBON: You haven’t answered the question.
JOYCE: He didn’t say it. He didn’t say it. It was authorised. That is what happens with any political advert.
FITZGIBBON: But why would he post it?
SPEERS: Would you authorise something like that or not?
JOYCE: If that’s a view that other people said, not only, someone has to authorise it or you can’t put it up.
FITZGIBBON: But he posted it on his social media.
JOYCE: My god, he has posted a view of another person, the world will collapse!
FITZGIBBON: It is very unusual, why would he –
JOYCE: The world will collapse! A person has a view. A bloke from Bellata has a view.
FITZGIBBON: Why would you -
JOYCE: This has been your “piece de resistance” in the Chamber this year -
FITZGIBBON: Why would you take a video which is offensive to farmers -
JOYCE: This is Joel at his very best.
FITZGIBBON: - and words you say you disagree with and just put it on your social media like that?
JOYCE: Why don’t you ask a question about drought policy in Question Time?
FITZGIBBON: Because you would never answer.
JOYCE: Because tactics never let you.
FITZGIBBON: Why would I expect anything to change now you are special envoy?
JOYCE: Tactics would never let you ask a question because you are so hopeless.
FITZGIBBON: Who is in charge of drought policy?
SPEERS: I could go and get a coffee and let you two - this is off to a great start.
[constant interrupting] .
JOYCE: You could come back and we could ask you questions about it.
SPEERS: The substance of this farmer’s point though, do you think there is a case for some sort of government role in managing out the less efficient farmers?
FITZGIBBON: Well CoAG in 2013 agreed, and that was a unanimous view of all state governments and the Commonwealth, supported by the National Farmers Federation, agreed the income support for farmers should only be in place for a three year period, not necessarily three years in a row, but three years in total. In other words, they were saying, look we can’t have farmers on income support -
SPEERS: - forever -
FITZGIBBON: - infinitum. The weather is getting worse, the climate is changing, so you have three years and in that period you have either got to change your business model, do something different or thing about going and doing something else.
SPEERS: Does that happen? Does that happen while they are on that assistance, do people actually change their practices?
FITZGIBBON: This Government has now had to extend it another year would suggest that it is not happening.
SPEERS: Or that the drought is bad enough that it needs to be extended?
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby abolished the CoAG Committee that was supposed to progress this drought reform project.
SPEERS: So you’re saying, three years and that’s it. You shouldn’t get any more assistance.
FITZGIBBON: No, I’m saying CoAG agreed that that should be the model. That the income support should not be permanent.
SPEERS: Barnaby, do you agree with that?
JOYCE: Well I disagree with him. Like Napoleon says, you should let your enemy just blow up by themselves. We extended the term because we believe you have got to help people. It is a record drought. You are not going to turn up to people’s tables and start. The only thing the Labor Party has, they turn up at people’s kitchen table and tell them about climate policy, and that is all well and good but it doesn’t actually provide help for right now, which is when they need it. Right now. In our $4billion White Paper. The Labor Party just never did anything about. In our time we had the record turn around in agricultural prices, the greatest turn around in commodity prices in the history of our nation.
FITZGIBBON: You are not going to say -
JOYCE: Where the Labor Party did nothing. No wonder he never asked a question. Still can’t get a question. Old mate here. Still can’t get a question up. Let’s make sure we look after people and if that makes means extending it for another year we do. It that means changing the criteria we do. Because we listen to what they want and respond.
SPEERS: so you don’t think there are some farmers though, who need to get out of the industry?
JOYCE: Always will be. Some farmers getting out and some farmers getting in. We want to make sure mum and dad remains the predominant owner of the Australian asset, the Australian farm. And I believe that is a social good. I believe that is a national priority. I don’t know what theorem it complies with but it does comply with my theorem of patriotism and looking after our nation.
FITZGIBBON: But David, for most farmers, and indeed if not all farmers, their farm is their identity. So there are things a government has to do along the way to help them stay on the farm and if that is their choice.
JOYCE: What is the Labor Party policy?
FITZGIBBON: By tearing up the CoAG agreement -
JOYCE: What is the Labor Party policy?
FITZGIBBON: - and doing nothing for five years we have lost that opportunity.
JOYCE: If you want a moment of prayer, listen to this, what is the Labor Party drought policy?
FITZGIBBON: Barnaby, now you are asking the questions.
JOYCE: What is the Labor Party drought policy?
FITZGIBBON: Restore the CoAG process immediately, we reset the button on reform project, we have a suite of policies focused on income support where is necessary, building resilience in farms, taxation type policies, accelerated depreciation.
JOYCE: What are they?
FITZGIBBON: Which this Government has done by the way. Accelerated depreciation, farm management deposit accounts.
JOYCE: I can name you our policies and actually what they do. What are yours?
