On Tuesday the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, called for Victorian union leader John Setka to be expelled from the Labor party, in part, because of disparaging comments he allegedly made about Rosie Batty.
On Wednesday a defiant Setka faced the press and said he would not resign from the party, insisting his comments were taken out of context. Some attendees from the meeting where the comments were reported to have been made have publicly confirmed his account.
Embattled union boss #JohnSetka has appeared with his wife Emma Walters to fight calls for him to quit over reported comments on #RosieBatty. He blames “false accusations.” She says “the political war against my husband must stop.” pic.twitter.com/RSL8c8KOg6
— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) June 12, 2019
But the fact remains that Setka is facing criminal charges, which his lawyer said he will plead guilty to later in June, for harassing a woman last year, and for persistently breaching a court order, over offending earlier this year.
These are not trivial matters and yet Setka was adamant on Wednesday that he will remain the Victorian secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.
“I’ve been elected by the union members. They are my bosses: If they want me to leave I will step down tomorrow,” he told The New Daily. “But I am not going stand down over innuendo and lies people have made up. This is dirty ALP politics.”
Exclusive: "This is dirty ALP politics. I’ve got the utmost respect for Rosie Batty." CFMEU leader John Setka breaks his silence, as Anthony Albanese moves to expel him from the Labor Party. @samanthamaiden #auspol https://t.co/vIsq9Wk0jA
— The New Daily (@TheNewDailyAu) June 11, 2019
Even after it was confirmed that Setka would plead guilty to criminal charges his position in the Labor party was not considered untenable. It was only reports of his alleged remarks about Rosie Batty that propelled Anthony Albanese to call for his expulsion.
And while there is something deeply, deeply, disturbing about disparaging the work of Rosie Batty, is there not something also disturbing about harassing a woman? About breaching a court order?
“I've been the leader of the Labor Party for less than two weeks Leigh, so I don't think anyone can say that I haven't been decisive on this issue.” – Opposition Leader @AlboMP on his move to expel union boss John Setka from the ALP. #abc730 #auspol pic.twitter.com/GK0Jcy48yW
— abc730 (@abc730) June 11, 2019
Even if Setka’s words were misconstrued about Rosie Batty, as he insists, are the charges laid by police, that he has said he will plead guilty to, misconstrued too?
It’s hard to reconcile that being disparaging towards an anti-violence campaigner is totally inconsistent with the ALP’s values, but pleading guilty to harassing a woman isn’t?
Anthony Albanese has only been Labor’s leader for two weeks but the party is more than just one person. And the charges against John Setka are not just two weeks old. A line could have been drawn earlier.