Mon, 23 Oct 2023 - 12:31



Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




23 OCTOBER 2023


KIERAN GILBERT: Let's bring in Paul Fletcher. He's the Shadow Government Services Minister and Manager of Opposition Business. Yeah it looks like that one's under control but I guess it shows it's going to be a tough summer ahead with some hot dry conditions forecast Paul. 

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, Kieran, good to be with you and yes we know that summer is always a challenging time in Australia when it comes to the bushfire threat. I well remember during my term as Communications Minister visiting the south coast of New South Wales following the fires of 2019-20. I was looking then at the impact on communications facilities. There was an ABC facility where a copper wiring had melted and copper melts at I think around a thousand degrees Celsius I was advised so just a very sobering example of how intense bushfires can be. But I think the other thing to bear in mind is the amount of technology that we are deploying against bushfires you spoke about aircraft in that case and you know the amount of aircraft that are now deployed is very significant. But as Shadow Science Minister and my time as Communications Minister I've also seen impressive examples of the kind of sensing technology and other technology that we're deploying and so this is a continuing battle but we have some resources that certainly were not present 20 or 30 years ago.

KIERAN GILBERT: Yeah that's a good point and and getting better it seems on a yearly basis which we need to with the devastation wrought by these disasters in the past. I want to turn our attention to the Prime Minister's visit to Washington he's just touched down in the last few hours. Do you welcome the fact that he's there going to meet with the President of the United States at a time of great global uncertainty in the Middle East in Europe even in our own region but not to the extent we're seeing elsewhere but it is a time of of uncertainty right now.

PAUL FLETCHER: Look of course the relationship with the United States is of the first importance to Australia so it is a good thing for the Prime Minister to be meeting regularly with the President and visiting the United States. It's a great shame that he chose to schedule it in a sitting week and chose to cancel a sitting week of Parliament but the basic
proposition of going to the US makes good sense. We have called of course for the Prime Minister to travel to Tel Aviv en route that call hasn't been headed
but we believe that would have been an appropriate gesture of support for the multi-party democracy of Israel in a time of great challenge following the
vicious Hamas attacks.

KIERAN GILBERT: You said it's a shame that he's scheduled it during a sitting week but you would concede that Australian Prime Ministers have to fit in don't they with the US President's schedule? We've seen how frantic he's been in recent times not the least of which was his own visit to Tel Aviv last week.

PAUL FLETCHER: Indeed but I do make the point that there was no need to cancel a week of Parliament. He could have left the matters in the hands of the Deputy Prime Minister and others that's been pretty standard practice for other Prime Ministers. Mr Albanese does have a bit of form here because last year he chose to use the the death of the Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a reason to cancel a week of Parliament he's now cancelled another week of Parliament this year and of course last week he announced a sitting timetable which saw only 17 weeks of sittings next year pretty light on. So for somebody who talked a lot about transparency and accountability when he was in opposition he's certainly taking every opportunity to minimize parliamentary and accountability and scrutiny including by now for the second year in a row choosing to cancel a week of sittings. Incidentally Tanya Plibersek said on television this morning that a week was cancelled this week but it was replaced later in the year that's not true.  Four days of sittings have been cancelled this week only one day has been added to the schedule in December so there's no doubt Mr Albanese seems to be running away from the transparency and accountability and scrutiny that Parliament is there to provide.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr Fletcher earlier this hour I asked the Acting Prime Minister about the comments Andrew Hastie the Shadow Defence Minister made yesterday where he said that the cabinet is divided the Prime Minister is not in control of the cabinet when it comes to the message towards Israel and in response to the Middle East conflict. Andrew Hastie's comments responding to the intervention by Ed Husic. Mr Marles has said today that this issue needs to be above party politics do you accept that?

PAUL FLETCHER: It is very important that we work collectively to maintain social cohesion and harmony in Australia but of course as Andrew Hastie was rightly
pointing out the motion that the Parliament the House of Representatives passed with support from all but the Four Greens and their refusal to support
it is frankly extremely disappointing but that motion recognised the right of Israel to self-defence condemned the appalling terrorist attacks by Hamas
some 1,500 Israelis died and many of them civilians unarmed civilians. I think what Andrew is pointing out is there does seem to be a bit of distance in the language that the Parliament signed on to including the Labor Party Monday of last week and what we have heard more recently from some Labor ministers. The
point I make is that -

KIERAN GILBERT: But they did sign on to it. they committed to it that was bipartisan so shouldn't that be taken as the starting point?

PAUL FLETCHER: The important point I believe is that Australia is one of the most successful multiracial multiethnic multicultural nations in the world. that's come through a lot of work by many millions of Australians over decades and of course both major political parties. What we saw for example in Sydney a fortnight ago Monday evening with protesters celebrating the vicious Hamas attack burning Israeli flags and other frankly disgraceful conduct is a significant threat to the
social cohesion and harmony that we have in Australia. We need to respect the rights of all and that is very important but fundamentally the coalition
absolutely defends Israel's right to self-defense and we very strongly support Israel and of course the Australian Jewish community and certainly the Jewish community in my electorate of Bradfield, second largest Jewish community in New South Wales. I recently attended a ceremony prayer service convened by four of the local synagogues a very moving evening and a reminder of the huge human toll of this disgraceful violent attack carried out
by Hamas for which there can be absolutely no justification.

KIERAN GILBERT: Paul Fletcher, I appreciate your time as always. Thanks

PAUL FLETCHER: Thanks Kieran