Fitzgibbon quits shadow cabinet, says Labor has 'lost touch with traditional working people'

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has quit his role within the party. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has quit his role within the party. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon has quit as shadow minister for agriculture and resources, saying the party has lost touch with "traditional working people".

Mr Fitzgibbon, who represents the seat of Hunter in NSW where jobs rely on the mining industry, has long been a voice within the party warning votes were being lost to the government and One Nation on resources issues.

He told party leader Anthony Albanese on Tuesday morning, followed by announcing it to the Labor caucus.

"I told the Caucus this morning that I'm very strongly of the view that we have to allow candidates and local members to express the aspirations of their local communities," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"We cannot expect a candidate in what used to be called Batman, Ged Kearney's seat, to be saying the same thing as a candidate in Flynn, in Central Queensland.

"We have a diverse range of membership, and we must speak to them all. And I think somehow over the course of the last decade we forgot that, and we lost touch with traditional working people."

In the days following the election of Joe Biden in the United States, Mr Fitzgibbon had warned his Labor colleagues against seeing it as a reason to pursue more aggressive policy on climate change.

He continued that message on Tuesday, saying Labor couldn't win government without two north or central Queensland electorates, and that demonising coal workers or oil and gas workers, and those seats can't be won "without reassuring the community that the Labor Party is heavily supportive of the resources sector".

Mr Fitzgibbon said Mr Albanese had been aware of his plans to step away from the frontbench for a long time.

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

Mr 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."

Mr Fitzgibbon said he would need to be drafted to contest a leadership spill against Mr Albanese.

He later said was being flippant because he didn't believe there was any caucus member wanting him to take charge.

Mr Fitzgibbon lamented not running for the leadership, which Mr 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.

Sydney-based MP Ed Husic will return to Labor's frontbench as the party's spokesman on agriculture and resources after a partyroom ballot, replacing Mr Fitzgibbon.

- With AAP

This story Fitzgibbon quits shadow cabinet, says Labor has 'lost touch with traditional working people' first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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