Ferry McFerryface unmasked: FOI reveals minister chose name, not the public

Freedom of Information request reveals public wanted ferry named after Clean Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan

A freedom of information request has revealed that Ferry McFerryface, a controversial new name for a Sydney ferry supposedly chosen by the public, was not actually voted in but chosen by the New South Wales transport minister.

Last November the NSW government announced that the name - a reference to the UK’s infamous Boaty McBoatface - had been chosen by an overwhelming number of voters as part of a $100,000 campaign to pick the names of six new ferries.

At the time the transport minister, Andrew Constance, declared it had come second, after Boaty McBoatface. “Given Boaty was already taken by another vessel, we’ve gone with the next most popular name nominated by Sydneysiders,” he said.

But a Channel Nine freedom of informationrequest revealed on Tuesday that Ferry McFerryface only received 182 votes and was not the popular choice.


The real winning response, with more than 2,000 votes, was to name the ferry after the founder of Clean Up Australia and 1994 Australian of the Year, Ian Kiernan.

Fairfax Media reported at the time that, weeks before the announcement, Kiernan had been told by the department that his name would grace the ferry. The day before the Ferry McFerryface announcement, he was informed that he had been replaced.

On Tuesday, Constance issued a statement saying that in an initial round of nominations, prior to voting, Ferry McFerryface received 229 nominations compared with 17 for Ian Kiernan.

“The second round of voting did not include Ferry McFerryface as an option,” he said.

He also defended the name as “branding” that was only intended to be temporary.

“We always said we would just run it over summer, have a look at how it goes,” he told Channel Nine. “It’s had a bit of international recognition, bit of lighthearted fun, lots of kids taking selfies.

“We followed the panel recommendations for the first five but, for the last one, we thought, ‘Let’s do something a bit different’.”

In the statement he said: “The ferry is officially named Emerald 6 for maritime purposes and branded Ferry McFerryface.”

A Transport for NSW briefing, obtained by Channel Nine, revealed that, 12 months before the announcement, the department warned Constance to “mitigate the risk of satirical naming campaigns”. The minister signed off on the plan while adding the proviso that there be “no fish names”.

But, a year later, he intervened to christen the boat Ferry McFerryface.

The other five ferries were named after the obstetrician Catherine Hamlin, the ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, the heart surgeon Victor Chang and the Indigenous leaders Pemulwuy and Bungaree.

The non-McFerryface names were suggested by a panel including the directors of the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Australian Museum, among others.

The initial announcement in November was greeted with disdain on social media and strongly opposed by the Maritime Union of Australia.

The assistant secretary of the union’s Sydney branch, Paul Garrett, told 2GB radio Constance was “taking the absolute mickey out of public transport in this state.” – Guardian