Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Anthony Albanese brands anonymous letter alleging bullying culture in his office a fake | Australia news


Anthony Albanese says an anonymous letter purporting to be from five “concerned” Labor staff alleging a destructive culture of bullying in his political office is a “fake”.

The letter, seen by Guardian Australia, which contains what appears to be an embedded screen shot of an abusive email from a member of Albanese’s staff, was posted online before being taken down on Tuesday morning.

Asked about the letter – now in circulation among Labor staff – during a visit to the Hunter Valley on Tuesday, Albanese characterised it as a fake.

Pressed about the culture in his political office, the Labor leader said: “It’s a very good office – I have an outstanding office.”

Guardian Australia understands that Albanese’s chief of staff, Tim Gartrell, recently told staff at a meeting to dissuade his office colleagues from forming cliques.

The anonymous critique comes after a difficult few weeks for the Labor leader.

Labor’s plan last week to use Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election to intensify criticism of the Coalition’s climate change policies was derailed when the then shadow resources minister Joel Fitzgibbon declared it was “delusional” to interpret the American result as an endorsement of ambitious climate action.

Fitzgibbon’s rebuke triggered a boilover in the regular meeting of the left caucus. The outrage in the left was then followed by a blow up between Albanese and Fitzgibbon in the shadow cabinet meeting last Monday.

Fitzgibbon announced on Tuesday he would go to the backbench, but then embarked on a media blitz which culminated in him calling for the shadow climate change minister Mark Butler to be dumped from his portfolio at a planned end of year reshuffle.

Last week’s crisis was the end point of a robust public dispute between Butler and Fitzgibbon that had rolled for months about Labor’s climate and energy policies.

Albanese has been travelling this week in the New South Wales Hunter region – close to Fitzgibbon’s electorate – but has not been accompanied by the former resources minister.

Asked by the ABC in Newcastle whether workers would still be employed in coalmines in the Hunter in 10 years’ time, the Labor leader said: “Coalmines in the Hunter will continue to operate and continue to export coal for a considerable period of time – so, in 10 years’ time those coalmines will still be going.”

Albanese said as the world transitioned to renewables “the coal that is produced in the Hunter, because it is of such quality and is cleaner than coal from other potential mines or sites, will continue to operate”.

“It will continue to operate certainly well beyond the next decade,” he said. “All the protections are there.

“But the world is moving towards renewable energy, and that’s why we’ve adopted the position of zero net emissions by 2050, along with, it must be said, all of our trading partners, all our major trading partners, have adopted that.”

Speaking to journalists after touring an aluminium smelter at Tomago on Tuesday, Albanese said the ageing Liddell coal power plant needed to be replaced with a mix of solar, batteries and gas peaking power.

“Climate change is real,” Albanese said. “It will have an impact on our economy. We need to act, and we need to be a part of global action.

“We need to, as well, though, make sure that businesses like this one, that are energy intensive, have access to affordable energy and reliable energy … and that’s why gas will play an important role here.”

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