New Labor backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has called for shadow climate and energy minister Mark Butler to be dumped and replaced with a “new advocate the community and industry can trust”.
The Hunter MP stood aside as Labor’s resources and agriculture spokesman on Tuesday, after a protracted internal debate over climate policy.
Mr Fitzgibbon argued the party had lost touch with its blue collar-voter base, and would repeat its shock 2019 election loss unless it shifted to the centre on energy policy.
“I do not want to show any level of disrespect for Mark, but he has been in that portfolio for seven years. We’ve lost two elections, we’ve had two climate and energy polices that have not been embraced by the Australian people. In fact, they’ve been rejected,” he told Sky News.
“We need an advocate now that the community and industry can trust. Mark can go to another portfolio. He’s a very smart guy and there are plenty of things he can do.
“But we need a new advocate bringing a fresh face and a fresh approach. Someone who can reach out to the community and industry and say, ‘There’s a new person in town.’”
Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles says Mr Fitzgibbon has been a “very important voice and will continue to be going forward”, but hit out at his call for Mark Butler’s head.
“I don’t think it’s the place of anyone in the party to be calling on other members of the frontbench to resign. Ultimately, we’re elected by the caucus and the roles that we have are given to us by the leader. I think Mark Butler has done a superb job in his role. End of story”, he said.
The comments come after a heated argument between shadow cabinet members on Monday night, when Mr Fitzgibbon was accused of failing to back the party’s climate policy.
He admits the argument took place, but denies it prompted his resignation.
He insists leader Anthony Albanese retains his backing.
NCA NewsWire has contacted Mr Butler’s office for comment.