Canberra Report - Diversifying Our Economy - Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Canberra Report - Diversifying Our Economy - Wednesday, 10 March 2021 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

10 March 2021

While Canberra remains distracted by personal behaviour, I remain focused on the health and shape of our local economy. Helping those still affected by COVID-19 and engaging with local leaders, business operators, and the broader community about our collective well-being, remain my priorities.

Prior to COVID-19, it was clear our economy was in good shape and more diverse than in decades past.  We continue to leverage the wealth provided by the coal industry by building economic infrastructure, attracting new industries, and encouraging job-creating consumer spending.

I too often hear people argue we are not preparing for a transition in the coal industry.  This is untrue on two fronts.  First, our coal mining industry is no more in transition than any other industry.  Our customers in Asia will be hungry for our coal for decades to come.  It is true our local coal-fired generators will come to the end of their physical and economic lives at some point, that’s why we are working hard to attract new forms of local generation.

Second, we work every day to further diversify our economy so that we are not too reliant on any one or a small number of sectors.  This is the day-job of political and business leaders.

The immediate challenge is to secure extended support for those sectors which remain affected by COVID-19 and the consequent decisions of governments.  I will continue to lobby on their behalf.


Our conference and events sector are growing and has become an important part of our local economy. The Hunter was fortunate to host the CFMEU Mining & Energy Division Annual Conference last week. 

It was an historic Conference because delegates voted to unanimously to break-away from the CFMEU.  It’s a decision I welcome.  I look forward to continuing my work with the new Mining & Energy Union to ensure a bright future for the industry and protecting the interests of its workforce.

Spirits were high at the Conference dinner, where guests were appropriately reminded about the importance of the coal industry to our region.


A few people were surprised by my decision to accept an invitation to address the Howard Government Retrospective Conference.  Run by the University of NSW and the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Conference is an annual event.

I was a natural choice to provide an Opposition perspective on the Howard years, having been in the House of Representatives for all its eleven and a half years.  In my speech I pointed out where I thought John Howard got it right, and where thought he got it wrong.  I also nominated ten lessons to be learned from this period in our political history.  Amongst them was the lesson of not under-estimating one’s opponent.

It would be immature and petty not to accept an opportunity to address a group reflecting on an important part of our history.  And if politicians can’t respect one another, how can we expect others to do so?