By Ana Kailis
PERTH — The WA Liberal government's decision to establish a non-union private port at Naval Base, south of Fremantle, has fuelled speculation that the unionised Fremantle port may be wound back.
The private tender was issued to four companies controlled by Western Stevedores. The project is likely to be financed by building mogul Len Buckridge who was at the centre of a similar plan several years ago.
While the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has endorsed the plan, the Australian Chamber of Shipping says the Fremantle port is not due to reach full-capacity for another 15 years and there is not enough cargo to justify another port.
Trade unions, the ALP, the WA Greens and the Democratic Socialist Party have criticised the proposal. The DSP's WA industrial spokesperson Sarah Harris told Green Left Weekly the move was part of the government's anti-union agenda. "The WA government has been keen to establish a private port for some years. Given Premier Richard Court's record of anti-union measures, the plan is undoubtedly another attack on the Maritime Union of Australia and workers' right to be unionised", she said.
Tender documents reveal that the government has stipulated that workers at the new port must be employed under individual contracts. A spokesperson for transport minister Murray Criddle said that secondary boycotts would not be tolerated at the port.
WA Greens MLC Giz Watson pointed out that a ban on secondary boycott action could prevent unions from turning away nuclear waste, increasing the likelihood of WA becoming the world's nuclear waste dump.
While the government has denied that the private port proposal will lead to the closure of the Fremantle port, the real estate industry has been running hot since the announcement. A land sell-off could reap the government hundreds of millions of dollars.