The dominant United Voice union, whose support allowed the conservative shop assistants union boss Joe Bullock to clinch the number one spot on the party’s Senate ticket, has now called for the Senator-elect to resign.
The union's WA secretary Carolyn Smith gave a press conference at State Parliament at 1pm claiming the position of Mr Bullock, a Right faction heavyweight, was untenable because of comments he made in a speech in November.
In the speech to a Christian foundation, Mr Bullock described Labor members as “mad” and claimed unions gave the party the “ballast” it needed to stay relevant to working people.
He also said he was unsure whether Labor senate ticket running mate Louise Pratt was a lesbian, given her partner had transitioned from being a woman to a man.
“In light of his recent comment we no longer believe he is fit to represent the ALP in the Australian Senate,” Ms Smith said.
“If Joe Bullock really believes in the Labor Party, if he believes in making Australia a better place, he should consider resigning his position.”
Ms Smith said she respected Mr Bullock's many years of union representation but she no longer believed he was fit to represent Labor in the Senate.
"His description of party members was a betrayal of the many dedicated people who join our party because they believe in Labor as a party to stand up for ordinary people, for a decent life and a fair go. These are people who give generously of their time to campaign for a better Australia," she said.
"His personal comments about Louise Pratt were appalling."
But Ms Smith was faced with a barrage of questions about whether she had the moral authority to make the call given Mr Bullock was only able to secure the safe number one spot on the ticket because of a pre-selection deal the left-wing United Voice did with Mr Bullock’s “Shoppies” union.
In return, the Right backed United Voice candidate Simone McGurk to be endorsed for the State seat of Fremantle, which she won at the 2013 election.
Last April, when Left faction leaders Jon Ford, a former MLC, and metalworkers union boss Steve McCartney complained United Voice had done a deal which put a right wing, pro-life candidate in the Senate at the expense of the Left’s sitting Senator Ms Pratt, Ms Smith was unapologetic.
“I have to say, as a woman leader of a union and a committed feminist, I don’t think much of Jon Ford, Steve McCartney or any other burly bloke lecturing me about women’s issues,” she said.
Today, Ms Smith said had United Voice known his views about ALP members and known he would make such “inexcusable” personal comments about Ms Pratt in the speech, it never would have done the deal.
“We believe there has been information that’s come out since the election that really changes that pre-selection and we think this is obviously a decision for Joe Bullock but we believe he’s shown himself not fit to represent the Australian Labor Party,” she said.
The Liberals were quick to jump on the turmoil, with Minister for Employment Eric Abetz saying it appeared the Labor party membership and the electorate simply did not get a say as to who represented them in the Senate.
“Having one union boss telling another union boss to resign before they're even elected just goes to show how the union bosses treat Senate seats as their plaything, to dish out when and as they deem appropriate and leave the Labor membership and the electorate out of the equation,” Senator Abetz said.
United Voice represents about 23,000 workers in numerous industries, including hospitals, aged care, schools, childcare centres and disability services.