4BC with Scott Emerson - 14 August 2021





SUBJECTS: Joel Fitzgibbon’s Retirement, Fowler

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST:  Every Tuesday we talk to Member for Oxley and also the former ALP State Secretary in Queensland, Milton Dick. How are you?

MILTON DICK, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR OXLEY:  Hello Scott, very well this afternoon.

EMERSON:  Now I did see that one of your Labor colleagues announced he will be retiring at the next election, Joel Fitzgibbon. He's obviously been a disgruntled member for some time, he quit the front bench and raised serious concerns about Labor and its direction, that basically it's getting too left wing and was losing the support of the working class out there. But what do you think about his decision to go?

DICK:  Oh look, I think after 25 years, that's an incredible service to the Parliament of Australia and I really do wish Joel and his wife Diane all the very best. He has been a loyal servant to the Labor Party. Look, Joel has been one of the characters, I would say, of the Parliament since I've been elected. I've worked closely with him in a number of portfolios, he's always spoken his mind.

And you know I haven't always agreed with Joel, but you definitely know what you get with Joel and I think it's a real credit to him that he sees Labor in a fighting match at the moment, which he said yesterday on his departure. And I think many of us in the movement just wish him all the very best, after a quarter of a century serving the people of the Hunter which he's loved enormously. He'll be missed, and there'll be some big shoes to fill in trying to hold that seat I guess.

EMERSON:  Now I know that you're a big supporter of the resources sector and the coal industry here in Queensland, and you've talked about that previously on the show. Now for Joel Fitzgibbon he, after the last election, he said look, Labor's losing its touch with the working class, and raised a whole series of issues. Now, in his departing words yesterday, at least flagging his retirement, he said look, he does believe Labor has shifted his approach from the last federal election. Do you think that is the case and in what way has it shifted if that is the case?

DICK:  Well, I mean there's a lot of commentary around that, I will leave the commentators to, to, and the people of Australia to make this judgment, but I do know that he's been advocating - and Anthony Albanese has been doing the same thing - about making sure Labor is the party of the future, making sure that we are connecting with not only our blue collar base, but also the aspirational middle class area.

Now, we will not get into government if we do not reconnect and make every endeavour to make sure that middle Australia knows that they will have a safe and prosperous future under an Albanese Labor Government, know that we’re making sure that we come out of COVID a lot stronger and imagine a better Australia. Then setting about creating it, you know, making sure we've got a future, but made in Australia and all those things that Anthony Albanese been talking about. So you know, Joel's been banging the drum on a whole range of policy issues for a number of years but from where I'm sitting at the moment, Anthony Albanese is really working as hard as he can to win back that support we lost the last election.

EMERSON:  Isn't that what the challenge is going to be for Labor, is that it's going to win those inner city seats, which have a different view from some of the regional seats we see. So, the view, say, in Victoria, is very different from the view in Claymont in Central Queensland.

DICK:  Well sure, every party, you know, who wants to be in Government has to outline a broad framework to make sure that we're meeting the aspirations of those voters but we've learned the hard way by, I guess, losing defeats and say, the unpopular policies that we've put forward.

But Labor's put forward an ambitious policy agenda, making sure that no one's left behind and Albo has been front and centre, making sure that jobs and job security, raising the issue of wages and jobs in security training, employment, apprenticeships, all those things that have been neglected under the Morison Government, making sure that there is an economic story that every Australian fits into, and their family's future also plays a role in that. So, look, the election is going to be a tough one for Labor. Anthony says it's like climbing Mount Everest. We do have a tough job ahead of us, but I'm really confident with the challenges that are before us, and particularly the issues that Australians need us to focus on, that we will deliver a set of policies and we've already outlined some of those, which will be in tune with middle and mainstream Australia.

EMERSON:  In another issue for Anthony Albanese - you mentioned your leader there - and he's come in today and strongly backed the decision to parachute Kristina Keneally into the seat of Fowler in New South Wales. She is in an unwinnable spot on the Senate ticket, that was likely, so they've moved her into a safe seat there, but unfortunately as part of that process, not giving locals a vote, and really, as it's been reported, stepping over the chances of a local Vietnamese woman lawyer who's the daughter of refugees. That's how it's been portrayed, basically that Kristina Keneally has been parachuted into the seat, and unfortunately the party has lost touch not listening to locals who would have - and the outgoing member - who wanted this woman to be their candidate.

DICK:  Well, Kristina Keneally is a really important part of Labor's front bench team, she will play a senior role if Labor is privileged to be elected at the next election. Look, I will allow those processes to take place in New South Wales, but as a member of caucus, I'm 100% supportive of Kristina going to the lower house. She's articulate, she's got a lot of grit and determination, but she also will bring a skill set to the House of Representatives, she's been one of our fiercest warriors in highlighting the vaccine supply issues, the quarantine issues, even the Jobseeker- Jobkeeper rorting that we've seen. She's a really effective part of our team Scott and look, you know, I'm really happy that the Labor Party has a number of candidates, I'm sure that the 100 or couple of 100 people that would like to represent communities in the Fowler electorate, but I know from representing similar communities here in Brisbane, those communities need a really strong voice and a really strong advocate. It's a growth corridor down in the southwest suburbs of Sydney, and Kristina will play a critical role in any future Labor Government, and I agree with Paul Keating, he this morning said - former Prime Minister Paul Keating said - that we need the best possible team in the House of Representatives, and without a doubt, Kristina Keneally is the best candidate for Fowler, and I'm really looking forward to her earning support there and working alongside her in being a powerhouse for Labor at the next election.

EMERSON:  Milton Dick, if she's so good, such a great talent there, why not run her in a marginal Liberal seat, win a seat off the coalition. Because there's a safe seat there, they've got a local, she hasn't even come from the electorate, why not let the locals pick their own, and let Kristina Keneally, if she's so good, let her run in a marginal liberal seat.

DICK:  Well every community needs the best possible voice, and the electorate of Fowler was created in 1984. Never had a seat at the table, never had a cabinet minister representative, those communities, you know there are some really disadvantaged communities out there in the southwest suburbs of Sydney, like I represent here in Brisbane and through hard work and determination if they've got a really powerful advocate in Kristina Keneally, you'll see that community really thrive and prosper and I know she's absolutely committed when she was a state member living in that community, she's moving with her husband then to represent that community, you know she's put her hand up, she wants to represent the people of Fowler, which is a really diverse, multicultural community.

She's from an American success story, coming into Australia as a migrant herself, you know, she's got a lot to offer the people of Australia and I know talking to many of my caucus colleagues, they are backing her 100% and I certainly have been one of those people, because we need our best team in the House of Representatives, taking it up to Scott Morrison and as I said it's a privilege to be elected. She will be one of the most senior ministers in any future Labor Government, a senior Cabinet Minister really delivering for those communities just as she's done it in her role as premier of New South Wales, in our Senate leadership team as the Senator for New South Wales and then hopefully, as the member for Fowler.

But she's got to earn that trust, earn, that respect and ultimately Scott, it's up for every electorate to determine who they want to represent them, but I'll certainly be doing everything that I can to help her become the member for Fowler and then, hopefully, if we're privileged, to become a member of the Albanese Future Government,

EMERSON:  Alright then Milton good chat to you, I'll speak to you again next week.

DICK:  Great.