Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon has found an unlikely ally following his recent stand-off with the party – and its climate and energy policies.
The Cessnock-based Hunter MP resigned from the federal frontbench earlier in the month, citing Labor’s disconnection with the blue-collar workforce, particularly the mining sector, of which he strongly represents.
“I think somehow over the course of the past decade we forgot that and we lost touch with traditional working people,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“If you begin demonising coal workers, coal generation workers; you are immediately demonising oil and gas workers, power generation workers.
“By the time that message gets through, you’re demonising manufacturing workers – and it goes on and on.
“Labor must continue to epitomise the interests of working people in the regions and progressives in the cities.
“We have to be a voice for all those who we seek to represent, whether they be in Surry Hills or Rockhampton.
“And, that’s a difficult balance.”
Agreeing with Mr Fitzgibbon is NSW’s One Nation leader Mark Latham.
He stood up for jobs and mining in the Hunter last week, introducing a Matter of Public Importance debate in the Legislative Council to ensure the region was not tossed aside by the government’s new Energy Roadmap.
“This is an urgent and important matter for the chamber, mainly for the reason the NSW Government has gone heavily into debt,” Mr Latham said.
“Obviously, revenues are down, but there is plenty of capital works expenditure flying around the state.
“It is hard to identify if any of it goes directly into Newcastle.
“This is a matter of public importance because Newcastle is our second NSW city, only behind Sydney.
“But, if we make all the rhetoric and debate in this chamber about Sydney, it divorces the importance of Newcastle, which gets scant attention in this chamber and, notwithstanding the wonderful efforts of the member for Newcastle in the other place, indeed in the Legislative Assembly itself.
“It is particularly important because Newcastle is a city – the capital of the Hunter Valley – where one has never seen so many politicians go there mainly for the purpose of talking about how jobs can be lost.
“When they turn up in the Hunter, all the energy proposals and climate change initiatives that they talk about mean job losses.
“The reality is that coal is fundamental to the future of that region.
“It provides 75,000 jobs directly and 60,000 indirectly.
“One has only to listen to Mr Fitzgibbon to know that he thinks even his own party has sold out on those coal and mining jobs in the Hunter Valley.
“When the member for Hunter is talking about jobs for Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, we should be talking about it here to ensure that there is a coordinated approach and a huge public focus on the importance of that city and, indeed, the entire Hunter region.”