Joel Fitzgibbon quits Labor front bench

Matt Coughlan
·2-min read

Labor right faction warrior Joel Fitzgibbon has urged his party to make a major shift on climate change and blue-collar voters after quitting shadow cabinet.

Western Sydney MP Ed Husic on Tuesday replaced Mr Fitzgibbon as the opposition's resources and agriculture spokesman after the stunning resignation.

Mr Fitzgibbon has been increasingly outspoken in a bruising battle over energy policy with senior figures from Labor's left flank.

The party's most senior regional MP called for more support for resources sector jobs and warned against being too ambitious on emission reduction targets.

He said he would only run for the leadership if drafted, but then claimed he was being flippant as no caucus member wanted him to run.

Mr Fitzgibbon backed Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to lead Labor to the next election.

"I think Albo can win if he listens to Joel Fitzgibbon more," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Mr Fitzgibbon said he had no regrets over public division his views had caused, arguing he always intended to leave his senior role after 18 months.

"The Labor Party has been spending too much time in recent years talking about issues like climate change - which is a very important issue - and not enough time talking about the needs of our traditional base."

Mr Albanese said Labor's policy platform under his leadership would speak to all voters.

"Good action on climate change does three things. It creates jobs, lowers emissions, and it lowers energy prices," he said.

Mr Husic stood aside from the front bench after last year's election to make way for former NSW premier Kristina Keneally.

Mr Albanese has left open the door for more wide-ranging frontbench changes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's reshuffle, expected later in the year.

Mr Fitzgibbon lamented not running for the leadership, which Mr Albanese took unopposed, after Labor's election loss in May 2019.

"I don't believe I would have won that contest, but I think a contest would have been good for the rank-and-file and the industrial wing of the party," the NSW right faction leader said.

Mr Fitzgibbon conceded a scare in his regional seat of Hunter played a large part in his outspoken views on coalmining since the election.

"I would be a foolish politician not to respond to such a large swing," he said.

He said he would contest the next election.