Union boss pitches in with campaign cash for Mandurah mayoral candidate Rhys Williams

The secretary of a powerful trade union with ties to the Labor party has been revealed as a financial backer of Mandurah mayoral hopeful Rhys Williams.

Steve McCartney, secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) in Western Australia, is named as donating $3025 to Mr Williams’ campaign in a disclosure required under election laws.

Mr Williams said the donation was from union members in the City who wanted to support his campaign and wouldn’t be relevant if he was elected mayor, given the stringent legal requirements on councillors to disclose conflicts of interest.

“Some of the members obviously live in the area and so I just got a phone call from someone within the union saying they were really worried about the employment issues in the area and so they were very keen to see someone else in the role and that was why they offered the donation,” he said.

“It was offered to me by members, but I would assume it would be classified as a union donation.”

Even though the AMWU is a financial supporter of the Labor party, Mr Williams denied accepting the donation damaged his ability to claim to be politically unaligned.

“I didn’t seek a donation from anybody and the donations I have received have all been given to me by people who obviously are supporting my candidacy and my vision I have laid out,” he said.

“So I don’t think it undermines my independence at all.

“I don’t have any affiliation to the Labor party and I don’t see that a donation from the union really has any impact on my ability to be able to lead the City.”

A spokeswoman for the AMWU said the union had a policy of “assisting financially representatives and organisations who uphold our union’s values in the community and this donation is an example of that”.

“The AMWU has a strong tradition of working with the community in Mandurah, and Rhys is a young man who is a great advocate for development and job creation in the region,” she said.

“Many of our members live in Mandurah and unemployment and underemployment have been issues in that community – as you would know they are also concerns for the AMWU and other trade unions.”

According to the election disclosures, Mr Williams, who is the only mayoral candidate to declare donations, had received $22,355 in electoral gifts by October 6.

Other council candidates had raised a combined total of $6475.

Mr Williams’ rival in the mayoral race, Marina Vergone, said she had paid for her campaign herself and had turned down offers of donations.