CANBERRA REPORT | Appreciation of local newspapers started young

APPRECIATED: Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon is a long-time Advertiser columnist, as was his father Eric.

APPRECIATED: Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon is a long-time Advertiser columnist, as was his father Eric.

A big welcome back to the Cessnock Advertiser - we missed you.

When I was a kid my father used to write an opinion column for the Cessnock Eagle under the pseudonym "Aguila" (Spanish for eagle).

I was too young to have a view about the opinions offered but I recall being intrigued by both his involvement in the paper and the of shroud of secrecy surrounding the writer.

I still don't know why he didn't put his name to it.

I vaguely recall my father taking me into the Eagle's Vincent Street office to submit his latest missive. On other occasions I recall him slipping his script under the front door.

My father's association with the Cessnock Eagle and later, the Cessnock Advertiser, sparked my more-than-normal (for a child) interest in our local newspapers and my appreciation of how important they are to local communities.

Between us, my father and I have written for the Cessnock Advertiser for more than 40 years and we've appreciated the opportunity to share our thoughts and information with the community.

May the Advertiser be with us for many years to come.

What was it with the cloud of secrecy around Advertiser contributors? Probably the most prominent was "The Shadow", who kept us up to date with local rugby league developments.


Unfortunately, welcome rainfall has brought only short-term drought relief for many of our farmers.

For too many years now government support for drought affected farming families has be ad hoc, reactive, and too difficult to secure.

Time and time again drought measures have looked more designed for the announcement rather than their effectiveness.

Last week Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced the first $100 million from the Future Drought Fund.

It was an underwhelming package for farmers, which was heavy on leadership, capacity-building and online apps, but low on practical assistance.

In short, the money goes to consultants and agricultural industry bodies. Not one cent goes to drought-affected farmers.

I know that most farmers were expecting something more than weather apps for their phones, financial planning lessons and suggestions for crop rotation and no-till cropping - as if they haven't long ago learned from that advice.

Of concern to many farmers is the lack of a strategic view of agriculture in the years and decades ahead.

This is what the Future Drought Fund was supposed to do when it was heralded at the Drought Summit in October 2018.


How wonderful it is to see so many visitors back to our Local Government Area.

Hunter Wine Country has been "pumping" on the weekends and the place feels alive again. It will be sometime yet before things are back to pre-COVID 19 normal, but we are getting there.

Work commitments took me to Sydney last Saturday night, and sadly the revival is much slower there.

  • Joel Fitzgibbon is the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources and the federal Member for Hunter. Contact his office on (02) 4991 1022 or via


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