Labor Party ‘needs to go back to base’: Joel Fitzgibbon


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08-11-2019 08:00 AM


ABC Canberra 666

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ABC Canberra 666


08-11-2019 08:00 AM



08-11-2019 08:32 AM

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2019-11-08 08:00:42

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LANE, Sabra




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Labor Party ‘needs to go back to base’: Joel Fitzgibbon -

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SABRA LANE: A lethal combination of a poor campaign, too many policies and an unpopular leader, Bill Shorten - that collection of things cost Labor victory at the last federal election according to the official review, which was released yesterday.

One of the co-authors, former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has told RN-Breakfast the party can rebuild but says Labor needs to simplify its policies and its message.

Let's hear from him.

JAY WEATHERILL: We haven't said that the conclusion out of this is that you shouldn't have a bold agenda. We think you can still have a bold agenda but it cannot be so complex and so difficult to understand that it is capable of easy misrepresentation and that's what we served up this time.

SABRA LANE: The Labor Party Leader, Anthony Albanese, will deliver his response to the review at the National Press Club later today.

The report was released as the Federal Government unveiled its latest drought policy yesterday, prompting the Prime Minister to deride the Opposition for 'still talking about itself'.

Earlier I was joined by the Shadow Agriculture Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, to discuss the review and the drought policy and I started by asking him, what difference the new drought policy would make?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Very little, unfortunately and it is the outcome you would expect when you have policy on drought announced almost on a weekly basis.

It is very much policy on the run. It is still ad hoc, it is still piecemeal and you know, a few weeks ago the National Party released its own 10-point plan but not one dot point was embraced by the Prime Minister yesterday. That says something about the modern National Party.

Black Jack McEwen would be rolling in his grave.

SABRA LANE: You're worried about the Farm Household Allowance. There are limits on how long people can actually be on that welfare payment but those coming off it get a one-off payment of $13,000.

Many non-farming small businesses who have gone through very tough times would think that's pretty generous.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: No, the Government shouldn't be taking drought-affected farmers off income support in the middle of the worst drought in our history. This is one very simple thing Scott Morrison could have done yesterday.

He should have apologised and said, "Look, it's crazy. We're not going to keep taking the most, the farming families struggling most off this income support while ever this drought is ongoing.

We'll restore them and we'll make a commitment not to take any more farming families off it in the future, not at least while the drought is ongoing."

They're taking something like 1,800 farming families off this income support, Sabra.

It's a callous act, it is a mistake and they should reverse that decision.

SABRA LANE: What are you going to do about it?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, Sabra, we're two and a half years off being in government and Anthony Albanese and I have extended a bipartisan hand to the Prime Minister. We've supported every initiative he's taken.

We don't like the design, we don't like the lack of strategy and planning but we've backed in everything he has done.

What we do ask though is that he restore those payments to struggling farmers, farming families and go back once again and start establishing a national strategic plan and start working with the states rather than being critical of the states.

SABRA LANE: Just picking up on that point that you made there about the next election. The Labor review came out yesterday about the last election. It's blamed three lethal factors for your party's election loss this year - a weak strategy, a poor adaptability and an unpopular leader, Bill Shorten.

How do you turn that around?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, it is an honest, comprehensive and no-holds-barred document which I think importantly gives Anthony Albanese the authority he needs to take the party back to basics, back to its key values and objectives as a party and they are, of course, fairness, equality of opportunity and economic security.

It is a pretty basic formula.

SABRA LANE: It didn't offer a view on policies. Should the party keep or cut the policies on franking credits, negative gearing? It also warned about the party being a grievance-led party?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, I doubt franking credits have much of a future within the Labor Party but all of our policies will be reviewed and they'll be reviewed through the prism of Labor's key values and again they are, equality of opportunity, economic security.

That's what important to people and we've got to focus again on our blue-collar base, assuring our base that we support manufacturing and the mining industry and the energy sector.

That we have a plan to both give those sectors a future and those who work within them a future.

SABRA LANE: How do you beat Mr Morrison at the next election? You believe that he is mimicking Mr Trump from wearing baseball caps to cultivating patriotic fervour even coining his own term for fake news.

You'd think the "bubble question" phrase that he uses, his term for that.

The public seems to be liking all of that.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, he is certainly reading the Donald Trump playbook but I think he is a cheap imitation. I think there is a stark contrast there.

Whether you support him or you don't, Donald Trump is a change agent, whereas Scott Morrison is just promising more of the same.

He promised in the election he would change nothing and that's one election promise he has absolutely kept.

But I think people are looking for imagination, innovation, creativity and they want a government that sees a very rapidly changing world and has policies to adapt to that world and to provide opportunity for all Australians.

SABRA LANE: You recently advocated adopting the Coalition's policy on carbon emissions. It is reported that Mr Albanese carpeted you for that. Is that right and will you still advocate that idea?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Well, Albo and I certainly had a robust conversation about my views. There is nothing wrong with that.

That's a healthy thing.

The key point I was making is that we need a policy settlement on carbon emissions. We want to be able to get things done.

Emissions continue to rise every year and I was prosecuting a case for forcing Scott Morrison to reverse that and to hold him to account.

We can sit back for three years and allow emissions to continue to rise or we can put in place strategies to force Scott Morrison to finally do something.

SABRA LANE: Will you still keep advocating that idea of copying the Coalition's policy?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: I'll certainly keep advocating for a political settlement. I don't want to go to another election where carbon emissions are front and centre in the election campaign.

I don't believe that's good for the Labor Party but more particularly, I don't believe it is good for the country because it is a recipe for more rising emissions over the coming years and it is a recipe for higher household energy bills and it's a recipe for less manufacturing jobs in Australia.

SABRA LANE: You've reached out to Mr Morrison recently to end the wars on climate and energy. Is he talking to you?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: No, I don't think it is in Scott Morrison's character to accept the hand of bipartisanship. He's demonstrated that on drought and I'm sure that will be the case on carbon and energy policy.

That's a mistake on his part because with a settlement, we could meet our international obligations on carbon emissions, we could take meaningful action on climate change while at the same time, retaining a strong coal mining industry and at the same time, drive energy prices for households and manufacturers down rather than continue to allow them to rise.

SABRA LANE: And that is the Shadow Agriculture Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon.