Interview with Natalie Barr, Joel Fitzgibbon, Channel 7 Sunrise

NATALIE BARR: Welcome back. Dominic Perrottet is set to become the next Premier of New South Wales following the shock resignation of Gladys Berejiklian. Currently the state’s Treasurer, Mr Perrottet has secured the endorsement of former Prime Minister John Howard. He’s also done a deal with Stuart Ayres to be his new deputy, all but ensuring the numbers to win tomorrow’s leadership ballot. The only other contender is Planning Minister Rob Stokes. For more, I’m joined by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning, gents.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, Nat.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, a big loss for New South Wales. I think the petition to bring Gladys back is up to over 40,000 people. What do you think about Mr Perrottet? Big shoes to fill.

BARNABY JOYCE: Gladys overwhelmingly has an incredibly warm feeling with the New South Wales people and they have one an incredibly warm feeling towards her. An incredible loss. A shame, but Dominic Perrottet, he’s a straight shooter. He’ll have a different style, but I think that he’ll be very good for New South Wales and also very good in his work with the Prime Minister for Australia. The queen is dead, the king is there. Things move on and that’s politics. Nasty, brutal and short. But she did have five elections for the seat of Willoughby, so she’s had a good career in politics, and she’ll go on to another one.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, a lot of people aren’t seeing it quite that cut and dried, though. Joel, a lot of criticism about the ICAC process, particularly the timing of it right as we’re about to open in the middle of a pandemic. Should ICAC have taken that into account?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I think ICAC has been a failed experiment, Nat. That’s the truth of it. I’m a great supporter of the principle innocent until proven guilty and with ICAC for many years just the opposite has been true. Once you have a referral of any sort to ICAC you’re guilty until proven innocent, and three Liberal Premiers will testify to that fact. None of them ever had any adverse findings against them in the eyes of the law, but were certainly hung out to dry by what I think is effectively a kangaroo court.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Barnaby, a lot of people were saying this on the weekend – she’s had to stand down because, you know, of the process, because she’s being investigated, but she could be cleared and she still lost her job. How does that work?

BARNABY JOYCE: That’s right. Very badly. Very, very badly. That’s how that works. And I agree with Joel 100 per cent. The fact that they come and tell you you’ve been referred to ICAC, well, yeah, you’re not proved guilty of anything and yet you’ve lost your job. And they’re supposed to stand aside. Well, of course, when the Premier stands aside it means they’re no longer Premier. This is not the great, righteous process. It’s a little bit Spanish Inquisitionist. The other thing I would say is we elect politicians, not bureaucrats. The people should be the final arbiter of whether they decide they want someone or not. And ICAC out of control means that the bureaucracy reigns supreme and politicians are basically terrified to do their job. Politicians at times have to make hard decisions. It’s not that they’re corrupt, they’re making decisions. There might be some disagreement with the bureaucracy, but that’s their right. That’s why people go to a ballot box and they see the name of politicians on the ballot paper, not the names of bureaucrats on the paper. So, yeah, the process of ICAC is lauded by the people who want greater power for minority groups against the wishes of the majority. That’s how I’d see it.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, lots of anger about this. Moving on, Australians could be getting Covid booster shots as early as December. Joel, who should be first in line?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Obviously frontline workers, as was the case first time around, Nat. But we should all be taking the first opportunity to secure booster shots. And I think we as politicians should be setting the example for the broader community and getting both our two original vaccines and, of course, the booster shot at the first opportunity. There’s been a big debate about this, I think that vaccinations should be mandatory for politicians unless they have an underlying health issue as a reason not to because I think we should be setting the standard for the broader Australian community and encouraging people to get vaccinated and to get those booster shots at the first opportunity.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Barnaby, Bill Shorten is calling for mandatory jabs for all federal MPs as well. What do you think?

BARNABY JOYCE: I disagree on this one. I’ve had my second shot, I’ll get my booster shot and so will the vast majority of politicians. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the mid-90s. But you’re just setting someone up with a platform to have an argument, and it will just go on and the ventilation that that argument will have will actually work at contrary to what you want to achieve. So don’t do it. There’s no point picking a fight with [inaudible] is a bad message that’s completely contrary to where you want to go. It’s a little bit of the art of politics, so slightly different to where Joel is.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, a lot of people would say our leaders are enforcing mandatory jabs in a lot of sectors. Victoria has expanded it to judges, faith leaders, lawyers, journalists, all sorts of people, and you should be leading the country.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah.

NATALIE BARR: So why shouldn’t you guys be lining up and making sure it’s mandatory or you don’t get in that building?

BARNABY JOYCE: The vast majority of people will. I will. The vast majority of people will.

NATALIE BARR: But make it mandatory.

BARNABY JOYCE: The other thing about that building is, as you know, you guys come out and say, “Why can’t you, you know, bring people into line? Why can’t you do this?” You’ll just have a massive fight for a couple of people and whilst you’re having that fight, even if they resign because they couldn’t get in, you will have a message out there that’s completely and utterly at odds with what you want to achieve. You’ll have every conspiracy theory out there, you’ll have every sort of faux polling, faux research out there. I know how politics works. I know what people want me to say because it’s the easy answer – mandatory vaccines. I also understand how politics works and that’s what would happen next.