STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Let's talk to a bloke who always adds a bit of common sense to the program. He is the Labor Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. G'day Joel.
STEPHEN FITZGIBBON. MEMBER FOR HUNTER: You're very kind, Stephen.
CENATIEMPO: Now we've mentioned on Monday that you're not re-contesting the next election. You still think that Labor can win if it takes back the centre ground but geez, I'll tell you what, Anthony Albanese keeps shooting himself in the foot with yesterday suggesting that the parachuting of Kristina Keneally into Fowler was a great symbol of diversity and the great migrant success story. I mean, can you imagine somebody like her being parachuted into Hunter? It'd be a disaster.
FITZGIBBON: Well, you know, Stephen, that's all fluff when it's all said and done. That won't be remembered on polling day, which is still a considerable way off. I've said a million times before, I don't like saying it, but the facts tell us it is true that Labor is not the natural party of government at the federal level. We won from opposition three times since the Second World War. We are the natural party of government in some states, but not in Canberra. We win when they are very tired of, or angry at the other mob and Labor doesn't look too scary. In other words, they can come to us and know that the economy will remain strong, and people with financial security will be sound. So, you know, it won't matter much what the ALP is doing in terms of preselections or when Anthony Albanese said about it yesterday. What will matter is Labor sticking to the centre ground and assuring people that we are committed to strong economic management. We are committed to their job security and the security, of course, of their families and the aspiration – hopes and aspirations of their families. That's what will matter.
CENATIEMPO: But doesn't that fly in the face of your argument that you've got to be able to represent your local community, and you've said time and time again that what Anthony Albanese's constituents in Grayndler might think are very different to your constituents in the Hunter might think, and certainly very different to what somebody in Fowler thinks? You've got to have good local representation.
FITZGIBBON: I didn't mean to suggest that I thought it was a good idea to parachute Kristina Keneally into power. I did not mean that. I'm just saying that in the scheme of things, it won't be – today's papers won't matter much on election day. But you are right, I'm a very strong supporter of strong local community based candidates and very importantly, as I pointed out, the Telegraph, I think on Monday or Tuesday, your local members and candidates have to be – have to be allowed to represent their electorate. We can't, we can't expect candidates in Surry Hills to be saying – sorry, candidates in Central Queensland or the Hunter Valley to be saying exactly the same thing, telling the same party line as those in Surry Hills or Richmond in Melbourne. It just doesn't work like that. That is not representative democracy.
CENATIEMPO: Which leads us to the next issue is your replacement or potential replacement in Hunter. You've – from what I understand – championed the cause of Dan Repacholi, the miner come Olympic shooter, who everybody in the electorate knows and everybody seems to respect. Is there a chance, though, that the unions might put the kibosh on your anointed successor?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I don't want to put the kibosh on anyone either, Stephen. I'll let party processes proceed. Because we have a number of very good candidates, Daniel Repacholi is certainly one of them. But yeah, he's a, he's a guy who, you know, who hushes every room when he enters – 6 foot 8 and 130 kilos and not particularly overweight. But you know, he's a coal miner, he was a union delegate when he was working at Mount Thorley Warkworth mine. He's an Olympian, a Commonwealth Games competitor, he's in the Cessnock Hall of Fame – the biggest town in the electorate. He's a family man. He manages 60 people in a mining services workshop in the Upper Hunter. He's an amazing candidate. And, you know, I've been keen to ensure that we hold my seat, of course, and a guy like Dan Repacholi would be very well placed to do so.
CENATIEMPO: You obviously took a bit of a hammering from One Nation at the last federal election but the candidate that ran against you has now parted ways with the party. They're running another former coal miner and businessman, Dale McNamara who contested the Upper Hunter state by-election. Now, you know, I know the electorate fairly well, I've never heard of this bloke.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah. Well, well Stuart Bonds, you know, the candidate they ran last time didn't even put his head up really. He didn't really campaign. He turned up to one debate and I never saw him again. There was just a huge protest vote and it had to be parked somewhere and parked with One Nation. He walked away from the party because he smashed up Pauline Hanson for voting against our coal miners. And that's what happened there. So, he's long gone. But look, I have to say I respect Dale McNamara. He's a very successful businessman and importantly, Stephen, he owns a pub. A pub in Singleton I know well, and he in One Nation terms, he's a pretty moderate guy. You know what I mean, not a right wing nutjob. So, we've got to take him serious, and that's why – seriously – and that's why we need to select our very best candidate.
CENATIEMPO: Pauline Hanson, on the other hand, says that without you there, Labor is going to lurch back to the left and be beholden to the Greens. How, how do you stop the backslide without somebody like you there to prevent it?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I don't take too much notice of what Pauline says, that's the first – that's the first point. But, look, I don't whether you saw on the piece in the Australian today; the unions have come out and made it clear to the party that they expect us to hold the Joel Fitzgibbon line. So they'll be around and, of course, as you know, they're enormously influential in the party. I think, I think people are now waking up to the fact that we've lost our way a little and we need to get back on track and, you know, anyone who wants to win an election will stay on course.
CENATIEMPO: Who takes over as leader of the Otis group?
FITZGIBBON: Oh, gee, that's a – do you know, that's not even something I've even had time to consider, Stephen. It's very important, but we'll have to have at least 10 Otis dinners between now and polling day to determine that. We might make it democratic – have a ballot. You know, my co-convener has Don Farrell of course and he's more than capable of running the show all on his own.
CENATIEMPO: Well look, if we ever come out of lockdown in the ACT, we will have to go and have lunch at Otis before you retire.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, you can pay.
CENATIEMPO: Right-o mate. Catch up next week.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks, Stephen.