CECILIA CONNELL, HOST: … MP for the neighbouring Hunter electorate, Labor's Joel Fitzgibbbon joins me on the line now. Good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Hi Cecilia.
CONNELL: Firstly, what do you make of the leadership spill?
FITZGIBBON: Well, the leadership of the National Party is a matter for the National Party, I just hope that Barnaby Joyce takes a moderate approach to the issue of climate change. I've been calling for bipartisanship for a long time, it's pretty clear that there's a lot of movement around the world and within the business community, it's pretty clear that we are creeping towards a much lower emission economy. And we want to make sure that that happens in a way that's both good for the environment, but of course, good for jobs, including local jobs in the Upper Hunter and the Hunter region more generally. But I think, I think we can work together me and Barnaby, we stoush a lot publicly, but we talk a lot privately as well. We really both want the same thing. We want action on climate change, we want to make sure that farmers can benefit from action on climate change through carbon sequestration and other methods. But we also want to make sure we don't take any precipitous action which will damage local jobs in what is a very energy intensive regional economy.
CONNELL: Of course. Now you've said that, you know, you're willing to work together with Mr Joyce on this policy. But do you think this stance on reaching a zero emissions target, how is that going to play out with the Prime Minister's intentions? That's going to be a big, you know, focus, no doubt, for the government moving forward.
FITZGIBBON: Well, let's see. I mean, a target is just a number. I think targets or goals are important in life generally. I think they're handy, for example, when you're trying to lose a few kilos. It gives you the motivation that is helpful, but they're not necessarily the end game. What is important is that we reduce the carbon in our atmosphere in tonnage terms, and that we do it every year. And the fact is that we have been doing it every year, Cecilia. Emissions are down nearly 22 per cent since 2007, some would like to see them lower, but we are making our way to an important goal. The emissions intensity of our economy is down 64 per cent since 1990, over that 30-year period. So let's occasionally acknowledge what we have achieved and the amazing things that are happening in the Hunter with pumped hydro, large scale solar, thermal solar, battery storage, hydrogen hub, gas peaking station, we have a lot happening here in the hunter region.
CONNELL: Most certainly. And on that note, what implications do you think, you know, this will have for the Hunter region given so many people here are employed in the mining and energy sector, especially with the next federal election just around the corner?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I hope it means that people in the Hunter Valley – coal miners, power generation workers and all those associated with those industries – can feel confident that working together, Barnaby Joyce and Joel Fitzgibbon, will ensure that we will take meaningful action on climate change without challenging their jobs. And I think we can demonstrate that is possible.
CONNELL: Do you think Mr Joyce's reinstatement as Deputy Prime Minister will dent Labor's chances overall in the next federal election?
FITZGIBBON: I don't underestimate Barnaby Joyce's campaigning skills. And that's why I think the best thing we can both do is work together on this issue to neutralise it and focus all of our time on job creating projects and the projects which are good for the economy. But anyone who underestimates Barnaby Joyce is a fool. He's a seasoned campaigner. And I think it would be a good thing if Barnaby Joyce and I were working together with not one single voice necessarily, we won't agree on everything, but we certainly agree that we need to take action on climate change without destroying local jobs.
CONNELL: You've said that Mr Joyce is obviously quite a seasoned and strong campaigner. He's obviously held the party leadership before. Overall, in your view, do you think it was the right decision for him to be reinstated?
FITZGIBBON: Well, that's not for me to say. I think the, I mean, Michael McCormack is a good man. He did his best in the job. Obviously, the National Party Room decided that in the seats that mattered to them, Barnaby Joyce would be a more effective leader in campaigner. It just so happens that the seats which are important to the National Party are also important to the Labor Party. So, I suppose I should have been barracking for Michael McCormack.
CONNELL: I guess from a strategic perspective, but of course, you know, it's, it is very interesting to see how this will play out in the lead up to the next federal election. Joel Fitzgibbon, thank you for joining us on ABC Upper Hunter this morning.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure.