STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Time to catch up with our regular Wednesday political contributor. He is the Labor Member for Hunter. They call him the Maverick of the Labor backbench these days, Joel Fitzgibbon. G'day mate.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning, Stephen.
CENATIEMPO: A few more Mavericks popping up out of the woodwork in the Labor side these days. Former ACTU boss, Jennie George has echoed some of your concerns. And I think it's a little bit rich, but Chris Bowen has now written a book saying a lot of things that you're saying.
FITZGIBBON: Oh Jennie, Jennie George made a significant contribution, one I appreciated and, you know, backed in everything I've been saying, Stephen. We can take meaningful action on climate change, we can do it sensibly, and in a way which doesn't unnecessarily forsake traditional jobs, the jobs of the people Labor was born to represent. And, yes, I welcome Chris Bowen's contribution. We are now all together putting labour back into the Labor Party. He's a – he's a loud voice within the Labor Party, a respected person and I welcome the fact that he's joined the project.
CENATIEMPO: Let's talk about meaningful action on climate change. We've now seen the government come out and talk about a net zero emissions target by 2050. I get the impression that a lot of these targets, and regardless of what side of politics they come from – let's just pluck a figure out that's 10 years earlier than the next person – but there's talk about carving agriculture and some other industries out of this target, as New Zealand has done. In fact, Matt Canavan and Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals backbenches, are saying, look, they're sceptical about this target altogether, particularly given that they don't believe that other nations around the world are going to meet their commitments.
FITZGIBBON: Look, I think the significant thing about net zero emissions by 2050, Stephen, is that it's becoming almost universal. Governments across the world, all of our state governments here in Australia, most of our big companies, and even our farm leadership groups and the like, are all now backing zero net emissions. Now, it's only a goal, but remember the net part of that equation. It means putting no more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than we are taking out. And, of course, that creates opportunities too, particularly for the agriculture sector, the forestry sector, etcetera. So, it just makes sense to have a goal. And the real secret to reducing carbon pollution without hurting our economy is to get a political consensus. And I think Morrison now realises, you know, the Coalition benefited politically out of the climate wars for a long, long time and I think Morrison now realise, given the universal nature of this target, he really needs to come into the cart. Now, the National Party doesn't like this because they don't want to stop winning elections off the back of a climate change debate. So, they're making this noise. They're saying the farm sector and others should be exempt, but exempt from what Stephen? Morrison’s made it clear he's not going to have a carbon tax. So, what are they being exempt from? In New Zealand, the comparison they make, there is an emissions trading scheme or as some would like to call it, a carbon tax, and farmers they're – they're not actually exempted, they are discounted on that carbon tax. And eventually over the years, they will face the full price. But in Australia, Scott Morrison says we are not having a carbon tax, so what is it that Barnaby Joyce and others want the farmer exempted from?
CENATIEMPO: Good question. I've invited Barnaby on the program a number of times, and for some reason he won't come on anymore. But that's beside the point. Now something that is happening in your part of the world that I just think is a lot of woke-rubbish. The ANZ Bank is walking away from the world's biggest coal export – port, which is the Port of Newcastle because its new climate policy bans loans to the coal sector. The NAB is going to step in and underwrite the, the Port of Newcastle. Though so, I mean, are ANZ – do they think they're going to generate any business by doing this?
FITZGIBBON: Well it is a dumb decision by the board and its CEO because it's going to cost them money, and it's going to cost their shareholder return. So, I'm not the least bit concerned about ANZ's decision because the Port of Newcastle is a profitable business. The Port of Newcastle is critically important to the Hunter economy and to jobs. But if ANZ doesn't want to fund it, they'll find someone who isn't so exposed to shareholder activism and will fund it instead. Yeah, the NAB, a other major bank, has come in for the time being. But if they go down the path of reacting so heavily to shareholder activism, and I suspect the minority of their shareholders, then there'll be other funders as well who aren't exposed to that shareholder activism.
CENATIEMPO: It reminds me, and you would remember this, there was a particular anti-coal protester a few years back in your electorate that actually sent out false emails suggesting that ANZ had done this back then, and they were very, very upset about it. Well, they finally come around to this activist's point of view apparently.
FITZGIBBON: Gee I had forgotten about that. I remember pinging that guy in the media at the time. So do you probably. The other point I'd make Stephen is the Port of Newcastle under Scott Morrison's watch is 50 per cent owned by the Chinese. Now, I don't have a particular problem with that unlike some. However, if our major banks are going to start walking away from important and profitable businesses like this, then more than likely when companies like this go looking for finance elsewhere, they're going to find that inflow, that capital inflow coming from countries like China. Now, why would we – I thought we were trying to build a capacity to be more independent in a range of areas – food, fuel, defence and indeed finance. Now, so people should think these things through, and it makes no sense for ANZ to walk away from such a profitable business.
CENATIEMPO: Couldn't agree more. Joel, great to talk, we will catch up next week.
FITZGIBBON: A pleasure Stephen. Thank you.