CMFEU boss on brink, digs in

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - GREG BROWN EWIN HAN­NAN

John Setka is defying pres­sure to stand down as Vic­to­rian boss of the mil­i­tant con­struc­tion union de­spite ad­mit­ting he told a group of union­ists that do­mes­tic vi­o­lence laws had be­come too skewed against men.

ACTU sec­re­tary Sally McManus last night rushed back from a UN labour fo­rum to ad­dress grow­ing con­cerns in union ranks about Mr Setka’s re­fusal to quit the lead­er­ship of the Con­struc­tion Forestry Mar­itime Min­ing and En­ergy Union.

Mr Setka has denied re­ports that, at a meet­ing of the CFMEU’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive, he blamed Rosie Batty’s ad­vo­cacy for a lack of men’s rights in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases.

The Aus­tralian un­der­stands Ms McManus left an In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion meet­ing in Geneva to deal with the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing Mr Setka, with senior union fig­ures pri­vately call­ing for the con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure to step aside.

Union sources said Mr Setka had lost the con­fi­dence of his deputy, Shaun Rear­don.

Anthony Al­banese yes­ter­day de­clared he would push for Mr Setka’s La­bor Party mem­ber­ship to be re­voked while Vic­to­rian Premier Daniel An­drews took moves to sack him from a state gov­ern­ment body.

Mr Setka hit back at the Op­po­si­tion Leader and ac­cused him of fall­ing for “dirty ALP pol­i­tics” while deny­ing mak­ing den­i­grat­ing com­ments about Ms Batty.

But he con­firmed to The New Daily he had told a group of union­ists his lawyers had ad­vised him do­mes­tic vi­o­lence laws had be­come skewed against men af­ter the Vic­to­rian royal com­mis­sion into fam­ily vi­o­lence.

“Peo­ple are mak­ing up lies about what I said. Ev­ery time I see Rosie Batty I want to give her a hug. I am not go­ing to stand down over in­nu­endo and lies. This is dirty ALP pol­i­tics,” Mr Setka said.

Union of­fi­cials said the com­ments by Mr Setka to The New Daily were damn­ing and fur­ther evidence of why he should re­sign.

“He says re­port­ing of what he said about Rosie Batty were an out­right lie but then says her cam­paign­ing led to laws be­ing skewed against men. The gen­eral view is he has to go,” one of­fi­cial said.

If Mr Setka re­fuses to quit in com­ing days, union sources said ac­tion could be taken against him at a meet­ing next week of the CFMEU’s con­struc­tion divi­sion ex­ec­u­tive. Sources said a mo­tion could be passed that he has brought the union into dis­re­pute.

La­bor’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee yes­ter­day agreed to sus­pend Mr Setka’s party mem­ber­ship ahead of a meet­ing on July 5 to vote on Mr Al­banese’s mo­tion to ex­pel him.

Mr Setka, who is ex­pected to hold a press con­fer­ence to­day, in­di­cated last month he would plead guilty to us­ing a car­riage ser­vice to ha­rass a woman.

Bill Shorten yes­ter­day broke his si­lence on the saga and backed Mr Al­banese’s push to ex­pel Mr Setka from the party.

The for­mer op­po­si­tion leader, whose six-year lead­er­ship was sup­ported by Mr Setka and the Vic­to­rian CFMEU, said he was a friend of Ms Batty and had reached out to her.

“The re­ported com­ments are ou­tra­geous,” a spokesman for Mr Shorten said.

“Mr Shorten is a friend of Ms Batty and has great re­spect for her work. Mr Shorten sup­ports the party’s ac­tions against Mr Setka.”

Mr Al­banese said he had writ­ten to La­bor fed­eral sec­re­tary Noah Carroll to ad­vise he would move for Mr Setka to be ex­pelled from the ALP at next month’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive meet­ing.

Re­ports on Mr Setka’s com­ments about Ms Batty were first pub­lished by Nine news­pa­pers on Satur­day.

“John Setka does not be­long in our party be­cause of the views that he holds,” Mr Al­banese said.

“I spoke to Rosie Batty yes­ter­day about her concern with the views he ex­pressed. She’s dis­ap­pointed this was a distractio­n from the hon­our she re­ceived yes­ter­day. Rosie Batty is a great cam­paigner against fam­ily vi­o­lence and the idea she should be den­i­grated by some­one like John Setka is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able to me as leader of the Aus­tralian La­bor Party and I don’t want him in our party. It’s that sim­ple.

“My concern here is John Setka un­der­mines the cred­i­bil­ity of the trade union move­ment through the po­si­tion he holds and the public views he’s ex­pressed.”

Mr An­drews, who re­fused to crit­i­cise Mr Setka un­til yes­ter­day, backed Mr Al­banese and also moved to re­move the union boss from the state gov­ern­ment’s Build­ing In­dus­try Con­sul­ta­tive Coun­cil: “Rosie Batty is a per­son of great courage who has fun­da­men­tally changed the way our coun­try views and acts on fam­ily vi­o­lence. She is rightly ad­mired by all Aus­tralians.

“The com­ments made about her by Mr Setka are dis­grace­ful and his re­fusal to apol­o­gise for them is ap­palling. They can­not be de­fended in any con­text and I sup­port the ac­tions Anthony Al­banese has taken.”

Scott Morrison said Mr Setka should have re­signed his po­si­tion “a long time ago” and de­clared he was merely “one La­bor thug in the union move­ment”.

“They can root out one La­bor thug in the union move­ment, but there’s plenty more where John Setka came from. Be­cause the CFMEU is one of the most lit­i­gated against and charged unions in the coun­try. Their charge sheet is longer than your arm. And John Setka is just one of many,” the Prime Min­is­ter said.

Vic­to­rian Trades Hall Coun­cil sec­re­tary Luke Hi­lakari said Mr Setka needed to withdraw his com­ments about Ms Batty.

“We have the deep­est re­spect for Rosie Batty and what she’s done,’’ Mr Hi­lakari said.

“We be­lieve every­one has a right to feel safe and be re­spected. Prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion, in­clud­ing misog­yny, have no place in our move­ment.”

Aus­tralian Work­ers Union na­tional sec­re­tary Daniel Walton said the al­le­ga­tions against Mr Setka were “quite damn­ing, and, frankly, quite di­a­bol­i­cal”.

“I think the stances that have been taken by Sally McManus and, of course, Anthony Al­banese, leader of the La­bor Party, send a pretty strong sig­nal that this kind of be­hav­iour, if proven guilty, cer­tainly won’t be ac­cepted in the trade union move­ment and shouldn’t be ac­cepted any­where in so­ci­ety,’’ he told ABC tele­vi­sion.

Master Builders Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Denita Wawn said, while the stand taken by Mr Al­banese and the ACTU was re­fresh­ing, “it’s cold com­fort for our mem­bers who daily bear the brunt of bul­ly­ing from con­struc­tion unions and their of­fi­cials”.

“On the up­side, this can be a turn­ing point for La­bor if they take the next step and seize this op­por­tu­nity to re­ject the CFMEU’s toxic cul­ture of bul­ly­ing,’’ she said.

Ms Wawn said Mr Setka was “just one of many con­struc­tion union bul­lies … who have records of breaking the law. Many are still in pow­er­ful po­si­tions oversee­ing mil­lions in member’s money”.

AARON FRAN­CIS

CFMEU leader John Setka

John Setka, sec­ond from right, at a CFMEU Vic­to­rian branch meet­ing cel­e­brat­ing the union’s sup­port for women

COLIN MURTY

Anthony Al­banese yes­ter­day

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