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‘Diabolical’ result for Labor: Fitzgibbon

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Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon has labelled The Nationals’ big win in the Upper Hunter by-election at the weekend as a “diabolical result for the Labor Party”.

Following the departure of Michael Johnsen, in the midst of sordid allegations which he strongly denied, many experts predicted a close result on Saturday (22 May).

A total of 13 candidates vied for the state crown, including a record number of Independents.

But, Clarence Town’s David Layzell, strongly supported by NSW Deputy Leader John Barilaro throughout the campaign, won convincingly for The Nationals while Labor’s primary vote fell by 7%.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the outcome was a real “wake-up call” for the organisation.

“The Labor brand is in trouble,” the federal member stated.

“And, if we’re not careful, it will go the way of the Kodak brand.

“Our working people walked away from us some time ago and they clearly haven’t come back.

“They won’t return either until we tell them that our main priority as a party is jobs and job security.

“In places like the Hunter region, you can’t have that if you’re not supportive of the coal mining industry.

“It’s important to so many families and they’re suspicious of a snap.

“We’ve said we support them, but we’re whispering it.

“We need to be very loud and clear about that.

“And, it doesn’t help that on the eve of the election, we decided to oppose a gas-fired generator investment in the region.

“People just shake their heads and say ‘well, my scepticism is absolutely justified’.”

Mr Fitzgibbon admitted he was now “vulnerable” leading into the next federal election.

“None of us have a mortgage on our electorates,” he said.

“But, you know, on Saturday, we got less than half of the primary vote in places like Singleton that I was getting back in the 2016 election and more than 10% less than I received that disastrous 2019 election.

“So, it’s heading in the wrong direction.

“We are facing something that looks a little bit like an existential threat here.

“However, it isn’t too late for us to turn it around and talk at least as much about those who work in the resources sector as we do climate change, to talk as much about those who are aspirational and get up and work hard every day as we do those who necessarily need a hand up.

“I’ve been in the parliament 25 years.

“I’m happy to put modesty aside and say that I was very warmly received at the polling booths at the weekend, despite what people were saying about some of our policy positions.
“I have the advantages of incumbency.

“I think that I’m in a strong position in the Hunter.

“I believe the Australian people need a Labor government from time-to-time.

“And, I want to deliver one.

“But, I’m not going to stick around if we’re going to continue to send these mixed messages or whisper our support for working people to lose again.”

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