Transcript - Radio Interview - ABC Radio Melbourne - Thursday, 28 January 2021

Transcript - Radio Interview - ABC Radio Melbourne - Thursday, 28 January 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

28 January 2021

VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: I'm glad you could join us this morning, Joel. Thanks so much.




TRIOLI: First of all, is our interpretation correct that it might take longer than say, you know, just a couple of days, but in a medium to long-term sense, the leadership change is on.


FITZGIBBON: No, I don't accept that, Virginia. I really want Anthony Albanese to succeed. You guys have just been talking about the political cost of the revolving door and the aftermath of that, and the recovery period, the damage it does to the party. So I'll continue to urge Albo to take the party back to what I call the sensible center, to put labour back into the Labor Party, to reassure our traditional base, the people we were born to represent, that we're back, we have their backs and we're backing their aspirations.


TRIOLI: We've got a big reshuffle coming up and it would seem that something that you are certain that you wanted to see, Joel Fitzgibbon, which is Mark Butler moved out of the environment portfolio. That looks like it's going to happen, so it's a bit of a win for you.


FITZGIBBON: Well, I'm not so concerned about the win, Virginia. I think it's a good thing for the party. But a change of jockey alone will not be enough. We really do need to change the policy trajectory and to recalibrate...


VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: ... In what way as it affects the environmental portfolio issue because to some, and to some even inside your own party, and they contacted me after you and I spoke on the program last year, it seemed like you wanted to almost turn the policy back to embracing older energy forms that other countries are moving away from.


FITZGIBBON: No, of course not. I have never said that Virginia. I want to be part of a government which takes meaningful action on climate change. But the operative word there, of course, is government. We haven't proven very good at winning government in recent years. And, you know, you can have the most ambitious climate change policy in the world, but it's not much use of it stays in the top drawer after every election. So, we need to recalibrate and we need the capacity to reassure people that we do have a policy suite necessary to meet the commitments we made, or Malcolm Turnbull made, in Paris. But a policy suite which also will get us to that goal, without unnecessarily doing harm to our economy and to jobs.


TRIOLI: So, you believe that with Anthony Albanese leading the federal party, and with a bit of a shift to your policy platform, that Labor can win the next federal election.


FITZGIBBON: It will take much more than that, Virginia. we need a broad policy suite. I think you're talking about Bill. Bill's right. Not too big, not too small...


TRIOLI: ... The Goldilocks suite.


FITZGIBBON: … is the happy medium. But it is absolutely true that our over-ambitious, overly ambitious climate change policies have cost us election opportunities in the past. We need to look at climate change, Virginia, not as a political opportunity, but a policy opportunity. We shouldn't look at it as an opportunity to win government. We should look at it as a policy challenge. How do you meet our commitments of Paris, while at the same time reassuring the traditional workforce that you're not going to do things that unnecessarily cost them their jobs? That's the challenging policy balance. Too many people in the Labor Party see climate change as a political opportunity, kid themselves that the more ambitious you are, the more likely you are to be elected. But as we know, from history, that is not the case. In fact, the opposite is the case.


TRIOLI: Well, you're speaking to a Victorian audience here though, Joel Fitzgibbon, where the majority view, and clearly, you can see that in the results of the state election here and also federal seats that are won and lost too, they view things very differently on the whole and they do want more progressive policy when it comes to environmental change and action.


FITZGIBBON: And they should understand, Virginia again, that look, since 2007, when our greenhouse gas emissions peaked, we have reduced them by 19 per cent. Now, most of that achievement occurred on the watch of a Labor Government. Now, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have retarded that success and you know, we've been effectively flatlining. So the secret to getting back on track is to elect a Labor government, but people in Melbourne need to understand that Labor cannot win government if it doesn't pick up the requisite number of seats, and hold seats in places like the Hunter Valley, places like Central North Queensland, in places like the [inaudible] of Perth, which of course is a big fly-in, fly-out mining town. So, I say to them, let us win. Let us find the formula. Both the political and policy formula for winning and to trust us that if we are elected, they'll get more meaningful action on climate change than they do under the current mob.


TRIOLI: I wonder if listening to what you're saying, Joel Fitzgibbon, if Labor doesn't run the danger here of trying to appear to be all things to all people and actually ending up not standing for anything.


FITZGIBBON: No, we need to do the opposite. That in fact is what we did last time, Virginia, with our equivocation on things, issues like Adani where we weren't really prepared openly say where we stand because we were looking over our shoulder, I suppose, at the electorates of Melbourne and Sydney. We have to be clear, loud and concise in our view. And our view is that we are determined on net-zero emissions by 2050, and unlike Scott Morrison, we intend to get there.


TRIOLI: Well, look, I've had many of these interviews and conversations over many years, Joel Fitzgibbon, and you've done them too from your side of the fence and many people have told me no, no, there's no leadership challenge, and no, no, nothing will change, and then we see things change. I don't necessarily, I'm not necessarily persuaded by what you're saying that it's not on. But putting that to one side, if you did get a leadership change, if Anthony Albanese can't hang on to this and if someone like Tanya Plibersek steps in, and Jim Chalmers is perhaps her deputy, is that a winning team?


FITZGIBBON: You know I'm not going to speculate on that, Virginia. I've told you that, you know, I'm hoping Anthony Albanese can take the party to the next election, I hope he can win. But, you know, we won't win if we don't recalibrate policy in a number of areas. You know, we need a little less focus – I mean, who were we once, Virginia? We were the party of the worker. And I think, you know, we've morphed into something else. Some might argue the party of climate change, for example.


TRIOLI: But hang on, but just to jump in the, Joel Fitzgibbon, and I do want to let you go and I want to speak to [inaudible] as well. Why is there an assumption that the worker is only one kind of worker? There...


FITZGIBBON: There is no assumption...


TRIOLI: Are so many workers across Australia that aren't necessarily the high-vis, down a coal mine worker?


FITZGIBBON: That's right. And first and foremost, we are for the workers who need protection most or need a lift up most in their wages – and of course, we've had flatlining wages now for, stagnating wages for too long and has to be Labor's focus – but so too, it's true that a lot of the people we have represented have gone on to better earnings, better income and have accrued, you know, considerable debt, bought themselves a nice home and we need to back their aspirations too, Virginia. We don't forget about them because they've worked hard, and they've been moderately successful. We stay with them. So we can't have policies, redistribution of wealth policies that just punish people for having a go. We've got to back aspiration.


TRIOLI: Joel, I always enjoy talking to you. Thank you for speaking to us today.


FITZGIBBON: It's a great pleasure.