LAURA JAYES, HOST: Live now to Sydney. Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, joins us. Thanks so much for your time, Mr Fitzgibbon. Did the Review get it right?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND RESOURCES: look it’s a comprehensive report, Laura, and I think a robust one. A take no prisoners sort of approach, and that’s a good thing, it’s an honest document – that’s also very important. But it now gives the Labor Party the opportunity to draw that line in the sand and to move on with serious new policy development and also I believe it gives Anthony Albanese the authority he needs to take the party back to basics. And the basics of course are Labor’s key values – fairness and equal opportunity for all and making sure people have the opportunity to secure meaningful, well paid work whether they’re living in our capital cities or just as importantly for me, living in our great regions.
JAYES: what does it say about some of those headline policies you took to the last election, like negative gearing, and like franking credits?
FITZGIBBON: well it reminds us that we took too many policies and we managed to confuse and scare the electorate. And I reckon there are many people out there who didn’t understand our policies and took a lesson from Scott Morrison about just playing it safe and going with the bloke who was promising to change nothing at all. Now, changing nothing at all is easy but it’s not what we needed at a time when we live in a rapidly-changing global economy. I think people do want change, they want imagination and creativity from their governments but most of all they want a Labor Party who – that – is absolutely committed to families and their ability live a comfortable living, the capacity to own their own home and of course their ability secure meaningful and well-paid work.
JAYES: mostly the message, not so much the policies?
FITZGIBBON: look it’s a combination of all of those things and I think the report makes that very, very clear. And I think very importantly too there’s a sense of me culpa about the report, an admission that we got a few things wrong, and an implied apology to the Australian people that we missed an opportunity to become the government and therefore to pursue on their behalf those things that are underpinned by Labor’s core values.
JAYES: the message also is, I guess, a little less clear and about what Labour should do now in terms of specific policies taken to the next election. You’ve made some suggestions when it comes to climate change – do you have any more to make this morning?
FITZGIBBON: well I’m really pleased the report talks about regional and rural Australia and focusing more on regional and rural people. Of course it identifies the need to get back to our base and to be more supportive of our blue-collar workers – those who work in mining and power generation and in our manufacturing sector. The truth is – and it’s a difficult truth – but we crept a little too far to the left. During the election we spoke about those things that interest those living in our capital cities the most, when we should have been speaking equally about those things that matter most to people living in rural and regional Australia. And that’s basically talking about the aspirations of our blue-collar base and ensuring that they understand that Labor does support the coal mining industry, the manufacturing industry and all those jobs that flow from those industries in a secondary sense.
JAYES: well how do you do that now, Joel Fitzgibbon? You’re really at the coal-face – pardon the pun – in your electorate, in the Hunter region. You’ve already made a suggestion about what Labor’s emissions targets should be, which was howled-down by some inside your own party. So where do you see this middle ground?
FITZGIBBON: I’ll keep prosecuting the idea that we should seek to reach a settlement on the issue of carbon, we’ve been arguing about it for much more than a decade and of course each that we sit in opposition and Scott Morrison allows emissions to rise. Year on year and indeed every year since they repealed our carbon architecture in the Parliament. So, you know, we need to hold him to account, we need to embrace strategies that put sufficient pressure on Scott Morrison to reverse that growth and to start driving emissions down. We can’t afford now, after more than six years of rises – we can’t afford as a party to sit back, feeling good about ourselves because we have a more aspirational target, while he just continues for another three years to push emissions up.
JAYES: well it’s jobs v. environment, it simply comes down to that at the next election, we’ve seen another example of that I guess knocking up against one another, in Victoria, Daniel Andrews basically making a decision to end native old-growth forest logging in Victoria. What do you think about that sort of announcement. Is that another example of Labor, at a state level, not getting it?
FITZGIBBON: well, I take you back to Anthony Albanese’s speech last week in Perth, where he managed to change the conversation about the environment from the prism of opportunity rather than just challenge, and – back on carbon – he made the point that there are many opportunities that flow from real and meaningful action on climate change and made the point again that it takes 200 tonnes of metallurgical coal to make one wind turbine, for example, and it’s the same in forestry too. We have to be creative and innovative we took to the last election which would have removed a dumb thing called the ‘water rule’ which allows you to plant pine plantations in areas where there’s not enough rain for them to grow. So simple things like that can be adjusted so we can transition away from native forestry into plantation. The Victorian government I note has an arrangement as I understand it with the paper manufacturer down there to ensure that no jobs are lost down there in that sector while that transition is under way. I say to Scott Morrison, work with us to abolish the water rule and put in place other policies that will bring forward investment in the plantation sector and in doing so create a lot of jobs while storing a hell of a lot of carbon.
JAYES: just quickly on the drought. What did you think of the Government’s announcement yesterday?
FITZGIBBON: well, I’m obviously very disappointed. It’s loans, more loans, rebadged loans. Farmers don’t want more debt. And they don’t have time to be shuffling debt. We wanted a national drought plan – something we began to construct back in 2012, a process Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce stopped in its tracks when they abolished the COAG committee. What they really had to do yesterday was me culpa – sorry – and stop cutting farmers off income support in the middle of the worst drought in our history. By June of next year they would have cut off 1800 desperate farming families. Scott Morrison yesterday should have admitted his mistake and made a commitment to restore people and not take any more farming families off household support, while ever this drought is ongoing.
JAYES: Joel Fitzgibbon, appreciate your time this morning.
FITZGIBBON: a pleasure.