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Labor’s climate crisis escalates down under

Financial Review

Australia’s shadow resources and agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon has quit the shadow cabinet so he can continue to agitate from the backbench on climate change and other policy, including tax.

Joel Fitzgibbon has quit the Labor frontbench. Alex Ellinghausen

In doing so, he warned Labor leader Anthony Albanese that a “substantial” proportion of the caucus shared his views and that Labor would lose the next election unless “he listens to Joel Fitzgibbon more”.

The escalation of Labor’s internal policy conflict comes a day after Labor’s left faction rounded on Mr Fitzgibbon’s views on climate change during a factional meeting on Monday.

Mr Fitzgibbon had been planning to resign next month under a deal that would see him step down from the frontbench so fellow NSW Right MP Ed Husic could be promoted. Mr Husin will replace Mr Fitzgibon in resources and agriculture for the time being.

But the decision by Mr Fitzgibbon to go on Tuesday, was brought forward by the hostile reaction by the Left and a subsequent explosion in shadow cabinet on Monday night.

Mr Fitzgibbon was again blasted by colleagues for his response to the US election in which he said climate change did not play a major role.

Mr Fitzgibbon, who is the Right faction convenor, believes Labor will lose the next election unless it adopts a more centrist policy on climate change which involves recognising the roles gas and coal will continue to play until they are phased out.

He also warned Mr Albanese not to pare back or oppose the already legislated stage three tax cuts for high income earners.

“I have a very simple view on this question of tax. Never get in the way of a punter and a legislated tax cut,” he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon’s main bugbear is that Labor has lost its blue collar voting base, many of whom depend on mining and manufacturing, and who earn good money.

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