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Union movement mourns 'not for sale' activist Peter Simpson


“Magnificent trade unionist” and Queensland political heavyweight Peter Simpson has died of melanoma aged 57.

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Simpson, or Simmo as he was widely known, was secretary of the Electrical Trades Union’s Queensland and Northern Territory branch between 2009 and 2016.

His was passionately opposed to public asset sales in Queensland, which he helped remove from the long-term political agenda by working to bring down state governments on both sides of politics over the issue.

Simpson launched the Not For Sale campaign against premier Anna Bligh’s Labor government in 2012 before taking on Campbell Newman’s Liberal National Party administration over asset sales from 2015.

“Simmo stood up for our members and all Queenslanders and their future when he campaigned against privatisation of public assets; he was a warrior for the working class and will be greatly missed by our union family,” ETU state secretary Peter Ong said in a statement.

Simpson’s staunch opposition to asset sales led to his suspension from the Labor Party during the final term of the Bligh government and his union campaigned heavily against sitting Labor MPs over the issue during the 2012 election.

He led the ETU in another anti-asset sale campaign against the LNP during the 2015 election, which brought Labor back into government in a landslide win for Annastacia Palaszczuk. Simpson also campaigned for the current Palaszczuk Labor government’s re-election in 2017.

ETU state assistant secretary Stuart Traill added that Simpson was also passionate about fighting nuclear energy, for Indigenous rights and against discrimination and white supremist movements.

“Simmo was never afraid to stand up and be counted on issues that some see as non-union business,” he said.

Simpson was born in Harden in NSW and started working an apprentice linesman in nearby Young aged 17. He then moved to southeast Queesland to work at an overhead linesman in 1991.

After 17 years as a rank-and-file ETU member he became a state manager in 1997 before being elected as assistant state secretary under then-secretary Dick Williams in 2004.

He was elected to the top job in 2009 and held the position until his melanoma diagnosis in 2016.  Simpson is survived by his mother, his wife Penny, their children and grandchildren. Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus paid tribute to him on Twitter.

“Vale Peter (Simmo) Simpson @Simmo_63,” she tweeted.

“A magnificent trade unionist and a fighter right until the end.”


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