NATALIE BARR, HOST: Thanks, Kochie. Well, veteran Labor MP and Sunrise regular, Joel Fitzgibbon will retire from federal parliament at the next election. Joel quit the Front Bench last year after an internal dispute over climate policy. He joins us now, along with Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to you both. Joel, why are you quitting?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning team. It's always a difficult decision, I'm sure, Nat, but I'm very comfortable with it. I will not be a candidate at the next federal election. I depart very happy and satisfied. I'm very proud of my work over the course of the last 25 years locally, nationally, and internationally. I leave feeling very confident now that Labor can win the next election under the leadership of Anthony Albanese. And I'm enormously grateful for the opportunities that have been given me, both by my electorate, by the Australian Labor Party, and of course, by a very supportive family.
BARR: Happy and satisfied. It doesn't sound like you have been in recent times. You said you wanted to put labour back in the Labor Party. There seem to be tensions within the party. Are you abandoning ship right now?
FITZGIBBON: No, not at all. I feel I can now depart. I mean I, in part, made this decision on election night 2019. I've changed my mind a couple of times over the course of the last two and a half or so years. But I now feel very confident that Labor has come back to the centre ground, has learned from the mistakes of 2019. And, you know, if it focuses on the things that are really important to people – they are the health and safety of their families, the economic security of their family, and of course, the hopes and aspirations of their family including, of course, their children – then Labor will do very, very well.
BARR: Barnaby, what do you think? Do you think Joel succeeded in putting Labor back to the centre?
BARNABY JOYCE, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, he did a gallant attempt at it and I wish Joel all the very best and it's a bit like a requiem isn't it, better to die. Obviously you're going to get him back, get him working in the garden, to the cats – I don't know why any person has cats but anyway, he's got them. To the Cypress Lakes Golf Club, you'll almost wear a track around the joint. And I think it's, what he tried to do – I'll give Joel a plug. When I'm on the hustings and I want to move the crowd, right, and get them going boo hiss, boo hiss, I always throw in a name of someone from the Labor Party I know they won't like it if it's not working for me. So I'll say what about Mr Boom Boom, if Mr Boom Boom was Prime Minister and they go boo hiss, boo hiss. Or what about if Mrs Bam was the Prime Minister and they go boo hiss, boo hiss. But in my crowd, I don't say Joel, because they would say: oh yeah, that could work. And so he was, you know, we always had to keep a really close on Joel because we knew that he actually had the nerve and had the vein of a lot of our people. And I tell you what – but now I'm back to sparring again – I can fix up a problem for the Labor Party now. All fixed, see. We've got the problem with Fowler, so but Fowler already had an endorsed candidate, Hunter doesn't, so we can move Kristina Keneally to the Hunter Valley. That would work.
BARR: Yes, Joel, let's get your view on that because of course, the Labor Party apparently parachuting Kristina Keneally out to Cabramatta. A lot of people not happy about that. Maybe there's a role for her there in your old seat.
FITZGIBBON: It's so obvious Barnaby is here to help. And I thank him for all of his comments. Look, we have some outstanding local members here in the Hunter electorate. So it's a little bit early to talk about who succeeds me, but you know, it's not surprising that having lost...
JOYCE: ... Albo reckons Kristina is great.
BARR: Joel, did you think of going as an Independant? You seem to be, you seem to be pretty unhappy...
FITZGIBBON: ... Never...
BARR: ... With how Labor has been going in the last – particularly the last couple of years. Did you think, you know, forget this, I'll go out on my own?
FITZGIBBON: Never cede the ground to your internal opponents, Nat. I knew that if I worked hard at it, Labor would see some common sense and come back to the people it's traditionally represented, recognise the important role the resources sector, for example, plays in our national economy earning significant export income and the rest. And look, Anthony Albanese, you know, has dispensed with all those crazy tax policies we took the last election, he's committed to leaving in place the legislated tax cuts for all Australians. He's been to a coal mine, talked about our support for the coal and gas sectors, just to name a couple. So, we are well placed, and look, it's not as if we're up against the good government.
BARR: Okay, well...
JOYCE: ... Well, he could leave it. But that's – but anyway, Joel I wish you all the very best, mate. You represent what Labor Party should be about, the Labor Party that probably my old man used to vote for – boilermakers, fitters and turners – but I wish you all the best. You gave it your best shot.
BARR: Well, there you go. That's a nice spot to finish.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks, Barnaby. I'll buy you a beer in Canberra when we're there next if they ever let us back.
BARR: And as you say, Joel, you're not dead yet. We've still got to get to an election. So thank you very much. We'll see you next week. Thanks, Kochie.
FITZGIBBON: Not dead yet. Thanks team.