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NATALIE BARR: Former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has slammed Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd over their criticism of Scott Morrison and his handling of the dumped French submarine deal. Mr Downer has accused the former PMs of mean spirited and bitter attempts at revenge in the wake of their own political failures. He suggests they follow the dignified examples of John Howard and Julia Gillard in how to move on from the top job. For their thoughts, we’re joined by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Morning to you both.

BARNABY JOYCE: Morning, Nat. Morning, viewers.


NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, should the voice of former prime ministers carry some value?

BARNABY JOYCE: In politics, as Joel knows and I know, sometimes it’s not so much how you ride the horse, but how you get off it. Some people get off it with grace and walk to the rail and sit on the rail and people go up and talk to them, but some people just can’t help themselves, they keep a foot in the stirrup and get dragged around in the horse manure. We’re seeing a couple of people with their foot in the stirrup getting dragged around the horse manure. They’ve gone from former prime ministers to current pains in the neck, and what do you do? If I walked around your studio, or your workplace, or your morning tea at school, even the pub, calling everybody a liar, you just look at the person and say, I don’t care what your former job was, mate, you’re a dipstick. You can’t just wander around brandishing those sorts of allegations. You’ve got to have some decorum for the office that you held, for the nation you led and act like it. Couch your terms, even if you have a concern, you know how to say it and couch it in such terms with subtly and deference to not create a massive problem. When you leave politics, you’re supposed to rise above politics, you know. You’re always an idealist as you walk up the hill and you’re more broad minded as you walk down it, but you’re more broadminded with a brain between your ears.

NATALIE BARR: Yes. Joel, you’re about to get off the horse. Will you be down in the manure or will you rise above?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I’ll be statesmanlike, of course, Nat. I think it’s unfair to compare the comments of Kevin Rudd with Malcolm Turnbull. Sure, Kevin has made a few comments, he’s called upon Scott Morrison to apologise to Emmanuel Macron. But I mean, Malcolm Turnbull has been belligerent and personal in his attacks on Scott Morrison, and that’s not good for him, it’s not good for the country. None of us should really be running commentary like that on our international relations. Julia Gillard, Paul Keating, Tony Abbott, John Howard have all demonstrated a capacity to be statesmanlike in retirement and that’s what all of them should be doing.

NATALIE BARR: It just looks like sour grapes, doesn’t it, in anyone’s language. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison kicks off something of a bit of a pre campaign blitz today, hitting the road to reconnect with voters after a difficult week on the world stage. Barnaby, so does this mean we’ve got an election before Christmas does it?

BARNABY JOYCE: It’s completely in the remit of the Prime Minister, it’s probably the only thing you can do without talking to anybody. But I’d put my house on it, you’re not going to have an election before Christmas, that’d be crazy. You’ve got to let these other issues settle down, let people go on their Christmas holidays. You just annoy people if you wind them up before Christmas, that’s not going to happen. I think you can just say, wait until next year, wait until the cricket’s over, and people get heading back to work, and people have got a bit of a time at the start of the year to have a think about who they want as their next government, obviously. You can’t fatten the pig on market day, so it’s not surprising you’ll get a lot of people on both sides of politics out on the road right now because they know once Christmas comes, the people put their fingers in their ears and say “go away politicians, I don’t want to hear from you for a few weeks”.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, and Joel, you guys are ahead federally by quite a long margin. When do you think would be the optimum time for a federal election? He has to go before May, doesn’t he?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: We’re ahead, that’s true, but we don’t take anything for granted. My money is still on March of next year, he’ll get Christmas out of the way. Obviously, it would be political suicide for Scott Morrison to go before Christmas because you’d almost certainly lose. That’s why he’s scurrying around places like the Hunter region today on the catch up. We welcome him to the Hunter. We’ve been the powerhouse of New South Wales in the Hunter for many decades and we have an opportunity to remain so, and hydrogen is an amazing opportunity. I’ve been urging the Prime Minister to do more on that front in our own region. Today, he seems to be about to announce he’ll do so, and that’s a good thing for the Hunter region.

NATALIE BARR: Well you two can catch up. Okay, thank you very much for your time. We’ll talk to you next week.

BARNABY JOYCE: See ya, Nat. See ya, Joel.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Thanks, team.