ABC NewsRadio
FRIDAY, 24 JULY 2015

SUBJECT/S: ALP National Conference, Boat Turn-Backs, Renewable Energy, Same-sex Marriage, Free Trade Agreements. 
STEVE CHASE: Joel Fitzgibbon you’ve been attending ALP National Conferences and State Conferences for many many years. How do you rate this one in terms of toughness not only for delegates but the Leader as well? thank you for joining us.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS:  Every conference is important there is no doubt about that. It projects to the Australian community the Labor Party’s view of the world and I believe we’ll have some robust discussion over the course of this weekend but I believe we will produce outcomes which will be well received by the Australian people.
CHASE: But this one is a little bit different isn’t it because it’s the last one or it’s expected to be the last one before the next election. What you decide this weekend is what you’ll have to wear taking it to the people at the next election.
FITZGIBBON: Yes it will be the last one prior to the election and yes that does make it important but I think Bill Shorten will perform well. He comes here with some pretty firm messages. People want to know what their leaders stand for and I think at the end of this conference people will be in no doubt what Bill Shorten stands for. Yes conferences are in a sense becoming a little bit more challenging because rightly I think, we’ve democratised the Party. We've opened it up more to rank and file members so no one really controls the Party in the way they did in the old days and that does make it challenging but it also I think, makes for better theatre and for better outcomes.
CHASE: Now we’ve heard a lot over the last 48 hours about Bill Shorten and the boats turn-back policy but there are a lot of other policy debates not least the issue of gay marriage which has as I understand it will be on tomorrow. You’ve been an opponent of this but it seems as though a compromise might be worked at. Is that what you’re hopeful of ? 
FITZGIBBON: Well I’ve been an opponent of a binding vote. I voted against same-sex marriage in the Parliament some 3 years ago but I announced a number of months ago that if it came before the Parliament again I’d be voting in favour of the proposition. I do believe there has been a shift in the community but also of course, a shift globally. But I think it would be a mistake for people to attempt to bind people. People who have been voting in a certain way for many years. I think this is a matter of conscience and I think the change is inevitable and I believe it would be best to allow people to vote on their conscience because I think that will deliver for those advocating change more quickly than would otherwise be.
CHASE: You have a bit of interest too in the climate policy debate. You represent the last time I looked a big coal mining area and indeed the climate change policy may that Bill Shorten is advocating may lead to the loss of coal mining jobs. Do you think that, will you be putting into the platform or trying to put into the platform some clause about job guarantees or transition out of these jobs to other jobs?
FITZGIBBON: Well the thing that really threatens coal mining jobs well into the future is not the policy settings of the Australian Government but the changing habits of our trading partners. China for example a big consumer of Hunter Valley coal. Over a 10 year period will go from an 80% dependence on coal-fired generation to a 60% dependence and that’s true of most nation states which are tackling climate change. So we need to be ready for what’s ahead. Now an aspirational goal to 50% is a good thing to have. It doesn’t mean that we will get there, it means that we are going to try. But  electricity energy demand in Australia will continue to rise so there will always be plenty of market for coal-fired generation. But over time - over the long run - that will decline and look, I think most of my coal mining mates, while they’d be happy for their sons or daughters to work in the coal mine, aspire for something different for their children and I think the Labor Party does need to look long-term. This does not or will not impact on coal mining in terms of jobs over the foreseeable future.
CHASE: Now in your portfolio responsibilities the Shadow Agriculture Minister you’d be taking interest to I assume in the debate on Free Trade Agreements that Australia has entered into but of a dichotomy isn’t it because some aspects of the trade deals are good for Australia but there is the resultant issue of whether or not they’ll be bad for Australian jobs.
FITZGIBBON: Steve the Labor Party began this process. We are the Party of liberalisation we started the arrangements with the negotiations with China and Japan and South Korea we own the ASEAN deal for example the CER deal with New Zealand we are the Party of Free Trade. Yes, some people have some, and of course that a wonderful thing for Australian Agriculture which is one of the reasons I support it so strongly. 

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