Mark Butler says he’ll step aside from Labor’s Climate and Energy portfolio “in a heartbeat” if pushed by Anthony Albanese, but insists the party’s climate policy did not cost them the 2019 election.
Mr Butler told the ABC “we’re reviewing our climate change policy as we’re reviewing every policy” but says the stance Labor took to the 2019 was a positive with voters.
New backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon called on Thursday for Mr Butler to be stripped of his portfolio, 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, who has held the portfolio for seven years, concedes that decision rests with the Labor leader. “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.
Mr Fitzgibbon stepped down 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.
Although conceding Labor had “serious issues to confront” in the NSW coal basins of NSW and Queensland, Mr Butler said Labor’s post election review found the party’s climate stance was a “net positive” with the electorate.
“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.