Under pressure, Albanese reshuffles frontbench and dumps his climate colleague

Anthony Albanese has overhauled Labor’s frontbench line-up as the party prepares for a looming election.

Jan 28, 2021, updated Jan 28, 2021
Anthony Albanese says he's ready if the PM calls a snap poll. (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Anthony Albanese says he's ready if the PM calls a snap poll. (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Mark Butler has been bumped from the contentious climate change and energy portfolio in the shadow cabinet reshuffle, swapping the health portfolio with Chris Bowen.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who has been urging the party to tone down its climate policies, believes moving Butler is the right decision.

“It will send the right message to our traditional base,” Fitzgibbon told ABC radio.

“Mark has been somewhat over-enthusiastic in his approach to climate change policy. I believe we should see climate change as not a political opportunity but a policy opportunity.”

“The job of every frontbencher is to serve in the portfolio allocated by their leader,” Butler told AAP on Thursday.

“That’s always been my position under the four leaders I’ve had the privilege of serving under.”

Deputy leader Richard Marles has dropped defence for the new portfolio of national construction, while also taking over from Brendan O’Connor in employment, skills, small business and science.

Ed Husic has been shifted to innovation and jobs, working closely with Marles.

O’Connor will be Labor’s new defence spokesman.

Clare O’Neill is taking on a new role as shadow minister for senior Australians and aged care services to work alongside Butler.

Labor’s deputy upper house leader Kristina Keneally will take on extra responsibility as the spokeswoman for government accountability with Pat Conroy to assist her.

Tasmanian Julie Collins has been appointed as shadow agriculture minister after losing responsibility for aged care.

West Australian Madeline King has added resources to her workload and will continue as trade spokeswoman, with Patrick Gorman appointed to assist her in a junior frontbench role.

“This reshuffle is about Australians getting the most out of Labor,” Albanese said.

“This is the strongest team to form an Albanese Labor government.

“The reshuffle is all about putting jobs at the centre of what we will do.”

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten last week took what many interpreted as a thinly veiled swipe at his successor for adopting a “tiny” policy agenda in opposition.

Launching a collection of essays by members of the Labor Right faction, Shorten argued the party had to “stand for something” if it wanted to win.

Fitzgibbon, who quit the front bench in November, has spent months arguing the party is drifting too far to the left and losing touch with its traditional base.

He says more Labor members and supporters need to speak out about the party’s direction.

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