Labor Anthony Albanese has dismissed claims Mark Butler will be moved from the Climate and Energy portfolio to quell internal instability.
New backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon called on Thursday for Mr Butler to be stripped of the role, arguing Australians had rejected Labor’s climate policies in consecutive elections.
“We need an advocate now that the community and industry can trust. Mark can go to another portfolio … But we need a new advocate bringing a fresh face and a fresh approach”, he said.
Mr Butler told the ABC earlier he would step aside from Labor’s Climate and Energy portfolio “in a heartbeat” if pushed by Anthony Albanese.
“At the end of the day Anthony Albanese gets to choose who speaks on particular portfolios. If he decides I would best placed somewhere else, I would be entirely relaxed about that”, he said.
But the Labor Leader shot down suggestions Mr Butler would be moved to appease Mr Fitzgibbon. “Mark Butler will remain as our Climate Change and Energy spokesperson. Mark Butler is doing a fantastic job in that role. There’s no one who knows more about this area than Mark Butler. It’s a critical area for the Labor Party”, he told reporters.
Mr Fitzgibbon resigned from the frontbench on Tuesday, saying Labor had alienated its blue-collar voter base and could not win government without a shift the centre on energy.
Mr Butler conceded Labor is reviewing its climate stance “as we’re reviewing every policy” and has “serious issues to confront” in the NSW coal basins of NSW and Queensland
But he claims the platform the party took to the 2019 election was a net positive with voters.
“I won’t stand for this idea that Joel has been putting out that we should simply hug the government, and we shouldn’t take a strong stance (on climate change)”, he said.
“I don’t pretend we got it right at the last election. We need to do better, that’s why we’re reviewing our policy. But we also have to recognise climate change is not going away”.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Today that Mr Fitzgibbon is “a stalking horse. This is about the leadership of the Labor Party. And they are going to have a challenge shortly”.
Mr Fitzgibbon insists Anthony Albanese retains his full support.