Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon still considering Labor party leadership role if elected

GAME OF THRONES: Joel Fitzgibbon may enter the race for opposition leader to secure a voice for regional Australia.
GAME OF THRONES: Joel Fitzgibbon may enter the race for opposition leader to secure a voice for regional Australia.

SHORT of a miracle from One Nation or The Nationals, Joel Fitzgibbon will retain the seat of Hunter, although he may have his sights set on a higher honour than that.

He's revealed this week that he would run for the Labor leadership role if no one else stepped up that he deemed appropriate.

Mr Fitzgibbon is seeking a leader who would have an eye for regional Australia and their concerns, and not hail from a capital city.

Just who that person could be, or whether they exist within the party's ranks remains to be seen as the MP, who has held the electorate since 1996, continues to refuse or deny whether he will challenge.

He said it would be a long process to decide who becomes the opposition leader; and it may take the better part of a month for him to decide whether it's worth throwing his hat into the ring.

Despite not disagreeing with their policy platform, Mr Fitzgibbon, who is seen as part of the more conservative wing within the party, has lamented their rhetoric in the lead up to the election.

"I think what is clear to me is that people have always believed that I'm a great supporter of the coal mining industry and have always had the back of coal miners," he said.

"The problem is that they didn't so much punish me but punished the position of my party.

"The party didn't have any anti-mining positions, but the party's language was such that it left it open to the charge that it was more interested in other matters than the matters that are important to my constituents."

He said that despite his best efforts, some senior officials ignored his warnings about the impact their words were having on Hunter voters.

While there's an argument to say that his distance from the heavily-featured quartet of Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten could help him in a leadership tilt, he regrets not being at the forefront more during the election.

"What disappoints me more is that I wasn't part of that main team and now I'm determined to be part of it so we don't make those mistakes again," said the former Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Some other mistakes he will be looking to not make again are in the Hunter electorate, where he admits he has conceded significant ground.

"I'm very relieved and I've taken the message which was given to me on Saturday," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"Absolutely [this was a big scare], I've never been so close to defeat and I understand why it happened and I'm determined to demonstrate I've heard the message and to respond appropriately."

He is extremely optimistic about the future of the region, and said the economy is both strong and more diverse than ever before.

Job security and cost of living, particularly energy prices, are some of the biggest issues that he highlighted in regards to the struggles that his voters face.

As it currently stands, just Mr Albanese and Mr Bowen have officially put their hand up for the leadership, with Ms Plibersek surprisingly pulling out of the race on Monday.

Labor MP and finance spokesman Jim Chalmers has also teased the possibility of making a play for the position.

This story Fitzgibbon not ruling out leadership challenge first appeared on Muswellbrook Chronicle.