Labor frontbencher quits, says party lost its way
The Labor Party has moved away from its traditional, blue-collar base and spends too much time talking about climate change, senior Labor figure Joel Fitzgibbon has declared as he quit the frontbench.
Mr Fitzgibbon, who has butted heads with the party leadership over its positions on energy and coal, said they could not win an election without winning central and north Queensland seats like Flynn and Herbert, adding that they had been "demonising" coal workers.
But he backed Opposition leader to take the party to the next election and said he would not be challenging for leadership - but added he would have to be drafted to change his mind.
The Member for Hunter and former Labor resources spokesman said he made the decision to step down 18 months ago, saying he only wanted to get the party back to its traditional roots.
"The people who have traditionally voted for us in very large numbers, somehow haven't been voting for us in very large numbers over the course of possibly the last decade," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
"We can't expect candidates in what was called Batman (in Melbourne) to express the same view as candidates in Flynn (central Queensland).
"We have to speak to, and be a voice for, all those who we seek to represent, whether they be in Surrey Hills or Rockhampton. And that's a difficult balance."
Mr Fitzgibbon said the Labor Party had become too focused on climate change, to the exclusion of its traditional base.
"The Labor Party has been spending too much time in recent years talking about climate change, which is an important issue, and not enough time talking about the needs of our traditional base," he said.
He said only one of the party's climate policies had been endorsed by voters, the carbon tax, and it was repealed by the Abbott Government.
"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," the Hunter MP said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said Labor could not form government without winning at least two Central and North Queensland electorates, naming Flynn, Herbert and Dawson as examples.
Labor lost Herbert in the 2019 election, while failed to win Flynn in the past two elections despite it previously having one of the most narrow margins in the country.
"If you begin demonising coal workers, coal generation workers, you're immediately demonising oil and gas workers, power generation workers. And by the time that message gets through, you're demonising manufacturing workers, and it goes on and on," Mr Fitzgibbon said.
He said he told Mr Albanese of his decision this morning, and the caucus shortly after.
His replacement as resources spokesman will be chosen by Labor's NSW right faction, to which he belongs.
Originally published as Labor frontbencher quits, says party lost its way