FITZGIBBON: They have to be a suite of policies but Barnaby thinks this is immediate. Accelerated depreciation -
SPEERS: Do you support what they have put on the table?
FITZGIBBON: We have not opposed -
JOYCE: Everything is sweet -
SPEERS: You won’t take away any of the assistance initiatives?
FITZGIBBON: - we have not opposed any of the initiatives David Littleproud has taken but there is no overarching policy approach to a changing climate.
JOYCE: His policy is he agrees with my policy.
FITZGIBBON: You can’t have a drought policy if you don’t acknowledge the climate is changing and acknowledge that mitigation and adaptation has to be part of the equation. This guy doesn’t believe in that.
JOYCE: His policy is that he agrees with my policy and apart from that he has no policy.
FITZGIBBON: Do you believe the climate is changing?
JOYCE: What is your policy? Tell people what your policy is. Tell them, Tell them your policy.
FITZGIBBON: I’m telling you now but you’re not listening
JOYCE: You sound like some new house band – mitigation, adaptation –
FITZGIBBON: You are talking over me because you don’t want to talk about serious drought policy. You just want to spin –
JOYCE: I am - okay 100 per cent write off of fencing, 100 per cent write off of water, 100 per cent write off for fodder storage. All these things we did. $800,000 farm management deposits, all the things from inland rail from the movement of fodder, we also have the water infrastructure policy. We have over 7000 getting closer to 8000 people who have Farm Household Allowance. When they were under you, 367, three, six, seven. Do you want me to go on? Because I can -
FITZGIBBON: The farmers most affected by drought don’t have Farm Household Management Deposit schemes. If you ever made a profit in the financial year accelerated depreciation is of no use to you.
SPEERS: Why don’t we leave the drought issue for a moment?
FITZGIBBON: Because we were having fun. He thinks winning is shouting the loudest. If shouting the loudest produces victory, then he won it.
SPEERS: We will leave the drought there for the moment. The Wentworth by-election, October 20. How do you think that one is shaping up for the Government?
JOYCE: It’s going to be tight run thing.
FITZGIBBON: I think the National Party should run. You don’t make the mistake of Wagga again.
JOYCE: If it’s against you we would.
FITZGIBBON: If that’s the lesson of Wagga they should run in Wentworth.
SPEERS: Should it be a woman running for the Liberal Party?
JOYCE: Whoever they pick you know I think it’s going to be very tight run thing. Not for one second do I believe this is a walk in the park. I have said publicly I was very disappointed in Malcolm retiring. He knew he had a one seat majority, he should have stayed around. He was the Prime Minister of a Government that relied on a one seat majority.
SPEERS: So what do you do now? How do you win? Given it’s tight and everyone agrees on that. What should the Government do?
JOYCE: Go back out there and work very hard and get their respect. Show them that you’re going to be the local member first.
SPEERS: Well but in terms of policy, what does that mean on the ground in somewhere like Wentworth?
JOYCE: Obviously you’re in one of the upper income areas and you’re going to want to make sure that you are dealing with the issues that are pertinent to them and people who are in upper income areas have a great sensitivity to what they are being taxed. You want to make sure they keep as much money of theirs in their own pocket and also keep an eye to – they have the same national belief that other people have that making sure that nation building assets that make our nation stronger continue on -
SPEERS: Do you think it would help to have Malcolm Turnbull campaigning there?
JOYCE: I think he has a responsibility to campaign. You know, this is the seat –
SPEERS: Why is that? He gets dumped as Prime Minister
JOYCE: Because these are the people who gave you a job you know. The people of Wentworth didn’t dump him and he has a responsibility to show respect to the people who gave him a job which overwhelmingly and untimely other people of Wentworth -
FITZGIBBON: Do you think a climate change policy would help in Wentworth? It’s a pretty progressive in the Eastern suburbs.
JOYCE: Go back to sleep.
SPEERS: That’s not a bad questions actually. Would a climate change policy – I mean we know plenty of your colleagues think the Government should get out of Paris, you’re not you’re staying in Paris, but we’re yet to see how you’re going meet that target so I mean would the people of Wentworth like to see that do you reckon?
JOYCE: Well that’s good question you can take to them. I’m not going to try and speak for individual views. You can go down to the Cosmopolitan Café at Double Bay and start asking them what their views are, go down to the yacht club at the end of the street and start asking what their views are and wander around to some very nice places – go up to Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club and start asking them.
FITZGIBBON: So you’ll be campaigning there?
JOYCE: If they wanted me to Joel, I would. Are you going to be campaigning for the Labor Party candidate?
FITZGIBBON: I’ll be there, absolutely.
JOYCE: He’s going to be there.
FITZGIBBON: I wish you would come.
