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Fitzgibbon rocks Labor by quitting front bench over climate targets

Politics

Senior Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has quit the shadow cabinet and will move to the back bench after an internal brawl on energy policy.

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The outspoken right faction heavyweight has urged his party to support gas and coal jobs over ambitious climate change action.

Fitzgibbon said he would need to be drafted to contest a leadership spill against Anthony Albanese, but later clarified he was being flippant because he didn’t believe any wanted him to take charge.

He urged Labor to support resources sector jobs, back the government’s final stage of tax cuts and keep its powder dry on medium-term emission reduction targets.

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

Fitzgibbon said he had no regrets over public division his views on energy and other policy areas had caused.

“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.”

On climate change, the veteran MP said the only way to achieve action was to win government.

“After 14 years of trying, the Labor Party has made not one contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country.”

The stunning resignation leaves the opposition’s agriculture and resources portfolios open as the Labor Party desperately tries to claw back ground in regional Australia.

Fitzgibbon said he anointed fellow regional NSW MP Meryl Swanson as his frontbench successor after the last election but then decided to stay in a senior role for 18 months.

He lamented not running for the leadership, which Albanese was unopposed for, 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.

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

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

But he’s confident of staying in parliament beyond the next election.

“I reckon if they didn’t get me last time, they probably never will. It was a perfect storm.”

-AAP

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