Labor MPs have walked away from Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who quit the party’s frontbench on Tuesday over climate change policy.
Labor MPs have walked away from Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who quit the party’s frontbench on Tuesday over climate change policy.

Labor turns on ‘out of touch’ ex-frontbencher Fitzgibbon

Federal Labor's war of words over climate policy heated up yesterday, with a senior frontbencher publicly blasting his colleague Joel Fitzgibbon as "out of step" with the party and the Australian people.

As unions called for Mr Fitzgibbon's replacement as resources spokesman to continue to stand up for the mining sector, senior Labor MP Mark Dreyfus said Mr Fitzgibbon's views were not widely shared among the party.

The Hunter MP "does not represent more than a handful of views in the Labor Party," Mr Dreyfus told the ABC. "I'd suggest the Australian community also disagree with his strongly held views,"

Joel Fitzgibbon the day after he stepped down from Labor's front bench. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Joel Fitzgibbon the day after he stepped down from Labor's front bench. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

But Mr Fitzgibbon said he "was not prepared to allow the cheesecloth brigade" to use Joe Biden's US election win to argue for "even more ambitious" climate change policy. "We keep overreaching and losing elections," he said, while repeating his public support for Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

Unions hope Chifley MP Ed Husic, who replaced Mr Fitzgibbon as Labor's agriculture and resources spokesman, will continue to stand up for the mining industry.

The CFMEU's Mining and Energy Division general president Tony Maher backed Mr Fitzgibbon for supporting miners.

"He ruffled a few feathers but political parties should be able to cope with that," he said.

Mr Maher spoke to Mr Husic yesterday, saying: "I think Ed is a person of substance and I look forward to working with him."

Coalminer Kerry Hardie pictured at Club Singleton. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Coalminer Kerry Hardie pictured at Club Singleton. Picture: Jonathan Ng


Labor's internal brawl over climate policy ­echoes the split between some inner city and regional voters on the issue.

Kenny Hardie, a 61-year-old miner from Singleton, backed Mr Fitzgibbon's position on resources "100 per cent".

"If it wasn't for coal you'd see a lot more unemployment," he said.

Mr Hardie has worked in coalmining since 1979, and said the industry has "really helped the Singleton area" particularly amid COVID lockdowns.

Feather Van Heumen from Newtown says climate change is important to her. Picture: Monique Harmer
Feather Van Heumen from Newtown says climate change is important to her. Picture: Monique Harmer

He wanted federal Labor to do more to support blue collar workers, dec­laring the party "really lost its way with the workers".

Singleton Earth Works owner Bernie Wood said the coal industry amounts for about 95 per cent of his company's revenue.

But Labor voter Feather Van Heumen, from Newtown, who said she voted Labor at the last election, did not see the value of coal.

"There is a lot of money that is being put into coal and other industries that is going to be taken out of Australia anyway," she said.

The 27-year-old rejected Mr Fitzgibbon's argument that Labor had lost touch with blue collar workers over its climate policies.

"I think it would be fair to say that they're looking out for the best interest of big business," she said.

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Originally published as Labor turns on 'out of touch' ex-frontbencher Fitzgibbon



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