Rising above the fray

I want agriculture policy to be above politics and beyond the political cycle

WHEN announcing his candidacy for the President of the United States of America in 2007, Barack Obama said that what was stopping his country from meeting its greatest challenges was “the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems”.

Does that quote resonate with you? Does it make you think about the current state of politics in Australia? I suspect so!

Let’s face it; Australian politics is in a bit of a mess, thanks mainly to Tony Abbott’s combative and winner-takes-all style. It’s become a brawl, left-right, conservative-progressive, white-black, anglo-ethnic, rich-poor, city-rural, green-brown, idealist-realist, outward looking-inward looking, xenophobic-fearless, compassionate-tough, passive-aggressive, pro-immigration–anti-immigration.

The list goes on.

Never before, it seems, have the things which divide us so dominated the things which unite us.

Twenty-five years ago another leader said this: “I put forward a program to benefit every Australian and every Australian family, wherever they live: in the capital cities, the great centres, the country towns, the rural communities, and the sparsely-settled areas of this vast continent of ours”.

Then Prime Minister Bob Hawke went on to say – “Our whole object (as a government) has been to remove as far as possible, the needless misunderstandings between groups, between sections – and not least, to bring about a better understanding on the part of the city people of Australia, of the real problems and needs of country people and the vital contribution they make to our national economy, our national life and our national spirit”.

Hawke’s great strength was his consensus style. He sought to heal and unite rather than divide. How we long for such an approach today. It allowed him to shepherd through economic and social reforms which until then seemed too hard. By contrast, Tony Abbott’s combative style over the past four years has made the passage of reform proposals almost mission impossible. With the advent of the new Senate, the situation has grown worse.

Last week a number of the nation’s business leaders called on the major parties to build a consensus and to work together to secure the next important round of economic reforms, sounds sensible. But before you repair a problem you need to ensure the community is aware there is one to fix. In other words, like Bob Hawke, you need to take them with you. Salesmanship, good-will and a cohesive plan are key ingredients to a successful reform agenda and frankly, Tony Abbott lacks all three. Labor stands ready to work with the government, but it’s for the Prime Minster to provide both the opportunity and the tools.

But determined to re-kindle Bob Hawke’s sentiments on ending the city-country divide, Labor’s rural and regional MPs are not waiting for Tony Abbott. Labor’s new Country Caucus will strive to ensure the views, aspirations and challenges of rural and regional Australia are well known, respected, understood and acted upon. Both inside and outside the Labor Party, we want to ensure that rural and regional Australia is at the forefront of the minds of decision makers and householders alike.

Further, I’ve said publicly many times – I want agriculture policy to be above politics and beyond the political cycle. Sure, Barnaby Joyce and I will have our points of disagreement, but we must strive to ensure policy outcomes are sound and in the national interest.

Both Barack Obama and Bob Hawke were right and it’s past time for a new politics – one which unites not divides. One that serves the national interest not sectional or self-interest. One which leaves petty politics behind us.

Joel Fitzgibbon

Joel Fitzgibbon

is Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry & Rural Affairs and the MP for Hunter
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


28/07/2014 6:12:31 AM

What a load of twaddle.....it was also Hawke who said no Australian child will be living in poverty by 1990, and let me tell you sonny Jim, there's more Aussie kids living on bugger all now than ever! Your article is chock-a-block full of exactly what you are carrying on about......talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Australian politics is in the gutter, dont go blaming people, your a politician, you're to blame.....go and fix it and start make parliament something we can be proud of, not the three-ring circus it currently is.
Bruce Watson
28/07/2014 6:45:41 AM

This is typical "modern" ALP thinking - which essentially means "let's all talk a lot, be nice to one another, and do sweet fanny adams". Fitzgibbon needs to remember Hawke talked the sweet talk, Keating did the hard yards and fought the necessary battles. He was ruthless and effective - as Hawke himself discovered. Fitzgibbon, like Obama, are ineffectual governors. We do not need such people running our lives. The mob we've got now are a direct consequence of the Rudd-Gillard years of headless-chook government.
angry australian
28/07/2014 7:51:52 AM

Joel, a pox on both your parties but a worse one on the ALP! Instead of using your chance to tell us what you would do to improve the lot of our farmers, foresters and fishers, you use it for self serving tripe. We have the some of the highest labour and power costs in the world thanks to ALP policies, that have driven most businesses offshore. Our canneries are gone, paper mills, fish factories, the jobs lost in rural Australia borders on the criminal. Get your butt out of the Hunter Valley and go talk to some true rural Aussies in places like Shep, Millicent, Ivanhoe, St Helens and Cloncurry.
28/07/2014 4:53:06 PM

yep, you are dead right Joel, we're heading in the direction of an idiocracy with a bullet, the thing is that your Party is as much of the problem as the conservatives if not a whole lot more misguided. At least this mob have a parliamentary majority in the lower house, which is to say that more people voted for them than they did your lot.
Chick Olsson
29/07/2014 4:42:38 PM

Will you apologise Joel for what your Party did to cattle live export?? Yes or No??
angry australian
1/08/2014 8:59:19 AM

Given Joel's blog further consideration. What bipartisan approach do you want? The Libs are hopeless anything they can't manage, instead of getting to the root of the problem, they try and buyout. Howard's treatment of sugar and fisheries showed that.But Joel after the dream team of Burke and Ludwig who nearly managed to completely wipe out every primary industry via poor decisions or appeasing greenies, how are ALP policies any different to 12 months ago? How are you going to rebuild the 10,000's of jobs in rural Aus destroyed by your predecessors? What do you stand for Joel,let us know!
angry australian
11/08/2014 12:45:01 PM

Why no comments on Joel's blog "Not bowled over by boom talk"? Is it an oversight by Farmonline or is it more sinister? I'm becoming accustomed to pollies who want to dictate and not heed and meet the needs of the nation.Most opinions here would leave Mr. Fitzgibbon's knowledge of primary industries for dead, but he of course listens to policy advisers without a clue. Apart from the few, seems to be general across both sides of politics.
Out of the shadowShadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon aims to put ag policy under the microscope. Based in the NSW Hunter Valley, Joel also has a unique perspective on the tensions between primary production and mining development.


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