West Australian Premier Mark McGowan says he is very disappointed the Labor state conference degenerated into chaos due to simmering factional tensions.
Within the first five minutes of the event on Saturday, members of two trade unions, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (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 McGowan to deliver his keynote speech to a largely empty room.
The dysfunction overshadowed his announcement to introduce industrial manslaughter legislation and more WorkSafe inspectors.
McGowan described the walkout as unacceptable and said the actions of some MPs who participated, including Cassie Rowe and Samantha Rowe, showed a “lack of consideration and judgment.”
“I was disappointed in what occurred … and I would expect people [to] reflect on their conduct. I’ve spoken to some of them,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“I work well with all our MPs and I think that they appreciate the government is trying to do the right thing by the people of WA.”
Tensions continued into the second day of the conference 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.
McGowan denied the party was split on the issue and pointed out the discord was witnessed because Labor allows the media to watch policy motions, unlike the Liberals and the Greens.
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.
Albanese wants him cast out of the party, and on Tuesday, Setka’s legal fight against his expulsion was thrown out of court.