WAYNE Swan has slammed Prime Minister Tony Abbott and "that freak from Canada" for not wanting to debate climate change at the G20 Summit in Brisbane.
The former federal treasurer made the remark when speaking at the Hervey Bay Library about his new book The Good Fight.
He said with world leaders such as Barack Obama and Angela Merkel at the table, climate change should have been on the G20 agenda.
When asked to clarify his "freak" comment that probably referred to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr Swan laughed and said he might have meant "Liberal Prime Minister".
"Maybe I misspoke," he said.
In June, Mr Abbott travelled to Canada and met Mr Harper, with both leaders describing efforts to put a price on emissions as a "job-killing carbon tax".
Mr Swan's "freak" comment in Hervey Bay drew laughter and small gasps from the local Labor crowd, and even interviewer Mayor Gerard O'Connell was startled.
"I sort of looked at him and thought jeez - tough," he said.
But despite the comment, Cr O'Connell said it was a privilege to interview Mr Swan.
"I think we learnt a little more about Australian politics but most importantly we learnt a lot more about Wayne Swan," he said.
Mr Swan also told local media he was happy sitting on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's back bench.
"I've had six years experience as treasurer and I think I can bring that experience to bear in a discussion of the issues of importance to the future of the country," he said.
Mr Swan said he had been coming to the Fraser Coast "for many, many years".