McGowan ‘very disappointed’ by conference chaos

Mark McGowan. Photo: Getty
Mark McGowan. Photo: Getty

WEST Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan says he’s very disappointed the party’s state conference degenerated into chaos due to simmering factional tensions.

Chaos erupted within the first five minutes of the event on Saturday, when members of the MUA and CFMEU walked out during a welcome to country and a tribute to former prime minister Bob Hawke.

It was sparked by an unsuccessful move to disqualify a delegate, who is a member of the MUA and did not meet sign-up requirements, leaving Mr McGowan delivering his keynote speech to a largely empty room.

The dysfunction overshadowed his announcement to introduce industrial manslaughter legislation and more WorkSafe inspectors.

“Inside political parties, people have their differences and their passions and its not unusual for people to express themselves in ways that cause disruption,” Mr McGowan told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“I thought it was way beyond acceptable, to be honest. I hopefully won’t see it happen again.”

Among those to walk out were MPs Cassie Rowe and Samantha Rowe, and Mr McGowan said they understood he was disappointed.

The tensions continued into the second day when it took more than two hours to count votes for an MUA-led motion to keep Fremantle Port operational for a further 14 years, defying one of Labor’s key election pledges to build a new port at Kwinana.

The motion was ultimately defeated by 23 votes.

Mr McGowan pointed out the discord was witnessed because Labor allows the media to watch policy motions, unlike the Liberals and the Greens.

“It was very poor timing,” the premier said.

Also on Sunday, MUA and CFMEU officials refused to join in a standing ovation for party leader Anthony Albanese.

The two unions are backing Victorian CFMEU chief John Setka, who is accused of making disparaging remarks about anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty and was convicted for harassing his wife.

Mr Albanese wants him cast out of the party and on Tuesday, Mr Setka’s legal fight against his expulsion was thrown out of court.