Vale Stewart West

Published: 29 Mar 2023

In Memoriam: Stewart West

Former Waterside Workers Federation Branch President and Labor Member for Cunningham in the Federal Parliament, Stewart West, passed away in March, aged 89. Born in Forbes, NSW, and a long time waterside worker and union activist, West volunteered as a campaign manager for Rex Connor (a key political ally in Parliament of Gough Whitlam) while also representing his comrades as the President of the Port Kembla branch of the WWF from 1972 to 1977. Concurrently, between 1968 and 1977 he served as Secretary of ALP’s Cunningham Federal Electorate Council.  
West was elected to Parliament at a byelection caused by the sudden death of Connor in 1977, and he went on to serve as a Minister in the Cabinets of Prime Minister Bob Hawke, variously as Minister for Administrative Services, Minister for Housing and Construction and Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs during the mid-1980s. He was instrumental in the environmental campaigns to save the Franklin River in Tasmania and Kakadu in the Northern Territory. Locally, he was instrumental in the development of Labor's Steel Plan and he helped diversify Port Kembla with the grain handler. 
As the only member of the Socialist Left faction of the Labor Party serving in Cabinet in the Hawke-era, West was often at loggerheads with the more conservative Right faction of the ALP. This came to a head when he resigned his Ministerial position in defiance of a Cabinet decision on uranium mining, highlighting again the principled anti-nuclear position of both the Illawarra community he represented and the anti-war membership of the WWF. 
"Stewart West represented the very best of maritime and waterside activists. Born on the cusp of the Second World War and working as a young man amidst the nuclear threat of the Cold War, he stood for peace and nuclear non-proliferation like all of his many of his principled comrades in the WWF," said MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "He also saw that it would be workers, unions and through them, Labor Governments, that could ultimately deliver the landmark environmental protections that would preserve Australian wilderness areas for future generations." 
West was re-elected at six general elections between 1977 and 1990 before retiring in 1993. 



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney