SUBJECTS: Labor Leadership, Labor front bench, election result, agriculture portfolio.
TIM SHAW: Joel Fitzgibbon was in the caucus meeting held in Canberra yesterday and I’m pleased to say he joins me back on the line this morning from the great Hunter Valley. Joel Fitzgibbon welcome back.
JOEL FITZGIBBON: Great indeed Tim. Good to be with.
SHAW: Albo is 56 and Joel Fitzgibbon is 57 see you got your wish, you have a young bloke in the leadership now.
FITZGIBBON: That is absolutely true Tim.
SHAW: The ACT’s Dr Andrew Leigh is dumped from that front bench, former Senator Katy Gallagher is back and so is the experienced Joel Fitzgibbon. How would you like to serve the Australian Labor Party? Would you like to remain in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Regional and Rural Australia?
FITZGIBBON: First of all Tim we just need to adhere to our values as a party - and what do we stand for? We want to ensure the economy grows, that we become even more prosperous, that everyone has the opportunity to share in that prosperity, that we don’t grow the economy in a way that is not sustainable and to ensure that people who need a hand up to participate receive that help. That is basically what the Labor Party is about and that hasn’t changed. I think we got off track though with some of our both policies and messaging and we need to get back on track.
SHAW: I understand what you’ve said but after the election Anthony Albanese said we need to still look at a transfer of wealth in our country. Clare O’Neil when she said she wouldn’t run for a leadership position talked about a transfer of power in our country. Are we suggesting that there is an imbalance in wealth and power? Is that something that is at the core of what Labor believes needs to be developed in its future policies?
FITZGIBBON: It is true and is just a fact Tim that there is growing inequality in our society. If you want a stable democratic society, a happy and friendly society you can’t allow a big gap to emerge between people because while we have been very lucky in this country, that those sorts of rifts and divisions only cause changes at the ballot box, around the world they have even greater effects and we can never take our peace and stability for granted. In any case we have a moral obligation to make sure that every Australian regardless of their background has an opportunity to participate in the economy to put a roof over their heads, to be able to secure healthy food and to live a reasonable lifestyle. That has to be the objective and it’s a good objective to have.
SHAW: Anthony Albanese, your good self and the rest of the Shadow Cabinet will be heading to Brisbane to engage with Queenslanders. Shouldn’t you be in Townsville next week?
FITZGIBBON: Well we can’t be everywhere Tim but I can be pretty sure we will be just about everywhere between now and the next election day. Anthony Albanese has made that very, very clear. We need to get out there and amongst the people again and to listen to their message to better understand what that message was on polling day. I’m pretty confident I know what it was but we need to have that conversation with them and Brisbane is just the beginning of a long process.
SHAW: And there is the State of Origin on as well. Bill Shorten has blamed powerful vested interests for Labor’s loss. Is he right?
FITZGIBBON: Well there is no doubt there were powerful vested interests working against the Labor Party that is just a simple fact but while that is part of the problem or was part of the problem for the Labor Party we would be wrong to blame that only. I think I said to you recently that if you open yourself up to a scare campaign then that’s exactly what you can expect and if you push change too rapidly, including in a way that is going to adversely impact on those vested interests then you can expect they will come after you.
SHAW: Yes, I understand that. Yesterday the Fair Work Commission spoke about increasing the minimum wage and that is a good thing Joel Fitzgibbon. It’s done without government intervention. I’m also encouraged by your leader Anthony Albanese saying, ‘I don’t want the conflict in the parliament, I want spirited debate on policy’. Now this is the important message that Bob Hawke brought to us. He brought business together, he brought the Australian Council of Trade Unions together and he also bought government together. Do you believe that Anthony Albanese leading the Australian Labor Party can work with the Morrison Government and develop policies that will be jointly supported by government and the Australian Labor Party? Because I tell you what - the Australian voter is sick to death by the intervention of these minor parties that includes the Greens political party and those on the far right. Do you believe that leader Albanese can deliver a better outcome for policy working together with the Morrison Government?
FITZGIBBON: Yes I do. You first mentioned business and Albo certainly has the runs on the board there. He has spent a lot of time engaging with the business community over many years and has demonstrated a capacity to work with them. On the government front - absolutely. You will recall during the hung parliament, the 43rd Parliament he was the Leader of the House and he demonstrated a magnificent capacity to reach across the aisle and to work with the opposition then and the minor parties at the time. He is a traditional person who has enormous respect for the institution which is the parliament and its conventions and its processes and I do know that he absolutely means what he said there and I think you are absolutely right. The punters are sick of us cat calling across the aisle. They want us to work together for the common good and I’m sure that’s what he is determined to do and it’s interesting Tim that he wants to be known as Labor Leader and not Opposition Leader because often Opposition Leader suggests that we are there to oppose. We are not there to just oppose, we are there to do good things for the country.
SHAW: Ed Husic is a great future leader of your party and I don’t mean that in the necessary that he will lead the Australian Labor Party in six years, Ed Husic is a great contributor. He is a member for the Right in NSW. Did you ever consider standing aside from you position as a member of the front bench to let a new voice like Ed Husic take your place?
FITZGIBBON: I will answer the question Tim, but Andrew Leigh is a magnificent contributor as well but there is only room for so many people on the front bench. Andrew Leigh wasn’t ‘dumped’ which was the word you used. He had to make room for other very, very fine contributors as well. There is a geographical consideration here. You have Katy Gallagher back which is fantastic; you have a strong team in Canberra now with Dave Smith and Alicia Payne as well. So there are so many people. Someone made the point yesterday and I think it’s true- it’s not just Labor spin that we have a far better players on the field than Scott Morrison does. We have an embarrassment of riches and Ed Husic has plenty of time on his hands. He took one for the team yesterday but there is not one person elected yesterday who is a better performer than Ed Husic and on that basis he will be back I have no doubt in fact I see him as potentially a future leader of the Labor Party.
SHAW: Senator Bridget McKenzie is the first woman to serve in the agriculture portfolio. The Department of Agriculture has had the word water removed from its title. Is that a concern to you?
FITZGIBBON: Water should never have been in agriculture. We were committed to removing it from agriculture. We need to have independent advice and guidance on each side of that equation and I welcome the fact that Morrison has now split those again. I told Bridget McKenzie, I think it was yesterday, that I am keen to work with her on a bipartisan basis, the same offer I made to Barnaby Joyce I made so many years ago and I encouraged her to drop the populism and the fundamentalism and to recognise the real challenges the sector faces and to work with me in tackling those challenges and making agriculture profitable on a sustainable basis.
SHAW: I hope you remain as the Shadow Agriculture Minister and I hope your golf game improves and I look forward to talking to you again on 2CC Breakfast.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you Tim.