Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon calls time on a 25 year career representing the Hunter in federal politics

The member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon announced on Monday that he would not contest the next federal election for the Labor party after serving as the region's representative since 1996.

LEAVING HIS SEAT: Joel Fitzgibbon said it was an 'honour and privilege to represent the people of Hunter in the House of Representatives for the past 25 years'.

LEAVING HIS SEAT: Joel Fitzgibbon said it was an 'honour and privilege to represent the people of Hunter in the House of Representatives for the past 25 years'.

"It has been a great honour and privilege to represent the people of Hunter in the House of Representatives for the past 25 years," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"Over that period the Hunter region's economy has modernised and grown both stronger and more diverse. It is a credit to the region's political, business and community leadership."

FRONT BENCH: Joel Fitzgibbon during his time in federal parliament as the member for Hunter Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

FRONT BENCH: Joel Fitzgibbon during his time in federal parliament as the member for Hunter Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In a statement announcing his decision, Mr Fitzgibbon said it had been his mission in the 28 months following Labor's 2019 election defeat to urge Labor "to take back the centre ground and to focus on the things that matter most to the majority of Australians."

Speaking to the Hunter Valley News, Mr Fitzgibbon said he had made the decision to leave parliament as he now felt confident that Labor had the necessary changes to allow the party to retain the seat of Hunter at the next election.

"The Labor party has now dispensed with all those crazy tax changes we took to the last election and we've committed, after equivocating over it for a long time, to leaving in place the legislated tax cuts that will flow to Australians in the next few years," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"We've been very, very clear and energetic about our support for the coal mining industry, the gas industry and all those manufacturing sectors that are so important.

"So I think that's a pretty good start and, in other words, we've recognised our mistakes of the period of the last parliament and we've learned from them."

Climate change policies have in the past been a major point of difference between the Hunter MP and other members of the Labor leadership, and Mr Fitzgibbon urged the Labor party to focus on issues that primarily matter to Australian families.

"They are the health and safety of their families, the economic security of their families and the hopes and aspirations of their families, particularly their children.

"Climate change is an important issue," Mr Fitzgibbon said, "but it is not the front and centre issue for most Australian families."

When asked to respond to calls for a 'just transition' away from coal mining in the region, Mr Fitzgibbon said he believed the industry would remain viable for decades to come.

"In Asia as we speak they are building coal fired generators everywhere, not just in developing countries but in modern economies like Japan and South Korea.

"While we don't need a formal transition program, we do need infrastructure investment which further diversifies our economy."

Mr Fitzgibbon pointed to the proposed Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses as infrastructure projects he considered 'unfinished business' from his time in parliament.

"(The bypasses) are very important to accommodating growth and spreading new industries because they make our road transport links more economically efficient and I hope that, while it may not happen in my time, that those projects are now not too far away."

Speaking to ABC Radio on Monday Mr Fitzgibbon named a number of local candidates who could potentially succeed him, including former coal miner Jeff Drayton, local nurse Emily Suvaal, barrister Stephen Ryan and Olympian Daniel Repacholi.

"The most important thing is that we have a local who is very much a member of our community and who understands both the challenges and aspirations of local people," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Asked to nominate his proudest achievements, Mr Fitzgibbon pointed to diversification of the local economy and investments in local infrastructure when Labor was in government.

"We built a mining school in Muswellbrook and established hospitality schools in Singleton and I think skills training and giving young people the best chance of participating in the economy is one of the most important things for government," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

On his future post-politics Mr Fitzgibbon said he won't fully retire.

"I'd like to work 40 hours a week rather than 80 and have more flexibility for catching up with my family," he said.

IN OTHER NEWS