Labor leader convinced miners on his side

·2-min read

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has rejected suggestions blue-collar workers have turned their back on the party after a bruising result in a coal-mining seat.

Pro-coal MP Joel Fitzgibbon has argued the sharp decline in Labor's primary vote in the Upper Hunter by-election should be a massive wake-up call.

He has threatened to quit unless Labor changes its ways, believing workers in the NSW state seat deserted the ALP because the party is not sincere about protecting their jobs.

Mr Albanese said it would be no surprise if the outspoken backbencher did not contest the next election, having stepped down from the shadow cabinet halfway through the term.

He also hit back at Prime Minister Scott Morrison's claims that Labor had lost touch with blue-collar workers.

"The evidence is there that is not the case," Mr Albanese told ABC radio, pointing to Labor's recent state election wins in the resource-rich states of Queensland and Western Australia.

He also pointed out Upper Hunter voters turned their backs on both major parties at the weekend in favour of independent candidates and minor parties.

Mr Albanese said the coalition government was presiding over an increasingly casualised coalmining workforce and use of labour hire firms.

"The current government does not stand up for miners, doesn't stand up for any workers, and is undermining the pay and conditions of those miners," he said.

"I won't cop this idea of Scott Morrison - the party of WorkChoices - somehow being the friend of the workers.

"It's just a nonsense."

For Labor to win the next federal poll, the party must wrest back resource seats in Queensland and hold on to electorates around the Hunter Valley, where it suffered big swings at the last election.

Former opposition leader Bill Shorten took aim at Labor colleagues trying to push Mr Fitzgibbon out of the party.

"I don't think he should leave the Labor Party. It would be better if the issues were being sorted out in-house. Division doesn't look good," he told Nine.

"On the other hand, some of the people trying to goad him to leave should pull their heads in."

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