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Friday analysis: Joel Fitzgibbon championed forestry in office and continues with AFPA

Much is made, post Federal and State elections, of retired or even defeated former Ministers landing plush consulting jobs or directorships.

All sides of politics carry out the game, usually making disparaging comments about “jobs for the boys” and so on.

Sometimes the criticism is well founded, but don’t look for any attack on the former Labor Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon’s appointment as an independent non-executive director of the Australian Forest Products Association.

This is an appointment rolled in gold. This is an appointment both fitting and deserved.

Mr Fitzgibbon is a champion of the timber industry in all its facets, and he has experience in spades of all levels of the political and parliamentary process.

People who matter in Canberra and beyond listen to him, and he has the genuine respect of both sides of parliament.

He was Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in the second Rudd Government and served as shadow minister for resources, shadow minister for rural and regional Australia, shadow minister for small business and tourism, and shadow assistant treasurer.

He admits to having seen firsthand the countless benefits the industry provides to Australia’s economy and the livelihoods of Australians.

And it is worth reflecting on his valedictory speech in Parliament after 26 years of service.

He used his farewell comments to speak passionately in support of Australia’s sustainable forest industries, declaring that “nothing is more important than the supply of our timber products”.

He urged the Parliament to put a greater emphasis on securing Australia’s future timber needs as he reflected on his time in the agriculture and forestry portfolio and as co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Forestry and Forest Industries group with Liberal Member for Barker Tony Pasin over the past decade.

Mr Fitzgibbon also said in his speech that “we need to get more plantations in the ground, and it requires patient capital. We support industries in all sorts of forms, all we need to do is give them full access to carbon credits under the Emissions Reduction Fund. There’s been a bit of movement, but we need to do much more”.

That he used his last speech in Parliament to rally support for the timber industry speaks volumes about where his heart is.

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton commented at the time that Mr Fitzgibbon’s contribution to Parliament would be missed.

Fortunately, Mr Fitzgibbon’s invaluable input to the national forestry industry will continue in his new role.