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Chaotic scenes at WA Labor state conference

PERTH: Chaotic scenes engulfed Western Australia Labor’s state conference on Saturday as a large number of delegates walked out.

Perth MP Patrick Gorman and WA Labor president Carolyn Smith were heckled by large parts of the crowd, including at least one state MP.  Premier Mark McGowan was to deliver his keynote speech to a more than half-empty room after a large number of delegates walked out.

The walkout by delegates of unions from Labor’s right faction occurred during a Welcome to Country ceremony and a tribute to Bob Hawke. The behaviour was described as “disgraceful” and “outrageous” by others within the party.

It also prompted an emotional apology from Ms Smith, who was left fighting back tears as she said sorry to the individuals who performed the Welcome to Country.

“I hope I never again see a WA Labor conference that as our elders, our Noongar elders, are coming onto stage to welcome us, that people are … leaving the room,” she said.

“We should not be doing this. We should be thinking about our actions, because our actions have consequences.

“On behalf of our party, I apologise that that happened and again reinforce that that was not anything to do with you.”

WA Labor party president Carolyn Smith assuring the Indigenous representatives the walk out was not about them.

But members of the right faction say the walkout was prompted entirely by the conduct of the left in trying to disqualify a delegate from the Maritime Union of Australia, and had nothing to do with the tribute to Mr Hawke or the Welcome to Country ceremony.

Fears of factional brawls had lingered ahead of the conference, and extensive peace talks were held ahead of the meeting in a bid to present Labor as a united party of government, but these failed to quell substantial unrest.

Members of the right faction had been infuriated by an attempt by Mr Gorman to disqualify one delegate, who allegedly did not meet signup requirements.