ROD HENSHAW, HOST: Okay, hanging on patiently is the Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning, mate, how are you?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Nice to chat, Rod.
HENSHAW: Yeah, I guess you probably had a late night sorting out celebrating with Barnaby last night to welcome him back, wouldn't you?
FITZGIBBON: I have had a chat with Barnaby and I did congratulate him, and of course, wish him the best.
HENSHAW: How do you reckon he'll go?
FITZGIBBON: Very hard to say. Barnaby is unpredictable, if nothing else, but he's a guy not to be underestimated. He has a unique style, which does have the capacity to cut through. And I like to think that Barnaby Joyce and I could do some good things together. We stoush a fair bit. But I think we have a common view about promoting renewable energy, for example, without forsaking traditional jobs. We both believe we can do both. And it would be good to get some bipartisanship back into that debate, something that's been lacking for a long, long time.
HENSHAW: So I take it, you're on a unity ticket with him.
FITZGIBBON: No, there will be no ticket, but I think that there's no harm in talking cooperatively about public policy, and things that are good for the nation. And if he's willing to do that, I'm certainly up for it.
HENSHAW: Look, I think you'd be surprised – I think you've put out something about Mark Vaile, the former National Party Leader who's stepping down, or not taking up a position at the University because of his views on coal and because he holds a few positions. What's your...
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, that's right. The University of Newcastle offered Mark Vaile the position of Chancellor of the University, which of course is pretty much a (inaudible) position. And he's been demonised because of his association with the coal mining industry, which is a disgrace. He also chairs a vehicle which has enormous funds under management in the renewable sector. But you know, I made the point last night that when you demonise Mark Vaile for his association with the coal mining industry, you demonise every person who works in that industry and in associated industries. And to me, that is shameful. And this is a new form of McCarthyism, where people are being blacklisted, not because of their ideology, but because of the industry they work in. And the question becomes, where does this end, Which industry is next, and who is the final arbiter of these things?
HENSHAW: When you got up last night in the parliament and you made a pretty good speech, which I have got a copy of, and thanks for passing it on, but you spelled it out, what kind of reaction did you get?
FITZGIBBON: Well, see the morning after it was only last night, but some good runs in the newspaper today, I think there's a lot of support for this. So, there were silly student protests and resignations at the University, all sorts of things happening up there. I kept quiet out of respect for the Vice Chancellor and the University until it was done and dusted one way or the other, sadly, the wrong way. But now it is done, I'm more than willing to speak out. This McCarthyism has to end. And I'm going to fight for it to end.
HENSHAW: Well, of course, something about the former National Party Leaders, because John Anderson missed out on pre-selection. They put in some boffin instead to sit in the seat or, you know, he could just – I don't expect you to talk about the National Party all the way through this segment – but you know, John Anderson is no idiot. He's got a lot of nous. He's got a lot of political acumen. They need him and, no, no, no, we'll give it to one of the office boys up in Sydney. What do, you know, did you see that?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I have a large degree of respect for John Anderson. He made a very strong contribution here over a long period of time, but I don't know why he wanted to come back. It didn't make a lot of sense. And I understand why the pre-selectors went for the next generation and Ross Cadell, the guy they have selected, is an experienced, savvy, much younger guy. And so on that basis, I'm not surprised that they went the next generation.
HENSHAW: Okay, now one that's hot off the press, the Senate voted last night, Labor is now opposing a $1.2 billion spend in carbon reducing infrastructure. Why? Because it doesn't like the entity being used to spend it?
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, well...
HENSHAW: ... I've only got the titbit on this one. But what's the background?
FITZGIBBON: Well, the government is proposing to allow ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to do more things with more money. And I have to say, it's regrettable that Labor is now opposing around $1.2 billion worth of public investment in carbon reducing innovation, simply because we don't like the entities being used to spend that additional money. I frankly, I think that's a mistake.
HENSHAW: How many other people on your side of politics would agree with you?
FITZGIBBON: I suspect a lot because we should all, while many of us, you know, focus on maintaining and protecting traditional jobs, we also want greater investment in all sorts of technology, which will transform us into a lower carbon economy and we shouldn't be picky. It's not just about windmills and solar panels. It's about all sorts of other innovation, including electric vehicle charging station rollouts, and improving the efficiency of heavy vehicles and capturing the carbon so that we can use gas and coal to generate energy without polluting the atmosphere, all these things will make a contribution. And we shouldn't be fighting about which innovations we choose, we should be using as many of them as we can.
HENSHAW: Yeah, I'm still getting over this whole thing about, you know, the zero emissions by 2050. Well, you know, I've got kids, and I've got grandkids, I won't be around to see it. I'm just wondering, you know, how can – we can't even predict a damn thunderstorm coming in. But we want to predict that the whole world is going to end by 2050 if we don't take these measures now, it's got to be rubbish.
FITZGIBBON: Well, it's good to have goals, Rod. You know, you go on a diet, you make your goal three kilos, and it helps motivate you to get there. So I don't mind serving the goal and I think it's achievable for Australia. Remember the net. The net means that we'd be producing no more emissions than we are absorbing through technologies. But, we can get there without forsaking traditional jobs because we have all this innovation before us, including carbon capture and storage. So we can capture the carbon and bury it in the ground. Now, the Greens don't like this. They don't like this, but this is good innovation and we should be embracing it. And there's nothing wrong with using ARENA and the Clean Energy Financial Corporation as the vehicle to do so, as long as we give them the additional money.
HENSHAW: Okay, you're about to go into the winter break. You'd be looking forward to that, I suppose. And getting back up to the Hunter. And what have you got planned?
FITZGIBBON: Well, slightly warmer up in the Hunter, of course. But you know, I love the Canberra end of the job. I also like getting back to the electorate and doing good things in my local area and helping constituents. That's a very, very important part of the job so the winter break will sit me just fine.
HENSHAW: Good on you, Joel. You'll catch up with Stephen next week at this time. I look forward to listening to you.
FITZGIBBON: Nice to talk to you, Rod.