TANYA WILKS, PRESENTER: The Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy was given the job of Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for International Development and the Pacific yesterday in the new Anthony Albanese Cabinet.
STEVE G, PRESENTER: He did!
WILKS: And we want to just say hi and congratulations, Pat!
PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: Thanks Tanya, that’s very kind of you.
G: Now Pat, of course, it’s the whole bit. Defence Industry, it’s all the machinations of it all. It’s the Pacific – it’s a busy job, it’s a big portfolio mate. What do you think Albo saw in you to get this one?
CONROY: Well I held these two portfolios in Opposition and clearly he was satisfied that I could do a decent job in government. And you’re right, there’s massive challenges in both of them. Obviously in the Pacific, we’ve seen an increased focus now from other countries in exercising influence in the region, particularly a country to the north of us called China. And in Defence Industry, we’ve got 30 defence projects running cumulatively 80 years late. We’ve got big decisions around the nuclear-propelled submarines, and we’ve got tens of thousands of jobs around the country – the Hunter especially – that depend on defence.
WILKS: God Pat, it sounds terrifying!
G: It really does.
WILKS: It really does.
G: You know what it sounds like, Pat? It actually sounds like a game on a PC.
CONROY: I am incredibly excited. There are huge challenges, but both the Pacific and International Development and Defence Industry are critical to our security and –
G: Very much.
CONROY: And it’s just a real privilege to be involved in it.
WILKS: How closely – I know there’s only a word in your title and there’s a word in the Minister for Defence, but do you actually work closely with him as well, the Minister for Defence, or are they so separate?
CONROY: Oh no, absolutely, they’re entwined. I have to work very closely with Richard Marles who was the senior Shadow Defence Minister at the start of the last term, and we worked well together. But basically my job will be to support him and to get into the nitty-gritty of implementation and making sure that we deliver on our commitments. So the Defence Minister is a huge job, and that’s why there’s a couple of junior Defence Ministers assisting on specific areas.
G: Hey Pat, getting into your private life, and I mean this on a serious note though because it’s always interesting because people really don’t know, you know, okay you’ve got this portfolio, does your life now change meaning you spend so much more time overseas, in Canberra? I mean on a personal note, are you going to be travelling a lot?
CONROY: I absolutely am, and my wife Keara has been incredibly supportive -
G: There you go.
CONROY: And my two kids are down in Canberra with us for the swearing in this morning.
CONROY: We drove up on Sunday and visited the Big Merino. The kids had never seen that before so that was good.
G: You’re showing them all of the good stuff, Pat!
CONROY: Absolutely, the high life of a politician! But they’re very supportive, but it’s going to be tough.
WILKS: Of course it is.
CONROY: It’s going to be a lot more weeks away from home in addition to the Parliamentary sitting weeks –
G: Well you don’t think about that.
WILKS: No. How old are the kids?
CONROY: They’re nine and seven, in fact my daughter turned nine on election day –
CONROY: So she got a big election party on her birthday which she actually enjoyed. So they understand why this is important –
CONROY: Both for the nation and our region –
G: Oh I am sure they’re very proud of you too.
WILKS: Absolutely. And Pat, you know, it’s been many, many years since we’ve had, like, someone in Government that has a portfolio in our area. Would it be true – correct me – but was it Joel Fitzgibbon?
G: Oh yeah.
WILKS: Minister of Defence?
G: Last one?
CONROY: Yeah, we had Joel Fitzgibbon as Minister for Defence and Greg Combet –
WILKS: Oh that’s right.
G: Greg Combet.
CONROY: Who was Minister for Defence Industry from 2009 to 2010 –
G: Quite ironic isn’t it – whenever you get a Novocastrian they put us in Defence.
CONROY: (laughs) Well they know we do good work!
CONROY: We built the minesweepers, we helped build the air warfare destroyers up at Forgacs at Tomago.
CONROY: We’ve got obviously the work around Williamtown. They know that people in the Hunter make things.
WILKS: Pat, can I just tell you this though. When Joel got the job for Minister for Defence, he was in the job for a couple of weeks and he came home, and I had him in the studio and I said ‘there must be so much stuff that you didn’t know that you’ve got the keys and the codes and all of the rest – are there bunkers?’ And he looked at me and he went ‘Tanya, if I told you, I’d have to kill you.’
CONROY: Fitz has got a great sense of humour.
G: So Pat, at the risk of you now threatening to kill me, could you let us in on a few secrets when you get back?
CONROY: I start my briefings today.
G: Imagine Pat’s eyebrows by the end of the day, they’ll be through his hairline!
WILKS: Well apart from Keara and the kids, we’re proud of you too and we hope that means the Hunter is, you know, one step closer to some other stuff in the future.
CONROY: Absolutely. I’ll be a strong voice for the region in the Ministry –
G: Good man.
CONROY: And we should also not forget that we’ve got six MPs from the Central Coast to the Hunter, from Muswellbrook to Mooney Mooney Bridge it’s a sea of red, so we’ve got six strong voices in this Albanese Labor Government, and that’s not something we’ve had for a long, long time. So it’s a great opportunity for our region to advance our interests.
G: Enjoy the day, mate. Take it in, suck it in, because it’s a big moment for you and your family.
WILKS: Yeah, congrats.
CONROY: Thanks guys, have a great morning.