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Fitzgibbon blasts "cheesecloth brigade" in Labor brawl over climate policy v coal jobs

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Labor renegade Joel Fitzgibbon has chastised senior Labor frontbench figures as party divisions deepen over climate change policy and its impact on regional, blue-collar industry and the ALP’s electoral future.

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Fitzgibbon resigned from the shadow ministry after an angry clash with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

He was admonished for undermining Labor’s plans to use the United States election result to put pressure on the Morrison government over climate change.

“I wasn’t prepared to allow the cheesecloth brigade in the caucus to use Biden’s win to argue for even more ambitious climate change policy,” Fitzgibbon told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“An ambitious policy which was going to cost us another election and therefore deny us the ability to deliver for the many people who are depending on us.”

Pressed on whether he was disparaging the millions of Australians demanding stronger action on climate change, Fitzgibbon said he was standing up for coalminers and blue-collar workers in his Hunter Valley electorate.

Fitzgibbon, a right faction heavyweight and the party’s most senior regional MP, argued Labor had lost too many recent federal elections by overreaching on climate change.

“We have allowed our political opponents to portray us as job destroyers, as the people who are going to close down the coalmining industry and coal generation industry,” he said.

“If you open yourselves up to a scare campaign, a scare campaign is what you’re likely to get.”

Senior Labor left MP Mark Dreyfus said Mr Fitzgibbon was out of step with the party and most of the public on climate change.

“I don’t think there’s a choice here, we don’t get to say no to climate change,” he told ABC radio.

“We don’t get to say no to the effects of climate change, and we don’t get to opt out of taking action.

“Joel’s thinking is out of step with what Labor has agreed on.”

Dreyfus would not say how many backers Fitzgibbon had within caucus, insisting most of the Labor Party wanted strong action on climate change.

Labor has committed to net zero emissions by 2050 but has not yet outlined out how to achieve it.

NSW’s Hunter region produces and exports a large amount of coal, with the transition to renewables set to have an impact on jobs.

The issue has prompted unions and environment groups in the region to form the Hunter Jobs Alliance, with the aim of mapping out a transition plan.

The group, including the Electrical Trades Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, has organised a summit for March next year.

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