Labor falling apart over union thug

New leader Anthony Albanese is driving Labor’s clown car over its first mine after detonating a bunfight with the militant CFMEU and its controversial leader, John Setka.

Not since the days of Norm Gallagher has a ratbag union leader posed such a headache for the Labor leadership. “Big Norm” was a militant communist who did secret deals with bosses, and whose BLF union was ultimately deregistered by the Cain Labor government. As it happened, the BLF was absorbed by none other than the CFMEU.

John Setka is an old-school union brawler cut from the same cloth as Gallagher. But it’s his brawls with women which are landing him in court and setting off a bomb in the Labor movement as Albanese demands that the union movement expels the punchy firebrand.

Anthony Albanese’s first captain’s call as Labor leader has sparked mutiny — it is not known yet how dangerous.

By demanding the ALP’s national executive expel union ratbag John Setka, the Labor leader has put the party’s ruling body in an invidious position.

It is caught between the imperative to preserve the new leader’s authority and the annoyance of union figures (plus the odd parliamentarian).

The spark that finally detonated this fight is the (apparently debunked) claim that Setka denigrated anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty. Even if it were true, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t be able to criticise Batty. Mark Latham has done so, trenchantly. If nothing else, Batty’s spiteful treatment of Tony Abbott was unconscionable.

The problem, though, is that Setka’s history with domestic violence is, shall we say, problematic. As reported on Whaleoil, Setka was busted for a Boxing Day biffo, and is also currently facing court for another case involving mistreatment of women.

The trigger for ACTU secretary Sally McManus moving against Setka was not his reported criticism of Rosie Batty but his confirmation on Wednesday he intended to plead guilty at a June 26 court hearing to using a carriage service to harass a woman…McManus says she has acted due to the allegations in court against Setka, including the charge on which he intends to enter a guilty plea.

But she also says Setka should resign even if he is not found guilty — “even if he is completely innocent of everything and even if he has no question to answer, you cannot put yourself before the greater movement”.


This is where it gets ugly for both Labor and the unions. Albanese is insisting that his sources are correct that Setka attacked Batty and that his expulsion demand was not triggered by the latest court case. On the other hand, McManus has been dodging on Setka for far too long, letting the festering boil became a life-threatening MRSI for the union movement and the Labor party.