HUNTER MPs are in the mix to lead a shattered Labor party at state and federal level after a One Nation federal election rout at Muswellbrook prompted Hunter demands for Labor to drop the "city-centric" focus.
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon threw his hat into the ring for the federal Labor leadership after blaming party "equivocating" on the Adani coal mine for a One Nation assault that would have handed his seat to the minor party under its old boundaries.
"If you're on the fence you get splinters in your bum," Mr Fitzgibbon said on Tuesday before calling on his party to back a federal leader from regional Australia for the first time since the 1940s.
"If we don't have someone from the bush at the table we're going to continue making the same mistakes," he said.
On Sunday Mr Fitzgibbon was encouraged to nominate on a Left/Right, city/regional ticket as deputy to popular shadow infrastructure, transport and cities spokesperson Anthony Albanese.
By Monday he was quoted saying he warned colleagues the party's emphasis on climate action over coal jobs was eroding its support in regional Australia, and by Tuesday he said he was "prepared to run for change".
"I'd like to see the party with a leader from regional Australia," he said.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said she "absolutely" backed Mr Fitzgibbon's call as she considers a tilt as NSW Labor leader, in a likely field that includes former Newcastle MP Jodi McKay as frontrunner.
There was "a desire for a greater focus on regional and rural NSW", Ms Washington said.
"There is a real need for us as a party to rebuild our connections with the community and earn the trust of the people of NSW."
The NSW leadership ballot process started on Tuesday. Ms Washington, former Newcastle MP Jodi McKay and Kogarah MP Chris Minns are the only candidates to have confirmed they are considering nominating.
Frontrunner Ms McKay left the Hunter after losing the seat of Newcastle in 2011. A subsequent corruption inquiry revealed the extent of internal Labor party antagonism towards her.
The Hunter will remain at the centre of the country's climate change debate after the election revealed the extent of antagonism in regional Australia to action on climate change that would threaten jobs.
LaborCoal miner and One Nation candidate Stuart Bonds claimed more than 28 per cent of the primary vote at one Muswellbrook polling place despite only confirming his nomination in late March, after condemning Labor for supporting the closure of coal-fired power stations, including Muswellbrook's Liddell.
Although Mr Fitzgibbon broke with Labor's climate change narrative during the election campaign to say there was a bright future for the coal industry, he recorded swings against him of between 20 and 24 per cent at some polling places.
One Nation's strong showing would have cost Labor the seat under its old boundaries before a recent redistribution.
By Tuesday Mr Fitzgibbon said he remained committed to climate change action but he was "equally committed" to the future of coal in the Hunter region.
He argued Labor had lost touch with many workers across the country because the party's leaders were from the cities.
"I was the only member out of 20 sitting around the Cabinet table from regional Australia," Mr Fitzgibbon said during periods as a minister under Labor governments from 2007 to 2013.
On Tuesday shadow treasury spokesperson Chris Bowen said he would nominate for the leadership after six years in the position as a key part of Labor's economic team.
Mr Bowen agreed with Mr Fitzgibbon that Labor's equivocation on the proposed Adani coal mine had hurt the party electorally.
Announcing his bid outside his childhood home in Sydney's west on Tuesday, Mr Bowen said he was best-placed to "lead the economic debate, which we must win".
In an interview on Tuesday Mr Albanese rejected claims he was an "old lefty", saying the label was irrelevant and he was better described as "old Labor".
"With me, what you see is what you get," Mr Albanese said.
"I'm not running against Chris Bowen, I'm running against Scott Morrison."
While the extent of the Labor collapse has prompted the party to re-assess its rhetoric on coal and jobs, there have also been calls from within Labor not to walk away from action on climate change.
Labor national president Wayne Swan said the party had to "find a politics that connects the people with these urgent challenges".