News that millionaire developer and Fremantle Labor candidate Peter Tagliaferri has been a member of the "500 club" — a Liberal party fundraising group — has mired the Labor campaign in controversy in the final weeks of campaigning for the May 16 Fremantle by-election.
Anger is particularly deep in union circles and among rank and file ALP members. Tagliaferri was selected as candidate by head office with no input from ordinary members.
Dissatisfaction in union circles has been expressed most acutely by the Australian Services Union (ASU). The ASU openly campaigned against Tagliaferri at Perth's May Day rally. The ASU covers council workers who have been mistreated by Tagliaferri in his role as Mayor of Fremantle. New council workers have been put on a non-union agreement that pays 10% less and cuts other conditions.
The election is tipped to be very close. Greens candidate Adele Carles has a chance of winning the Greens' first lower house seat in Western Australia.
On May 5, hundreds of people attended a meet-the-candidates forum.
Under a front page headline of "Socialist shines in debate", the May 8 Fremantle Herald reported: "Socialist Alliance candidate Sam Wainwright had them eating out of his hand during Tuesday night's Fremantle by-election debate when he called for a roll-back of privatisation."
The Herald said Wainwright "drew cheers with his call for a rollback of privatised utilities.
"His open hostility to the North Port Quay (NPQ) proposal also won loud approval.
"'I live in Australia and we don't need to privatise the ocean ... if NPQ want a sustainable village build it in Armadale or Midland where they need it,' he said to cheers and applause."
The West Australian reported on May 8 that former Liberal, now independent, candidate Carmelo Zagami claimed he was offered paid advertising and other help for his campaign by "people connected with the $10 billion [North Port Quay] project" on the condition he promised to preference Labor ahead of the Greens.
This has raised more questions about the prominent and expensive advertising by other minor candidates who have agreed to preference Labor.