The West

MUA backs cuts to union sway in  ALP
Backing Bill: MUA State secretary Christy Cain. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's call to reform the Labor Party to lessen union influence has received support from a surprising quarter - the militant State secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.

The push for change comes amid calls from another WA Federal Labor MP for Joe Bullock to stand down from the party's number one Senate spot in WA.

MUA State secretary Christy Cain said a debate about Labor's policies had been "put on hold" and the party needed to develop platforms that appealed to working West Australians.

Mr Cain has spearheaded MUA efforts to massively increase the number of its members who are also Labor members in a bid to gain more influence at the WA branch's internal decision- making forums.

He said given this background, people might be surprised at his backing for Mr Shorten's call for it to be easier for non-unionists to join Labor.

"We think Labor's preselection and policy processes would have much better outcomes if we had more ordinary people involved," Mr Cain said.

"In saying this, we understand that providing a greater say for rank and file party members will come at the expense of the party's affiliated unions.

"We don't see this as a threat to union influence. Rather, we see it as a challenge to be a better union in an environment where unions can rely less on the blocks of votes currently provided under Labor rules."

Fremantle MP Melissa Parke said Mr Bullock should stand aside for sitting Upper House member Louise Pratt, who appears almost certain to lose her Senate seat.

But Ms Parke said WA Labor needed to fix the opaque process that parachuted Mr Bullock into the number one Senate spot ahead of Senator Pratt.

Federal WA Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan has also urged Mr Bullock to stand aside.

Mr Cain said greater participation of non-unionists would mean union leaders would have to convince the rank and file if they believed a particular candidate was worthy of a parliamentary position.

"I can't speak for other unions but the MUA is up for these challenges," he said. "We would back ourselves to be able to convince others of the merits of our policies and candidates.

"It is not in the interests of any union, or its members, for Labor to perform poorly. It means unfettered power for big business."

The West Australian

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