Can the Greens snatch a win in Fremantle?

For more than 100 years the WA seat of Fremantle has been safe Labor territory. Now, the May 16 state by-election for the seat is tipped to be a neck-and-neck race between ALP candidate Peter Tagliaferri and Adele Carles from the Greens.

The Liberals have declined to run to avoid the embarrassment of coming third.

Carles rose to prominence as a leading activist in the Save South Beach campaign. The campaign fought to stop a luxury housing development next to a popular swimming and picnic spot. The development was in breach of the then Labor government's own coastal development policy.

The Greens gave Labor a scare when they won nearly 28% of the primary vote in the state election last September. The party hopes voter cynicism at the early resignation by sitting Labor member Jim McGinty will help swing the seat to the left.

To shore up its position, the ALP has chosen property investor and high profile Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri as its candidate. However, he only joined the ALP in April. His pre-selection has caused plenty of rumblings in Labor ranks.

Senior officials of the Australian Services Union (ASU) have attacked Tagliaferri's pre-selection. Former ASU Secretary Paul Burlinson told the April 25 West Australian he would campaign against Tagliaferri.

Burlinson claimed Tagliaferri allowed the council to put new employees on non-union agreements that pay 10% less than other workers covered by the collective agreement.

Meanwhile, activists from a number of unions have reacted angrily to an ALP email and SMS campaign asking them to march with the ALP rather than their union on May Day to "show your support for Peter".

Tagliaferri's strongest union support has come from the WA Police Union. Union president Mike Dean told the May 2 Fremantle Herald: "He's stuck his neck out for us and we intend to do the same for him."

In the same issue of the Herald, Maritime Union of Australia WA branch secretary Chris Cain also indicated support for Tagliaferri. "He's been endorsed by the ALP and we support the ALP," Cain said.

The Herald reported the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union does not oppose Tagliaferri, but would not comment on his nomination.

The ALP's preference policy for the by-election has drawn criticism for helping far-right groups. The ALP's how-to-vote card puts the Greens second-last and the Socialist Alliance last. However, conservative group Family First gets the ALP's second preference and the far-right wing Christian Democratic Party, its fourth.