SPEERS: The Financial Review has just reported some new internal Liberal polling that Peter King has apparently commissioned. He’s trying to get the Liberal preselection. But it’s not good for the Liberal Party, it has Labor ahead after preferences 53-47 in Wentworth. Can Labor win Wentworth?
FITZGIBBON: Of course we can. It is very difficult and we are absolutely the underdogs and if we won it would be akin to the Labor Party taking Wagga Wagga, but we will be there and we will be promoting our very, very strong suite of policies.
SPEERS: Is it a seat Labor should win?
FITZGIBBON: Labor has never won the seat, it is a huge margin.
JOYCE: Come on Joel, you’re going down there to campaign for them. Don’t mark yourself down like that.
FITZGIBBON: But I’m telling you there is a big vacuum created by a Government that has no policies.
JOYCE: You just heard his drought policy, that was a nothing policy and now he’s talking about (inaudible). How about you talk about the inland rail that you’ve put no money on the table for?
FITZGIBBON: There is not one metre of track
SPEERS: Okay we will come back to inland rail another day. The Senate ticket- should the Nationals run a separate Senate ticket in NSW?
JOYCE: Absolutely if we don’t get position number two. Want a straighter answer than that?
SPEERS: That’s pretty straight. So if it’s number three, a separate ticket?
JOYCE: If it’s number three it’s –
SPEERS: Why is that?
JOYCE: Because Fiona Nash was number two and Fiona Nash did the right thing and I think that is the sentiment of how it should work.
FITZGIBBON: I think you should muscle up too. Absolutely.
SPEERS: Would you like to see Fiona Nash run in Eden-Monaro for the Nats?
JOYCE: Well that’s a choice for Fiona Nash. I think she is an incredibly capable political operator. Unfortunately I don’t think her mind is in that space that she wants to do it. I think they get out of this building, they pretty much switch off.
SPEERS: A couple of quick ones, the PM said to Bill Shorten, get over it as he continued to ask why there was a change of Prime Minister. Is it time to get over it?
FITZGIBBON: Well it’s not a questions of Bill Shorten getting over it. It’s a matter of the Australian community getting over it. I can tell you David when I go to my supermarkets, pubs etc., they are not over it. They are still asking the question.
SPEERS: Are people still asking you about that? Why there was a change in Prime Minister?
JOYCE: Look it’s not your finest hour when you do that. The Labor Party did it- they went from Rudd to Gillard, then Gillard back to Rudd. Now we’ve matched you and done it twice. Yeah, so -
SPEERS: You can understand why people are wanting to know the answer?
JOYCE: You’ve got to gain their respect.
SPEERS: You don’t think people are over it yet?
JOYCE: I think if we went to an election today yes, you would really be punished for it. We are not going to an election today.
SPEERS: I know you’re not in the Liberal Party.
JOYCE: You’ll have to help me out- I’m not in the Liberal Party Joel. I -
FITZGIBBON: Why do you think they did it?
JOYCE: I don’t know, let’s ask the person under the counter, why do you think they did it – I don’t know?
SPEERS: I appreciate you’re not in the Liberal Party, but do you think you’ve heard a decent answer on why they did it?
FITZGIBBON: Obviously in all these things, it’s a fractious environment and for whatever reason they decided to culminate it with a spill and this is what happens.
SPEERS: Alright. And that’s a good enough explanation?
JOYCE: I mean, I’m not in, it’s like me commenting on the Labor Party. That would be interesting. Do you want me to do that?
SPEERS: Final one, The Prime Minister also said in question time today on the question of faith and religion, we are standing up for those people of faith and belief in this country and only this Government could be guaranteed to protect it. Is your side of politics the one that backs people of faith more than the other side? Is that the point there?
JOYCE: Are well, I’m glad that he said that. I never pretend to be a priest or a pastor. I’m a politician. I do have a faith and for all my faults and failings I still follow it and I always leave the question of faith to people and their own personal space.
SPEERS: But is it something your side is better at, at protecting those views.
JOYCE: I’m not going to go into that space. I think faith is a personal issue. I think the politics should definitely protect it, absolutely protect it and respect and I think it’s important that both sides of politics protect it.
FITZGIBBON: I think he’s a desperate Prime Minister trying to save the furniture. He accused me wrongly of implying that those words in the drought video were his words. I never did that. And now by making himself the champion of religious rights he’s implying that the Labor Party is just the opposite.
JOYCE: Joel. I’m going to help you out mate. When you watch the video thing, you’re supposed to leave it alone and move on. Because you don’t go back to your stuff up. You just move on.
SPEERS: We’ll wrap it up
FITZGIBBON: You will have to extend this interview in future week.
SPEERS: We will make it longer next time. It’s been a lot of fun. Barnaby Joyce, Joel Fitzgibbon thank you.