Albanese leadership ‘on notice’ as senior frontbencher quits

 

The modern Labor Party has forgotten its blue collar worker base, NSW stalwart Joel Fitzgibbon declared in a spray as his quit the front bench, undermining Anthony Albanese's leadership.

Mr Fitzgibbon insisted publicly he backed Mr Albanese to remain leader, but laid bare the festering climate-driven crisis in the party, declaring: "I've been trying to put 'labour' back into the Labor Party".

Joel Fitzgibbon’s resignation came after a stunning yelling match on Monday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Joel Fitzgibbon’s resignation came after a stunning yelling match on Monday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Senior Labor right figures said the move fired a warning shot putting Mr Albanese's leadership on notice.

The resignation came after a stunning yelling row between the pair in Monday night's shadow cabinet meeting, where Mr Albanese criticised Mr Fitzgibbon for his conservative commentary over climate change.

It is understood the shouting match, which was punctuated by shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus labelling Mr Fitzgibbon "a disgrace", was in part a catalyst for the resignation.

"The people who have traditionally voted for us in a very large number…haven't been voting for us in a large number over the course of possibly the last decade," Mr Fitzgibbon said on Tuesday, referring to blue collar workers.

Joel Fitzgibbon and Anthony Albanese during Question Timein 2017. Picture: Kym Smith
Joel Fitzgibbon and Anthony Albanese during Question Timein 2017. Picture: Kym Smith

"And I've seen them come up to the polling booths in their high-vis, carrying LNP how to vote cards, carrying One Nation cards and I asked myself, how did it all go so terribly wrong?"

His explanation for this resignation presented almost like an election pitch, as he declared which seats the party needed to win to win government, warned Labor against opposing tax cuts and said he would need to be drafted to run as leader.

Mr Fitzgibbon also said he regretted not running for the leadership after the 2019 election so he could have mounted the case for refocusing the party on the worker.

"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," he said.

"And it would have been an opportunity for me to develop a mandate for my determination to take the Labor Party back to its traditional roots."

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles praised Mr Fitzgibbon during a caucus meeting yesterday after he announced his resignation, saying at a recent resources industry function people in the room loved the NSW MP because he "spoke their language".

Mr Fitzgibbon said there was too much time spent talking about climate and that Mr Albanese could win the election if he "listens to Joel Fitzgibbon more".

Cale Fincher, Dion Kennett and Tara Gould at Weston Aluminium in Kurri Kurri. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Cale Fincher, Dion Kennett and Tara Gould at Weston Aluminium in Kurri Kurri. Picture: Jonathan Ng

"I think the Labor Party has spent too much time talking about things like climate change - which is an important issue - and not enough on issues important to our traditional base," he said.

"The Labor Party, since the 2013 election, has had, I suppose, at least two energy policies and two climate change policies. And I note that both of them had been rejected by the Australian people.

"The conclusion you can draw from that is that, after 14 years of trying, the Labor Party has made not one contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country."

Some of Mr Fitzgibbon's allies were frustrated he had given ammunition to the government to further attack Labor.

"The Member for Hunter has been driven out of the shadow cabinet," Mr Morrison said yesterday

"Driven out by an ideological group of zealots on that side of the House who have no interest in the jobs of Australians in regional areas."

Mr Albanese appointed NSW Labor right MP Ed Husic to step into the front bench, taking over Mr Fitzgibbon's resources and agriculture portfolio.

 

Originally published as Albanese leadership 'on notice' as senior frontbencher quits



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