Joel Fitzgibbon with daughter Grace
Veteran Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has announced that he will retire from politics in the next election.
The 59-year-old resigned from the front bench last year amid fears that Labor’s climate change ambition would alienate regional Australians, including voters in its colliery electorate in Hunter, NSW.
Mr Fitzgibbon even warned the party would be wiped out if it didn’t focus on working people and their economic security – but now he’s convinced leader Anthony Albanese has moved to the center and could win the next poll.
“I will not be a candidate in the next federal election,” Mr Fitzgibbon told Sunrise on Monday morning.
“It’s always a difficult decision, but I’m very comfortable with it. I am very proud of my work over the past 25 years, locally, nationally and internationally.’
Labor lost the 2019 federal election after the proposal to scrap tax breaks for real estate investors, but Mr Albanese has ditched the idea and has backed tax cuts.
The opposition leader has also visited a coal mine and supported coal exports, which bring billions to the Australian economy.
“I am now confident that Labor has come back to center stage and learned from the mistakes of 2019,” said Mr Fitzgibon.
“If it focuses on the things that really matter to people – their family’s health and safety, their family’s economic security and, of course, their family’s hopes and aspirations – then Labor will do very, very well. ‘
Mr Fitzgibbon again supported Australia’s coal export industry on Monday, telling the ABC: ‘We will feed those markets in Asia for decades to come with relatively clean and efficient coal that would be supplanted by less efficient and dirtier coal if we left that. market.’
In May, Fitzgibbon warned that Labor is in danger of being wiped out as a political power because it has lost contact with its workers’ base.
Fitzgibbon said Labor must draw on its workers’ base. Pictured: Miners protest campaign to shut down Adani coal mine in Queensland in 2019
The outspoken Labor MP, who has represented Hunter’s federal branch since 1996, said the party’s loss in Upper-Hunter’s NSW state seat in May was a huge wake-up call.
Former NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay admitted the result was “horrible” before she stepped down.
Labor campaigned with a pro-coal message and even chose a former miner as a candidate, but Mr Fitzgibbon believed the party was losing its base by ‘demonizing’ workers for resources in its fight against climate change in recent years.
“It’s a wake-up call for all of us in the Labor Party and indeed the Labor movement,” he told 2GB Radio at the time.
“If we’re not careful, it will be the way of the Kodak brand.”
Mr Fitzgibbon even threatened to retire if Labor does not stand up for workers more vigorously.
“I will either be active as a Labor candidate or not at all,” he told Sky News.
But now he says he’s retired, confident the party can hold on to Hunter with a “talented local candidate.”
Mr Fitzgibbon, who nearly lost his mining seat in the 2019 election, feared resource workers are suspicious of Labor over ambitious climate change policies.
That suspicion is fueled only by decisions made late or on the eve of the midterm elections to oppose the Hunter Valley gas generator, a $600 million investment, they just shake their heads and say, ‘We thought yes,” he said.
Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese (left) speaks with Joel Fitzgibbon in parliament in 2019
In November, Mr Fitzgibbon left the front seat, furious that high-ranking leftists – whom he called the “cheesecloth brigade” – were calling for an “even more ambitious climate change policy” following Joe Biden’s victory in the US as Federal Leader Anthony Albanian attacked. because he refused to set a net zero emissions target for 2050.
“The PvdA should talk more about jobs and job security, just like about climate change,” he said.
“Much of our base ran away from us a while ago and it’s clear they haven’t returned.
“You won’t get them back quickly or easily.”
Labor’s struggle in regional Australia is part of a wider challenge facing the left of centre parties in Western democracies that struggle to maintain their traditional working-class voter base, while appealing to younger, more internationalist supporters who typically live in large cities.
Former UK Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair even warned that left-wing parties are in danger of ‘extinction’ because their ‘focus on extreme identity and anti-police politics’ had become ‘voter repellent’.
AN judgement of Australian Labor’s federal election campaign in 2019 found that the party had become a “natural home for various interests and concerns, including gender equality, the LGBTQI+ community, racial equality and environmental awareness”.
But it warned that ‘wPeople experiencing the disruption caused by new technologies and globalization may lose faith in Labor if they don’t believe the party is responding to their problems.”
Mr Morrison, who is targeting Hunter and other Labor regional seats in the next elections before May, has pushed this argument, accusing Labor of having lost contact with workers.
“I think they’ve let them down,” he said the Australian newspaper.
Ms McKay admitted that Labor has ‘fundamental problems within our party that we need to address’.
Her candidate Jeff Drayton said the defeat was a “warning to Labor that we cannot take any community for granted.
“Labor really needs to think about how we can reclaim these communities,” he said.
‘It takes honest reflection and a lot of hard work.’
Joel Fitzgibbon (left in August) has said he wants Labor to focus on jobs and get people back to work
Mr Albanese said his party had no problem winning over workers and said the results of a state midterm election do not match federal results.
He pointed out that Queensland and Western Australia, the country’s top resource states, have seen huge swings to Labor in recent state elections. .
The coalition is expected to target the Labor-occupied seats of Hunter, Paterson and Shortland in the next federal election.
Senator Birmingham said it was far too early to speculate on how many Hunter Valley seats the coalition could win.
“It’s still a long way to go to make these kinds of predictions, but we will fight vigorously in those regions,” he said in May.
“They are regions with clearly large numbers of working Australian families who want to know that they have a government that stands behind and supports them.”
But Mr Fitzgibbon warned that Labor’s struggle to win working-class voters in the regions would turn out to be federal.
‘At most we whispered. We’ve tried to walk on both sides of the fence about things like work and on the other side, the environment. They are suspicious and skeptical.
“Federally speaking, if Labor can convince not just miners, but everyone in those regions whose jobs depend on mining that we’re behind them, you can expect a similar outcome when Scott Morrison goes to the polls,” he said.
One in three voters were happy to ignore both major parties in the midterm elections, siding with independents and minor parties instead.
Labor to hold on to Hunter by a margin of three percent.
Before Mr Fitzgibbon took the seat, his father Eric was the Member of Parliament between 1984 and 1996.
The 59-year-old was Secretary of Defense under Kevin Rudd from 2007 to 2009.
Labor member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon walks through the press gallery at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 24 May