Transcript - Radio Interview - 2CC - Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Transcript - Radio Interview - 2CC - Wednesday, 29 July 2020 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

29 July 2020

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: We’re joined by our regular guest the Shadow Agriculture and Resources Minister, and Member for Hunter. Joel, I'm going to say this: congratulations, the old Joel Fitzgibbon is back.
CENATIEMPO: Mate, because I the one thing I used to like about you was you would buck the trend and you’re starting to do that again. Your opponents have been saying for years that the Greens have infiltrated the Labor Party. You're saying the same thing now?
FITZGIBBON: I think that's true, Stephen, and it's been going on for a number of years now and I’ve grown tired of it. They are a single issue group, that's one of my big concerns. And its members need take no account of the economic and therefore jobs consequences of the policies which they collectively embrace. And of course they are constantly out there trying to drag the Labor Party beyond its settled sensible positions. We want to take meaningful action on climate change. We have always - we have a strong record on the natural environment, but we also want to create jobs and indeed, protect jobs in traditional industries, particularly those industries close to my heart - the coalmining industry, the gas sector, manufacturing sectors like meat processing, the oil sector, et cetera. So, this is a concern to me that they present as, in effect, an arm of the Labor Party. And as I understand it many of them are not even members of the Labor Party. And when they do so people pick up the newspapers and they assume this is the parliamentary party's decision. And that's hurting us, politically, and therefore potentially hurting the country economically.
CENATIEMPO: But isn't it fair to say that the left faction of the Labor Party has probably held some of these views for a long time and I know that the right has always sort of had the ascendancy. But is it just like-attracting-like, and the left trying to bring a few - more of their own people into, under the Red Banner, so to speak?
FITZGIBBON: Well, you’ve just been talking about democracy and we are a strong democracy and people are entitled to gather together to collectively take a view and to argue their cause, outside the room. But my concern is, this group is often referenced in the media as, effectively, an arm of the Labor Party, and it's easy for readers, or listeners, to come to the conclusion that they present or represent Labor's policy. They do not, and people need to understand that. And I believe they're doing the Party's reputation, damage.
CENATIEMPO: I want to talk for a moment about that - the reputation and one thing that Anthony Albanese has said recently, and I've heard you echo his comments, that you're prepared to offer a broad bipartisan approach to energy policy in Australia. And my view is that bipartisanship is a - from both sides - is a bit of a furphy because it's always well ‘yeah we'll support your policy as long as it’s the same as ours’. Why is there such an aversion in the Labor Party to nuclear power?
FITZGIBBON: Well that has a long history, of course. But I think the key point to be made is that there's an aversion in the community to nuclear power. I remember when, you know, John Howard was determined to include nuclear in his energy review in about 2004 I think it was. There was enormous backlash even in his own party, for the suggestion that he might even consider that. And more recently I recall, Keith Pitt, the current Resources Minister, was out there championing nuclear generation here in Australia. But when he was asked whether he was prepared to have it situated in his own electorate, he politely declined, claiming that there is some geological instability in that part of the world, in Queensland. So people are often fond – are very quick to promote nuclear power generation, but they’re rarely willing to accommodate it in their own backyard.
CENATIEMPO: But isn't that where we need? Leadership from both sides, to sit down and go okay well let's look at what those fears are, and obviously people will point to Chernobyl and Fukushima as reasons not to do it. Well, you know, Chernobyl was built over 60 years ago by dodgy Russians; Fukushima was built on the coast on a fault line, whereas surely we can avoid those two things in Australia in 2020?
FITZGIBBON: And there is no doubt that nuclear power generators are safer today than they were 40 or 50 years ago, in particular the small nuclear modular reactors. But the other point about Australia is that we do have and should have access to cheap forms of energy and an abundance of it, if governments would simply just get out of the way. Nuclear power generation is very, very expensive. Those who have it, the Americans - in the US it's about 20% of their output. In France, it's about 75. But places like France have it because they don't have abundance to cheaper, more affordable fuel sources and therefore it's not really a choice for them. We don't have that problem here in Australia. The other thing about nuclear, of course, is it's not only expensive but it would take a long, long time to get the approvals and to build a nuclear power generator here in Australia. And we don't need to - we can fix these issues tomorrow if Scott Morrison would finally come in a bipartisan way and embrace a decent energy policy.
CENATIEMPO: All right, let’s hope that happens. What have you got to say to these - well we're calling them Karen's, which has been unfair to people named Karen. But these idiots out there, and they seem to be the extremes - from the extremes of both sides of politics, that are creating their own constitutional law to flout, some of these pandemic legislation… you know, some of the things like masks and the like. We see them on YouTube et cetera. What do you think about these Covidiots as they call them?
FITZGIBBON: You wouldn't go to them for legal advice, Stephen, that’s my first point. They are idiots, and I heard someone rightly say, refusing to comply with restrictions is like refusing to cover your windows at night in London during the Blitz. And no concern about the impact on people around them. I think they're just looking for notoriety and where we can we should ignore them; where we can't, we should throw the book at them. I said in an earlier interview during the week that you just don't know sometimes whether to be angry with them, or just to feel sorry for them, because they are stupid. And, you know, it's a shame that complacency is on the rise. But it's even worse that stupidity is on the rise. 
CENATIEMPO: One last thing before I let you go. I've been pushing this agenda all morning: is it time to get rid of state and territory governments and if so, how do we do it?
FITZGIBBON: It’s funny Stephen, I remember very vividly delivering the inaugural Edmund Barton Lecture at the University of Newcastle in about 2008. I was Defence Minister at the time, and I've never had such a response to a speech in my life - sadly, in a way, because I was advocating the abolition of the states. I said it was time. Bob Hawke said in his 1979 - I think - Boyer Lectures that we are the most over-governed country in the world, and we are. But the reality is it would take the states to agree, under our constitutions, to get rid of themselves, and my suggestion to your listeners is that they shouldn't hold their breath waiting.
CENATIEMPO: I think you might be right. Joel we’ll catch up next week.
FITZGIBBON:  A great pleasure.