SUBJECTS: Election result, Labor leadership.
LEIGH SALES: Mr Fitzgibbon joins me from Cessnock in his regional NSW electorate of Hunter a short time ago. Mr Fitzgibbon you put out a statement late this afternoon saying you won’t contest the Labor leadership. What’s made your mind up?
JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well I’m satisfied having had a long conversation with Anthony Albanese that he’ll do the things I’ve asked of him and it wasn’t too hard with Albo because as you know he has a deep interest in rural and regional Australia and always has done. In the infrastructure portfolio of course he has spent plenty of time in the regions. My requests are pretty simple really. We want regional Australia to have a seat at the decision making table and we want to be reengaging with our working class base, our blue collar base and of course we want a real focus on rural and regional Australia. We need to win back support in the regions. If we don’t do so then we can never return to Government.
SALES: On the regions, what do you think should happen with the Adani mine in Queensland?
FITZGIBBON: Well I’m really disappointed obviously Leigh about where the Adani issue has taken us. You know a mine just as big as Adani was approved by the Queensland Government in the Bowen Basin during the formal election campaign. It hardly got noticed and yet we are still having this crazy debate about Adani. We said during the election campaign rightly that it has got to stand on its own two feet financially, tick. That’s true, we should insist on that. It’s got to pass the most stringent environmental hurdles. Yes, we should make it do that but what we didn’t say Leigh is that if it ticks both of those boxes then Labor will welcome the investment and the jobs. Why are we so reluctant to say that Leigh? We shouldn’t be and we equivocated and sent all the wrong messages. Not only to coal miners but working class people right across the country.
SALES: As well as Anthony Albanese the Brisbane MP Jim Chalmers is considering running. Who would be best for the party and why in your view?
FITZGIBBON: Well despite the bad loss Leigh we are blessed with a number of talented potential leaders. Chris Bowen is extremely talented, Jim Chalmers, extremely talented and Anthony Albanese extremely talented so we are fortunate in that sense so we will see whether Jim nominates and of course I will be very happy to have this conversation with him as well. But I think Albanese has the experience. He and I are of course are both members of the class of 96 and have been mates for a long, long time and I know how he thinks, I know he has a commitment to rural and regional Australia and know he has a commitment to our traditional working base. I’m very happy on that basis to get behind him.
SALES: Should there be a woman in either the leader or the deputy leader positions of the party?
FITZGIBBON: Labor has demonstrated that we are well advanced in our determination to increase the gender equality in our party and I don’t think anyone would challenge that. I’m not going to get into individual positions this evening but you can be sure that we will continue to push forward and be sure we have equal female representation in our senior ranks.
SALES: Is it true as reported today that Bill Shorten has been lobbying MPs to vote against Anthony Albanese?
FITZGIBBON: I have no idea – oh well I shouldn’t say that, I have heard that too. I don’t have any direct evidence of that. I’ve been pretty busy myself as you can imagine so I’m not sure? Bill’s entitled to do that if that’s what he wants to do but I think I tend to agree with Penny Wong. I don’t think as the former and interim leader Bill should be inserting himself into this contest.
SALES: Would it be better for Labor if Jim Chalmers did run so you could have a big open debate about some of these issues within the party with your rank and file and so forth rather than having it decided or resolved by the factions behind closed doors?
FITZGIBBON: No Leigh I don’t buy this argument. Look I don’t think an open contest can do any harm. I’m happy for it to proceed but I don’t think talking to one another that is internally in the party for four weeks is necessarily what we need most. What we need to do, we had a heavy election defeat on the weekend. We need to as quickly as we can get up and dust ourselves off, acknowledge we got things wrong and provide plenty of evidence to the electorate that we recognise we got it wrong and we are about to embark on a new path and this time we are going to talk more about the regions, we are going to talk more about coal jobs and we are going to talk more about getting some gas out of the ground so we can fuel our manufacturing industry and create jobs in the regions and generally speaking we are going to talk as much about blue collar jobs and our base as we do aspiration in other areas like electric vehicles or renewable energy or whatever that might be.
SALES: Joel Fitzgibbon, good to have you on the program. Thanks for making time.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure Leigh.