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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Fitzgibbon gazes into 2021 crystal ball

They say a week is a long time in politics.

Then, how about a COVID-19 impacted year?

For Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, 2020 might actually be a watershed moment for the popular local member.

He took aim at his own party, Labor, stating it spent too much energy on climate policy at the expense of regional issues.

And, as a result, he quit his position on the Opposition front bench.

But, his blunt message not only upset leader Anthony Albanese, it got plenty of people talking on both sides of the political spectrum.

So, asking Mr Fitzgibbon his thoughts about what may transpire in 2021 could be a tough ask.

However, he believes COVID-19, power, economic self-reliance and travel bubbles will still dominate discussions.

Not surprisingly though, he also tipped his beloved Newcastle Knights to make a big impact this NRL season, envisaging a grand final showdown with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s team, Cronulla.

Here’s what Mr Fitzgibbon had to say in his Newcastle Weekly opinion piece:

Happy New Year to all readers.

Whatever 2021 brings, it must surely be something better than the things 2020 delivered.

New Year resolutions and predictions are both dangerous – and I prefer to avoid both, particularly the former.

At least I’m consistent on resolutions. 

I’ve promised myself yet again I’ll lose a bit of weight and, more than likely, I’ll fail again. 

If so, I’ll blame my job, for the umpteenth time.

Predictions are even more fraught but here are my six for 2021.

First, the Morrison government will pay a political price for over-promising and under-delivering on the COVID-19 vaccine. While the recent debate about mandatory vaccination will re-emerge later in the year, the first six months will be dominated by a debate about who needs a jab most.

Second, summer blackouts will result in more people concluding that while renewable electricity generation will further grow, it can’t deliver the baseload and synchronous energy we need to keep the electricity grid stable and to guarantee security of supply.  

Governments will facilitate new gas-fired generation to fill the gap being created by retiring coal-fired generators. There may even be another discussion about removing the general legislative prohibition on nuclear power, leaving applications for generation projects to the usual and stringent legislative consultation and approval processes every other industry must negotiate.

Third, the drumbeat for more economic self-reliance will grow louder. COVID-19 has surely taught us that in critical areas like fuel, food, health and labour, we can’t afford to rely on others. We must strive towards independence in these critical areas and governments around Australia will be forced to act more decisively to ensure we do. 

Fourth, ongoing COVID-19 issues in Europe and the Americas will continue to deny us travel to those destinations for all of 2021 and well into 2022. Mercifully, travel bubbles will be established with a number of countries in our own region, including New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and even China.

Fifth, following the benefits of a relatively injury-free year, the Newcastle Knights will play in their first NRL grand final since 2001, exactly 20 years ago. They will defeat the Cronulla Sharks in a game determined by a rival’s dropped ball on their own tryline with only a minute left to play.

Sixth and lastly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be punished for calling and holding a federal election the day before the NRL grand final, a decision which will wear the blame for two losses this coming October long weekend. Maybe I’m just a dreamer?

  • Joel Fitzgibbon is the MP for the federal seat of Hunter