FREMANTLE Labor MP Simone McGurk says she won’t be bullied into stopping plans being drawn up for a new harbour by unhappy wharfies.
Earlier this week 200 Maritime Union of Australia members and supporters marched on Ms McGurk’s office after rallying outside a Westport Taskforce briefing at the Esplanade Hotel.
The union characterised its members’ actions as “loud and boisterous”, but got caught up in a debate during the week over a social media comment on WA branch secretary Chris Cain’s Facebook page which premier Mark McGowan took as a personal threat.
Another meeting attendee, who didn’t want to be named, wrote to Mr Cain saying she was “disgusted” by the behaviour.
A union member herself, she said the wharfies tried to intimidate speakers and disregarded residents who’d come to hear about the port’s future.
Mr Cain said the union didn’t encourage or condone violence and he’d removed the post as soon as he became aware of it. He said their actions at the Westport briefing weren’t intimidating.
“During the rally this morning some of the speakers were loud, others spoke with passion, and some were loudly passionate in their comments – but the entire event was peaceful and everyone who attended the Westport briefing had the opportunity to have their say – even the MUA,” Mr Cain said.
“Naturally some in the community are concerned McGowan is breaking his election promise to keep Fremantle a working port in public ownership.
“When 90 per cent of the future growth in traffic will be cars, not trucks, how misleading is it when Westport suggests publicly we can avoid improving our roads by building a new container port in Cockburn Sound?”
But Ms McGurk said the government was “crystal clear” during the election that it would stop the Perth Freight Link and start planning an outer harbour.
“Westport has shortlisted options which retain a role for Fremantle port,” Ms McGurk said.
“Ultimately the government will be guided by the best evidence about how to handle our freight needs moving forward.
“If the MUA had more confidence in their position, they would not be afraid of an independent and rigorous examination of these issues.”
Ms McGurk is a former official with left-wing United Voice, which had a bruising stoush linked to the outer harbour with the MUA-backed Progressive Labor at the party’s recent state conference.
After the conference, which they walked out of, the MUA also de-affiliated itself from UnionsWA – which Ms McGurk has also previously led – over its outer harbour campaigning for Mr McGowan.
Current UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said it was a disappointing decision that appeared to be about the state conference rather than UnionsWA’s work.
“UnionsWA has not adopted a position on the matters relating to the Fremantle port,” Ms Hammat told the Herald.
“As the MUA represents about 2 per cent of union members in WA it is unlikely to have any significant impact on our operations.
by STEVE GRANT