Shorten leaves Albo in a tough spot

WHEN Labor's Joel "Fitzy" Fitzgibbon organised a group of colleagues to talk about how to find a workable solution on coal, some viewed it through the prism of leadership.

Undoubtedly some of the "Otis" members probably were, because whenever Victorian Senator Kimberley Kitching is present, many believe she is practising the political dark arts for Bill Shorten.

When Fitzy was called in to Albo's office last week for a "please explain", the Member for Hunter was said to be sheepish - not because he was up to no good but because it had metamorphosed into an own goal.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon

But to Fitzy's credit, he can see an issue many in Labor cannot - and that is the legacy of Shorten's schizophrenic political messaging on coal. He was allegedly for it in Central Queensland but in trendy city electorates it was all but described as the new asbestos.

After years of sitting on the fence on the issue, many Labor MPs and Senators have not been able to prise themselves off because then the questions become tougher.

Labor's Bill Shorten
Labor's Bill Shorten

Years of fence sitting on the issue in part bought Shorten party stability. But here's where it gets tricky for Labor. They are misreading the bushfire issue. They believe the majority of the country is now champing at the bit for a more ambitious climate change policy.

They are not, especially in Queensland. It has rained - and a lot in parts of drought-declared areas. On top of that there is a new expansion phase in the resources sector.

Money will start to flow back into communities after hard times and the last thing they want is anything that detracts from their long-awaited paydirt.

The other issue is the almost magical word, "transition". Apparently coal workers will transition into other jobs. That is plausible. But what may be implausible is like-for-like renumeration.

Transition should not be code for a pay cut. If it is, Labor will not have learned the lessons of 2019.