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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Joel Fitzgibbon quits shadow cabinet after dispute over Labor's climate policy

Joel Fitzgibbon has made good his threat of stepping down from the shadow cabinet after a protracted internal dispute over climate policy, declaring he regrets not running for the party leadership in 2019.

Fitzgibbon’s announcement on Tuesday morning followed a significant argument in shadow cabinet on Monday night, which was preceded by a boilover in the left caucus about the shadow resources minister’s constant frontrunning of the climate policy debate.

Monday night’s shadow cabinet discussion began with Anthony Albanese expressing annoyance that Labor’s media strategy following the election of Joe Biden – a strategy that was intended to increase political pressure on the government over climate change – had been blown off course by ill-disciplined commentary.

Guardian Australia understands Fitzgibbon responded to Albanese’s comment by saying: “I’m in the room, you shouldn’t speak about me like I’m not here.”

A heated discussion followed where shadow ministers, including fellow rightwingers, criticised Fitzgibbon for not backing Labor’s climate policies.

Labor sources say Fitzgibbon had planned to step out of the shadow cabinet before the next election in favour of fellow New South Wales rightwinger Ed Husic, but the departure was brought forward after internal tensions reached boiling point.

Husic is expected to be the right faction’s nomination to replace Fitzgibbon on the Labor frontbench.

After confirming his departure to the Labor caucus on Tuesday morning, Fitzgibbon told journalists he remained supportive of Albanese’s leadership, but he did not rule out throwing his hat in the ring if he was “drafted” by colleagues.

Fitzgibbon has been campaigning since Labor lost the election in 2019 for the party to reduce its ambition on climate action and to be more forceful in defending the jobs of blue-collar workers.

The shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, has publicly rejected Fitzgibbon’s call for Labor to adopt the same medium-term emissions reduction target as the Coalition, and Albanese has rebuked Fitzgibbon for speaking out of turn.

Some colleagues were of the view that Fitzgibbon would announce plans to retire at the next election as well as the departure from the shadow cabinet, but he confirmed on Tuesday he would run again in his Hunter Valley electorate at the next election.

Fitzgibbon told a press conference on Tuesday morning that Labor must continue to represent the interests of working people in the regions and progressives in the cities.

“We have to be – we have to speak to, and be a voice for, all those who we seek to represent, whether they be in Surry Hills or Rockhampton – and that’s a difficult balance,” Fitzgibbon said.

Fitzgibbon also said Labor needed to be realistic about the public appetite for ambitious climate policies. “The Labor party has had at least six climate change/energy policies since the 2006 election.

“Only one of them was ever adopted by a Labor government – and, of course, that policy, having been legislated, was repealed by Tony Abbott,” he said.

“So, 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.

“So, if you want to act on climate change, the first step is to become the government, and to become the government, you need to have a climate change and energy policy that can be embraced by a majority of the Australian people.”

Fitzgibbon acknowledged that departures from the frontbench were often harbingers of leadership strife, and he also acknowledged his own role in leadership instability in Labor’s past.

He said he was open to be drafted in the future and was “not going anywhere”. But he said he was not confident that colleagues would seek his services as a leadership alternative.

“There should be no talk of instability,” Fitzgibbon said.

This post courtesy of Guardian-Climate

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This post courtesy of Guardian-Climate