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MacTiernan blasts  ALP power plays
Insult to members: Alannah MacTiernan blasts ALP power plays. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Outspoken former Labor minister Alannah MacTiernan has labelled the union power struggle over control of the ALP State executive an "insult to union members".

She said it was typical of the "cronyism" identified in a review after Labor's 2008 State election loss.

Labor's internal politics were thrust into the spotlight this week after the militant Maritime Union of Australia boasted of its recruitment drive to increase its delegate numbers, and influence, within the ALP.

Fuelling the grassroots takeover push, according to MUA State secretary Christy Cain, was a desire to curb the power of the left-wing United Voice - the "Missos" - and the right-wing SDA - the "Shoppies".

Ms MacTiernan, who has been one of Labor's most vocal critics after last month's State election defeat, said the power struggle was evidence that wholesale reform was needed.

She said the issue was not about unions but about "a group of officials who want to put their friends and relatives (into Parliament)".

Under current rules, union delegates, who Ms MacTiernan claimed in many cases worked for unions, were only declared at the start of a meeting and could not be contacted, and lobbied, on policy issues.

She said to promote robust debate delegates should be elected for one-year tenures and compulsory secret voting should replace the process known as "show and tell".

"It is actually an insult to union members what is going on in many of these unions," she said. "If it was really about unions and not about union secretaries, then you would do these simple things."

However, SDA boss and Senate aspirant Joe Bullock was unapologetic.

"This is Alannah MacTiernan world," he said.

"Union delegates have no other allegiance other than to the union that makes them a delegate. Nothing should change that."

United Voice secretary Carolyn Smith said Ms MacTiernan had participated and been preselected in the process she was criticising.

ALP State secretary Simon Mead said unions made up only half of the 300 WA delegates, with the other half elected by the party. Any reform needed to address both aspects.