SUBJECTS: Drought; Energy Policy.
LAURA JAYES: Mr Fitzgibbon, thank you for your time. Ive got to start with the drought situation, because I think it should be front of mind of all of us. Youve been home over the weekend, between your trips to Canberra what are your constituents telling you?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND RESOURCES: Nice to be with you, Laura. Look, its very dry in the Hunter, as it is in most cases across the eastern seaboard. Our landscapes are burning. Our towns are running out of water. Our farmers arent getting the assistance they need, and deserve, and all we see in Canberra again today are distractions, and people like Barnaby Joyce off into the New South Wales Parliament arguing the case on abortion, in my view, using womens health as a political tool to further his own advancement, and thats true of so many people in that debate.
We want this Government to back to concentrating on the immediate, and the things that really matter, and whats happening out there at the moment is approaching a calamity, and yet we have no Government strategy or response
JAYES: What are you proposing should be done immediately?
FITZGIBBON: Well, you cant talk about that without first acknowledging that weve now just lost six years. Six years of inaction leaves us now pretty stranded, and leaves us to come to the conclusion that there are many things we cant do now because its too late, but it would be a good start if the Government at least had a strategy in place, at least had something to say. Weve had a drought co-ordinator, a drought envoy, a drought taskforce, a drought summit, and of course, weve got a future fund that doesnt even come into operation until next year. Theyve formed a committee to decide what theyre going to do with that fund.
And of course, over the weekend we had the announcement of another committee. A, what is it? A water grid authority and Im told a committee will be formed to decide what its going to do as well. So, people just want this government to act, Laura, and in six years its failed to do that.
JAYES: Well, the government cant make it rain, but John Barilaro, the Deputy Premier in New South Wales, wants to wants dams built in your state ASAP. Hes supported well hes proposed some pretty radical methods this morning in the Daily Telegraph are they warranted?
FITZGIBBON: I havent seen what John Barilaro has had to say today, but
JAYES: Okay, just let me take you through it, because I dont want to ask you about a story that you havent seen.
JAYES: But hes essentially proposing that more dams be fast tracked in New South Wales. He suggested that it could be done by even curtailing community consultation, and even abandoning some environmental impact studies. Basically, hes saying the situation is so bad that this needs to be done sooner rather than later, and those kinds of issues do delay the process. Is he right?
FITZGIBBON: Well certainly, Laura, harnessing water has to be part of the solution, and the last time a Federal Government built dams in Australia it was a Labor Government who, in fact, invested and built. Now, this Governments been talking about dams for six years now. I mean, theres a dam here, a dam there, and a dam everywhere there for a while, and yet theyre yet to turn a sod of soil. So, I would welcome a new urgency being brought to water infrastructure absolutely. But, you know were not going to, were not going to circumvent all the approvals processes and consultations.
Dams arent the answer on all occasions, some can be built without environmental damage, some less so, and of course, theyve got to stack up economically. So, they are big infrastructure projects which need a lot lead time, a lot of consultation, and have to pass through a lot of hoops. But whats been going for the last six years Laura? Absolutely nothing. So its easy its lazy for John Barilaro, and others including, I saw at the Nationals Federal Council they were banging on about dams again, well again, Laura, theyve had six years. Six years to do this, and theyve done nothing.
JAYES: Ok the Labor Party did reject the need for this Big Stick legislation before the election - its going to be brought forward into parliament this week will Labor be supporting it this time?
FITZGIBBON: Well, we havent seen the legislation Laura, and we will consider it on its merits
JAYES: Its been around for a while.
FITZGIBBON: But, isnt it I think the fact that its called Big Stick tells you what its about, doesnt it? I mean, it more populism in the absence of real government action over six years. Why would you be running around the country talking about a big stick? And taking big stick to big business if you really had a proper plan and real solutions. So we will look at it, but I saw Angus Taylor I think on your program this morning admitting that he hopes this is legislation which will never be used. So it is so urgent, and so effective, and such good policy, he hopes no one will ever use it. Well, again, I think that tells you a lot about the proposed legislation and the lack of strategy on the part of this government.
JAYES: Well, there is some proof that these methods are working. The pricing legislation that came in July, the ACCC shows us it has cut power bills by up to $400. Do you welcome that?
FITZGIBBON: Well, no one is going to thank, or congratulate, a government for doing its job, Laura. Its now six years into power I apologise for repeating myself and then five years into power it decided to do something. Energy prices have been an issue for at least a couple of years prior to it finally acting. So I welcome any initiatives that have put downward pressure on price, so it was outrageous that
JAYES: But to be fair, Mr Fitzgibbon, do you accept that your plan on reducing power prices was not clear at the election could have contributed to your loss? Now Labor is reviewing its target on emission reduction. Also, in your electorate you saw a big swing against you do you think that ambitious target of 45 per cent contributed to that swing?
FITZGIBBON: What I accept is that if Tony Abbot hadnt torn up the architecture the Gillard Government put in place on carbon and energy then we wouldnt be even having this debate. And investment would be flowing
JAYES: So the 45 per cent emission reduction had nothing to do with the swing against you?
FITZGIBBON: There are lots of reasons on why we didnt do well at the last election, and we are reviewing those. But what I am saying is if Tony Abbott, supported by Scott Morrison, hadnt recklessly torn up the legislative architecture which was put in place, then investment would have been flowing for the last six, seven, eight years and we wouldnt need to have this debate at all, nor would we have to have a debate about how we are going to meet our Paris Commitments Malcom Turnbulls Paris commitments because the architecture would still be there, carbon would be trading at a fairly low level at the moment, all the compensation packages would still be in place, and people would be getting on with their lives and business would be getting on with their lives. We are in this position because of this government.
JAYES: Joel Fitzgibbon, appreciate your time this morning.