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The Doorstop: 5 mins with Joel Fitzgibbon

Life in the bush is fundamentally shaped by decisions made in the corridors of Canberra. In this new blog, we’re walking the corridors to chat with some of the key politicians who influence regional politics – starting today with The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP.

AF: You took over the seat of Hunter from your father, Eric Fitzgibbon. How does succession planning in politics compare to farming?

JF: Like the farmer’s son or daughter, there is no doubt my father’s involvement sparked both my interest and gave me a head start. My father's legacy has shaped my determination to give those I represent in the Parliament a voice.  

AF: Over two decades ago now you used part of your maiden speech to defend the Diesel Fuel Rebate. This might be a sign that not much has changed in that time! How do you think politics has changed during your time in Parliament, and what issues are you most passionate about now?

JF: We've become a more wealthy, economically diverse, and more progressive society in the twenty years I've served.
 
Technology including social media platforms have both quickened the pace of politics and made us all more accountable. That's a good thing. On the flip side, the capacity of pressure groups to mobile so quickly and effectively is making it harder for those with the strength of leadership to progress sound but sometimes unpopular policies. This is a big change contemporary politicians are still grappling with.
 
I'm passionate about agriculture and the need to lift the policy debate to higher levels.  We must have a broader discussion about things like pursuing premium markets, climate change, resource allocation, branding and traceability.

AF: You and Minister Joyce have a certain, shall we say, chemistry, in your pairing as Minister and Shadow Minister. Tell us honestly, would you miss him if he changed portfolios?
 
JF: I would miss Barnaby dearly. He's a good sport and if I may say it, having two senior and experienced players in the agriculture space is a good thing for the sector. I just wish we could just get beyond the latest cattle price and on to some more sophisticated conversations.

AF: If you could magically change one of your opponent’s policies, what would it be?

JF: Drop the APVMA relocation. It's madness.

AF: The Labor party came within arm’s reach of forming Government back in July. What were your learnings from that election, and what do you make of our new Senate?

JF: I learned that Barnaby Joyce's spin knows no bounds and to be better prepared for it. The Senate is the one the Australian people have given us and I respect it's members.

AF: Being a regional MP in the Labor Party can’t always be the easiest path. Can you share any tricks you’ve learned for getting your voice heard in Caucus?
 
JF: Our smaller representation doesn't make us less interested in or committed to regional Australia. Indeed it makes me even more committed to it - to improving our representation. The formation of the Country Caucus is a platform I've built to further enhance our performance.

AF: Why agriculture (both as an industry, and portfolio choice)?
 
JF: I'm from a rural electorate so it's a neat fit but I'm also attracted by the enormous opportunities available to the agriculture and agribusiness sectors. How well we capitalise on those opportunity is partly in the hands of government and that why we need to lift the quality of the debate.

AF: It’s 2042 and Labor is in Government. Who is our Prime Minister?
 
JF: One of my children (their mother won't be happy!).

AF: Thanks so much for your time!

 

Joel Fitzgibbon: Fast Facts

Elected:

1996

Role:

Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional Australia

Electorate:

Hunter (NSW)

Last book read:

An excellent NFF hard-cover publication from 1996 on Australian Agriculture which I acquired when I was first elected to the House. It identified many challenges which sadly, government has not adequately tackled.

Ultimate dinner guest:

A roundtable with each of the major-power leaders in 1942.

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