SUBJECT: Joel Fitzgibbon resigns; Shadow Cabinet meeting and Mark Dreyfus; What Labor can learn from Queensland result; Leadership ambitions. 


BEN FORDHAM, HOST: The Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has been in the news this week. He resigned suddenly from the Labor frontbench, and it followed a fiery meeting where Labor’s climate change policy was on the table. Joel doesn't support the Party's direction, but there are some different theories about what went on in that meeting because there is one report in the Financial Review, suggesting that Joel Fitzgibbon was forced to leave the Shadow Cabinet by Anthony Albanese. He’s on the line, the Labor MP for the Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Good morning.




FORDHAM: So, that report in the Fin Review, is it wrong?


FITZGIBBON: Absolutely wrong. Untrue, Ben. I was under no pressure to resign. I wasn't asked to resign. I walked into Anthony Albanese’s office on Tuesday morning, and told him that was my intention to resign that day and in fact he said he'd like to talk me out of it.


FORDHAM: So, the suggestion that you were pushed is completely untrue?


FITZGIBBON: Completely untrue.


FORDHAM: It's been described as the most volatile meeting that any of these Labor MPs have ever been to. I'm told it was red hot.


FITZGIBBON: Well, the traditional and Golden Rule, Ben, is that we don't talk about what happens in Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet. But I think it's fair to say that that's a pretty accurate report.


FORDHAM: There were people there watching it who thought at one stage it might turn physical.


FITZGIBBON: Yeah, it got a bit willing but I must stress that I don't think it was ever going to get that willing between me and Albo. It was Mark Dreyfus who was getting a little bit excited on the, on my right flank there. I, you know, I was looking at him out of the corner of my right eye because he was sort of getting a little bit agitated and shouting fairly loudly. Oops, did I just tell you what happened in Shadow Cabinet?


FORDHAM: You don't have to follow the rules anymore.


FITZGIBBON: Well that is true, Ben, and I'm not subject to the Official Secrets Act either on this one.


FORDHAM: You want to able to speak your mind, because you are saying look, there are way too many workers wearing Hi-Vis, who are not going to support us at the next election. You're going to be toast, other MPs will be toast. You want things to turn around, how do you do that exactly?


FITZGIBBON: Just have a look at what Annastacia Palaszczuk did in Queensland, very, very recently. Just learn from her and follow her model. She demonstrated, Ben, that you can be committed to the environment and have policies to ensure the environment is protected, while at the same time, have a commitment to our traditional base, those Hi-Vis and blue-collar workers who do so much for our country, and so much export income, keep our lights on, supply the gas for our manufacturing sector. These are the people who were traditionally our base, but they are now turning up at the polling booths, with LNP - Liberal National Party how to votes, or One Nation votes, or Shooters and Fishers vote, how to vote cards, in their hands. But that didn't, that's not what happened a couple of weeks ago. In Queensland they turned up with Labor how to votes in their hands, because Annastacia Palaszczuk throughout the campaign announced the approval of a new coal mine, she visited gas projects and manufacturing plants that are associated with the coal and gas industries. She went to TAFEs and talked about the skills we need for those traditional industries, and she gave workers a reassurance that she has their back, and she supports what they do and in fact she's proud of what they do.


FORDHAM: I said yesterday on the show, make no mistake, Joel Fitzgibbon is putting himself up here as a short, medium, long term alternative here for the Labor Party, and you're not trying to fry Albo overnight. It's more like the slow cooker, you know slow cooking is all the rage these days where, where you put it in the slow cooker then you go off to work and then by the time you get home it's ready to eat.


FITZGIBBON: Yeah, Ben, look, I've been in the Labor Party for 36 years, and for all that time, everything that I've done has been for the Labor Party. Why? Because I believe the Labor Party is the party of equality of opportunity, that means everyone gets a go, you know, regardless of their wealth or family or income background. And of course, it's about jobs - jobs, jobs and jobs. And in particular, in this COVID or post COVID period, we have to be constantly talking about jobs. And we need to be getting into the, you know, nursing homes where we have low-paid workers that need more support, into the childcare centres where we have low-paid workers that need support. But more particularly we all need to get out of the capital cities, visit some coal mines, visit some gas projects, visit some abattoirs, walk in, shake some hands tell those people we've got their back and tell them they're doing a great thing for our country. That's what the Labor Party needs to do.


FORDHAM: Okay, I think the reason you connect is because you tell it straight, you tell it how it is. Let me close with this question, and give me a yes or no answer. If your colleagues need you, are you ready to lead?


FITZGIBBON: I've always been ready and willing to do whatever I can, Ben, to make the Labor Party electable. There are millions of Australians who are depending on us to form a government from time to time, and we haven't been doing that regularly enough.


FORDHAM: That sounds like a yes.


FITZGIBBON: You can interpret it in any way you like, mate.


FORDHAM: It wasn't a no.


FITZGIBBON: [laughs] Trick question, too, though Ben.


FORDHAM: No, it's a straight up and down question. Are you ready to lead if your colleagues need you to?


FITZGIBBON: Can we talk about the Blues’ win?


FORDHAM: [laughs] We'll catch up soon Joel.


FITZGIBBON: Good on you, mate.