The politics of Joel Fitzgibbon
7 min read
As Joel Fitzgibbon quits the Labor frontbench over climate policy, some in the party question whether a longstanding friendship with Anthony Albanese allows the maverick to get away with too much.
On Monday night, they had a raised-voices row in front of the Labor shadow cabinet. The next morning, Joel Fitzgibbon resigned from Anthony Albanese's frontbench, prompting a fresh round of speculation about leadership instability. On Wednesday, after two days of further destabilisation, they had a beer together and watched the rugby league State of Origin.

For all their nothing-to-see-here endeavours, the friendship between Albanese and Fitzgibbon, the last remaining members of the parliamentary class of '96, appears to be fully extended. Springing back to its original form may already be impossible. And it can't stretch much further before it snaps.

Albanese is downplaying any suggestion that Fitzgibbon's resignation might create momentum for Labor dissenters to move against his leadership.

"We are a political party where people are passionate," he told the ABC's 7.30 program, brushing aside the suggestion.

But the resignation is also an inflection point for Labor as it looks to the next federal election. While Fitzgibbon's move was ostensibly about limiting climate change policy and defending the fossil fuel industry – and not even much of a surprise to his leader – it also reflects a creeping anxiety about Albanese's stewardship.

"I do have confidence in Anthony Albanese's leadership," Joel Fitzgibbon insisted to journalists on Tuesday, when he revealed his resignation. "We've been mates for a very long time … [He] has my support. He'll lead us to the next election … There should be no talk of instability."

Nevertheless, Fitzgibbon has told close associates that just as he has done to leaders past, he is willing to organise numbers against his friend if Albanese's performance doesn't improve.

Reminded at his news conference that this is what such resignations can precipitate, the MP joked: "And I have no history, either, do I?"

He did not deny that a small insurrection often precedes a bigger one. But this time there is no immediate threat of a…
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