CHRIS KENNY, HOST: Joel Fitzgibbon, thanks for joining us again. First, as a former Defence Minister, have you been shocked at what we found out about these alleged crimes, and I suppose the culture and the chain of command that has been identified by the Australian Defence Force Chief as well?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: I have no doubt, Chris, all Australians will be shocked and disappointed. And of course, all those who have been accused of summary executions will need to face the judicial process and face the music, if found guilty of these terrible alleged acts. But at the same time, I'm very keen for the process to not only clean the show up, and to deal with that culture, but to ensure that not all of our Special Forces soldiers are coloured with the same brush, are caught up in this. This is obviously a culture amongst the minority. And the overwhelming majority of our Special Forces soldiers are courageous Australians who put their lives on the line for their country and our respect for them, and our admiration, has to be maintained. Secondly, I need to say that culture comes from the top. And there's plenty of responsibility to go round here, right up the chain of command and right into the national security of the Cabinet Committee. Vague strategic objectives, the regular release of prisoners who Special Forces soldiers had put their lives on the line to capture, and many other issues, including the battle with an enemy which plays to no rules whatsoever. This has been hard on our Special Forces soldiers and I’ve no doubt that played into the development of that culture, and again, they need to face the consequences of all that. But our respect and admiration of our Special Forces needs to be protected and maintained.
KENNY: It's a shocking situation, but we've got to allow all these processes to play out. Now, the reason I asked you on, as the former Resources spokesperson for the Labor Party. You resigned that frontbench spot just recently but the New South Wales Labor leader, Jodi McKay, has come out and said you have a point when you criticise federal Labor's preoccupation with climate action, I suppose at the expense of jobs and industries in the regions?
FITZGIBBON: Of course, Chris, I welcome Jodi McKay’s intervention. I believe that within the Party and within the broader labour movement, there is a growing realisation that we have not been sufficiently focusing on our traditional base. Those people who go out with the blue-collar or Hi-Vis on a daily basis, doing a job that is critical to our economy, and therefore to the future of our nation. We’ve spent too much time talking about climate change, as important as it is – and I remind you Chris, I support meaningful action on climate change. But I support an inclusive approach to the matter, to the objective, one which does not leave those in work amongst our traditional base, behind.
KENNY: So how can Jodi McKay, the New South Wales Labor leader, see this but Anthony Albanese, her fellow New South Wales Labor MP and the national leader, not see it?
FITZGIBBON: Well Jodi McKay is a creature of the Hunter Valley. I know she said today that she's familiar with coal mining industry, the power generation industry, the manufacturing plants that run off them. The Port of Newcastle, which of course is so critical to the regional economy. Jodi came to a coal mine with me after the last federal election, in the Upper Hunter where she was welcomed back. She's been to the coalface she understands the issues. She understands the important work our coal miners do and how proud they are of that work. Therefore, I find it unsurprising that that she'd be up there talking about them and supporting them. But not only coal miners, of course. Our oil and gas workers, abattoir workers, those in those who work in the manufacturing plants more generally. But these people are the reason the Labor Party was born and we need to continue to send a very strong message to them, we respect what they do, we support what they do and they are entitled to be very proud of what they do.
KENNY: Joel Fitzgibbon, you're the national convener of the Right faction, which is not Albanese’s faction, not Anthony Albanese’s faction, but has been very instrumental in supporting him as Leader. Do you maintain that role and that support for Anthony Albanese?
FITZGIBBON: I do, Chris. But it's not a role I intend to continue to work in. I’ve been a factional convenor now for more than a decade. And I'm very confident that most people close to these things would say I’ve done a very, very good job there. But I think I…
KENNY: Are you going to stand down?
FITZGIBBON: Well I need to consult my colleagues, but I don't want to any longer be talked about as a faction leader, I want to be talked about as a policy leader. And I'm going to spend the rest of the my time in Parliament absolutely focusing on the policies, and the narratives, which I think are critical to the people that we traditionally represented. And also which are critical to the election of a Labor government. Of course, personal security, job security, making sure people have a future in work, ensuring that they are confident about being able to pay the mortgage and to provide for their children, making sure they have access to affordable healthcare, and equal opportunity in education. And of course, providing for retirement incomes, provision of aged care facilities. These are all the things I'm going to be talking about, rather than giving any of my time to factional issues. And of course, I think there's an opportunity here for us to get more women involved in these factional positions. I think New South Wales Labor Right in particular has good strong women and strong representation of women in its faction. But I think we need to get more women involved in the machinations of politics so that women have a louder voice inside the federal parliamentary Labor Party.
KENNY: Fascinating development, you stepping down from that factional role. That sounds like a policy speech. Thanks for joining us Joel Fitzgibbon – look forward to talking again.
FITZGIBBON: A pleasure, Chris.