Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy differences

OPPOSITION resources spokesman and federal member for the Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon has resigned from the frontbench over Australian Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese’s support of a climate change policy that would lead to zero net emissions by 2050.
Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy differences Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy differences Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy differences Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy differences Fitzgibbon quits front bench over climate change policy differences

Joel Fitzgibbon.

The move has exposed the deep divisions between Albanese and Fitzgibbon.

Fitzgibbon urged the ALP to support the local coal industry.

He said the party's pro-environment policy had alienated its traditional blue collar base.

"I have been focusing on blue collar workers, whether they be working in coal mining, coal generation, oil and gas, our manufacturing sectors, electricians and other tradespersons - the people who have traditionally voted for us in very large number, but somehow haven't been voting for us in large number over the course of possibly the last decade," he said.

Federal resources minister Keith Pitt said the ALP policy was getting closer towards that espoused by the Greens.

"I'm surprised that Mr Fitzgibbon has taken this long to come to the realisation that Labor is a lost cause when it comes to any sense of rational policies that connect with Australian workers and their families," he said.

"It is clear that Labor won't be changing its current trajectory under Anthony Albanese and is heading down the dangerous path of Green ideology that threatens the jobs of thousands of hard-working Australians, particularly in the regions."

Pitt urged Fitzgibbon to resign from the party altogether.

"Only the Liberal and Nationals Government truly represents the interest of regional Australians with sensible policies on climate, resources and energy," he said.

Meanwhile, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has slammed the newly-released New South Wales Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, which has been given bi-partisan support.

CFMEU district president Peter Jordan said the proposed $32 billion investment in renewable energy contained no plans to support coal power workers or communities who would be affected as coal power stations closed over the next two decades.

He said it contained substantial investment in solar and wind farms - but no investment in the people whose hard work had been powering NSW for decades and no guarantees about the kinds of jobs it would create.

"In the rush to fund renewables, this government has forgotten the workers and communities who will be most affected," Jordan said.

"Recent experience in the LaTrobe Valley shows that without planning and investment the closure of coal-fired power stations and the coal mines that supply them leads to a loss of steady, well-paying jobs that is devastating to regional communities.

"Coal power stations are important employers in Lithgow, the Central Coast and the Upper Hunter.

"As well as a roadmap for electricity infrastructure, we need a plan for supporting these communities with steady, well-paying jobs after the power stations reach the end of their lifespans."

Jordan said renewables projects should not be seen as a substitute for jobs provided by coal mining and coal power stations.

Experience to date has shown that projects such as solar and wind farms create some jobs in construction but few on-going jobs in energy production.

The jobs they do create are significantly lower paid than coal mining and coal power jobs and are not in the same regions.

"The government claims this roadmap will create 9000 jobs, but most are in construction and only 2800 would be on-going," Jordan said.

"I'm sceptical about these figures and worried that jobs created will be temporary and low-paid.

"We are urging the NSW government to commit to serious investment in jobs in coal power regions, including support for workers affected by closures and real diversification to deliver permanent, well-paid jobs for the future.

"This will only be achieved through serious planning, not pipedreams."