Anthony Albanese rejects building union polling showing Labor slide in Hunter

VISIT: Anthony Albanese addressing the media at Dalbora Marina at Nelson Bay on Tuesday.
VISIT: Anthony Albanese addressing the media at Dalbora Marina at Nelson Bay on Tuesday.

Anthony Albanese has dismissed building union-commissioned polling showing his party well behind in the Paterson and Shortland electorates as a joke.

The Labor leader visited Nelson Bay on Tuesday, his 58th birthday, and spoke at the mining union's annual convention in the vineyards on Tuesday night, a day after its national delegates voted to break away from the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union.

The mining division is openly at war with the CFMMEU's construction division, which commissioned polling last year suggesting Labor's support had collapsed in Paterson and Shortland before a federal election either late this year or early in 2022.

Building unions used the survey results, first supplied to The Australian, to call for Mr Albanese's removal as Opposition leader.

But Mr Albanese rejected the polling as a stunt.

"I haven't seen any that shows that," he said.

"The polling I've seen, every one of them, the published polls, including ones that are published by organisations in the media, show Labor getting both a primary vote swing and a two-party preferred swing.

"I thought that was pretty funny that The Australian put that on page one, frankly. Shows they've got a sense of humour."

Roy Morgan nation-wide polling last month had Labor ahead 50.5 to 49.5 per cent in two-party-preferred voting.

Newspoll had the two major parties locked at 50-all but Scott Morrison ahead as favoured prime minister by 61 to 26 per cent.

One of Mr Albanese's chief headaches heading into the election is rogue Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, who has continued to agitate for Labor to appeal more strongly to its working class roots since stepping down from the front bench last year.

Mr Fitzgibbon was at it again on Tuesday, criticising the "institutional elitism" he believes has gripped his party in a speech to a University of NSW Canberra event commemorating the 25th anniversary of Liberal hero John Howard's ascension to prime minister in 1996.

Asked on Tuesday what he thought of Mr Fitzgibbon's ongoing commentary on the Labor party's failings, Mr Albanese said: "Nothing."

He said he was "not at all" concerned about Mr Fitzgibbon mounting or supporting a leadership challenge.

Mr Fitzgibbon has been motivated in part by his near miss at the last federal election in 2019, when One Nation coalminer and political novice Stuart Bonds almost unseated him with a pro-mining agenda.

In response to a question about when Hunter workers would see a plan, from either party, for how the region's economy would make the transition from coal, Mr Albanese said: "Guess what? I'm here. I'm here in Paterson, again. I'll continue to be here in the region.

"I'm talking about jobs. I'm talking about the economy. I'm talking about aged care. I'm talking to people about things that matter in their everyday life.

"I'll continue to do so. I'll be in the Hunter tonight addressing the miners union national conference dinner."

Mr Albanese stood alongside Paterson MP Meryl Swanson, an ally of Mr Fitzgibbon's on the Labor Right, during his Nelson Bay media conference.

He later met with Port Stephens tourism operators to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 and the threat of the government extending the PEP 11 gas exploration licence off the coast between Sydney and Port Stephens.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt is weighing up whether to grant Advent Energy another five years to explore the area for gas.

"PEP 11 is a bad, dumb idea that will cost jobs and is rejected by the local community," Mr Albanese said, echoing his past opposition to the licence extension.

"The local fishing community is not supportive. The local tourism sector is not supportive. The local surfers and others right up and down the coast are not supportive."