Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has made a dramatic exit from the Shadow Cabinet, claiming the party has “lost touch” with Australia’s working class.
Mr Fitzgibbon, who is the shadow minister for agriculture and resources, said he informed Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese of his decision to join the backbench this morning after months of speaking out about the party’s climate policies.
“This morning I went to see my mate, Anthony Albanese, and informed him that I was stepping down from the shadow cabinet, effective immediately,” Mr Fitzgibbon told reporters in Canberra this morning.
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“Although, I reminded them that I’m not going anywhere.
“I have been quite robust in some of my contributions, and I have no regrets about that.
“I’ve been trying to put labour back into the Labor Party. Trying to take the Labor Party back to its traditional roots, back to the Labor Party I knew when I first became a member 36 years ago.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said he will run for his NSW mining seat of Hunter at the next election and would only ever challenge for the Labor leadership if he was to be drafted.
However, he admitted he did regret not running after Bill Shorten resigned last year.
One of the regrets I have is not running for the leadership after the 2019 election,” he said.
“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.
“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.
“I have no intention of running for the leadership. I would have to be drafted. And in the current climate, I’m not so sure I could be confident of that occurring.”
Mr Fitzgibbon was confident Albanese could lead the party to victory at the next election but only if he listens.
“I think Albo can win if he listens to Joel Fitzgibbon,” he said in Canberra.
Albanese has been clear about the Opposition’s target for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Mr Fitzgibbon said he supports the policy but is worried that being being too ambitious in the short term will damage Labor’s electoral chances.
“The Labor Party, since the 2013 election, has had, I suppose, at least two energy policies and two climate change policies.
“I note that both of them had been rejected by the Australian people.
“After 14 years of trying, the Labor Party has made not one contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country.
“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.
“That is something we have failed to do for the last seven or eight years.”