Anthony Albanese has shrugged off secret meetings of pro-coal colleagues who want to push Labor further to the right.
The Labor leader only found out about the 20-strong group of members and senators through the media.
“That’s what happens in Canberra. People go out and people chat about ideas. There is nothing unusual about this,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“The Labor Party is united in our position that climate change is real, that we need to act on lowering our emissions.
“Good action on climate change means more jobs, lower emissions and lower energy prices.”
The so-called Otis Group takes its name from the Canberra restaurant where the coal backers meet.
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles played down their secret meetings as a “total beat up”.
“At the end of the day, people were having a dinner,” he told Sky News.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers, from the party’s right faction, also found out via the media.
“There’s nothing unusual about colleagues catching up for dinner, and there’s certainly nothing unusual about people getting together to talk about policy,” he said.
Scott Morrison found it intriguing the group could even find a Labor climate policy to oppose.
“I’m staggered they can find any consistency in the opposition leader’s policy on emissions or electricity or coal, because he has it each-way, every day,” the prime minister said in question time.
Former Labor senator Doug Cameron, a left faction heavyweight, said the group was misreading the politics of the issue and ignoring science.
“Given the names associated with this group I’m not surprised, not the sharpest tools in the shed!” he tweeted.
Cabinet minister Michaelia Cash seized on the comments, poking fun at the Labor senators involved during Question Time.
“Welcome to the world of jobs” she said.
Labor frontbencher Don Farrell’s wines are on the restaurant’s wine list, with his “Godfather Two” 2017 cabernet going for $110 a bottle.
Senator Farrell, nicknamed The Godfather for his factional power, owns the winery in South Australia’s Clare Valley with his wife Nimfa.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack joked about the “egg yolk ravioli” on the menu.
He said Labor’s resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon had been left with “egg all over his face” over his involvement in the group.