THURSDAY, 1 OCTOBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: De-politicising issue of climate change.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS: One of the great paradoxes of Australia is that it’s the land sector that's going to be most affected and is already being adversely affected by climate change and yet many in the land sector appear to be those most opposed to action on a changing climate. So I think it is incumbent on all of us, industry leaders, farmers, politicians, all of us, to de-politicise the debate. The problem is that over recent years it has become politicised. We need to put that behind us and say ok we’ve had that fight, let’s work together now to ensure that in the future we consume our natural resources in the most efficient way possible, that sustainability is very much part of our farming equation and we work on issues not just like mitigation but of course adaptation as well.
WARWICK LONG: How do you do that in the current political environment? How do you de-politicise an issue that has been so divisive over the last few years?
FITZGIBBON: Well when you think about it, the election of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister might provide an opportunity. I say through your program that we want to work with the Coalition to make farming more sustainable, to lift productivity in farming, to lift our global share, but more generally to ensure that we make the most of our opportunities over the long term. Our natural resources are depleting, not growing, so we need to work out how we are going to do more with less and what that’s going to take; we’ll invite some different approaches, and some tough decisions, and some difficult areas of policy. We’re most likely to get there if people are prepared to work together.
LONG: I suppose one of the difficulties, you’re talking about working with climate change to the benefit of agriculture. Agriculture particularly major agricultural areas traditionally voting for the National Party who have been quite celebratory in removing things like the Carbon Tax that you were instrumental in your previous government. So are you trying to do something to benefit a group of people that don’t want that?
FITZGIBBON: Well I’ve always said I think the best politics is good policy. And yes, there is a traditional propensity of people on the land to vote for the National Party for example. I believe with the right policy settings that we could change that in part but it’s not that important to me honestly. The future of Australian agriculture for me, is it’s going to be a growing part of our economy. It equates to the future economic prosperity of the whole nation whether you live in Albury or Wodonga or in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. So policy has to be at the forefront of our thinking and look if the Labor Party receives some reward for doing the right thing on the policy front well that would be a collateral benefit.
LONG: And you’re hopeful that Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister can even see a policy shift before the next election?
FITZGIBBON: Well you know it’s not the time to be kicking Tony Abbott but he did take a very divisive approach and a very negative approach to politics in my experience. He was never welcoming of an extended hand. Bill Shorten has now written to Malcolm Turnbull proposing discussion about those issues and I’m hopeful that Malcolm Turnbull will take a more inclusive approach and will be prepared to sit down and sort that issue out.