Labor Leader’s Death Struggle with Union Heavies

You almost have to feel sorry for new Labor leader Anthony Albanese. Taking the Opposition leadership after an election defeat is a poisoned chalice at the best of times. To be immediately thrown into a death-struggle with Labor’s union power-brokers is almost more than any new leader should be cursed with.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and its leader are cut from old and rough union cloth. The CFMEU is notorious for both its militancy and the propensity of some of its members for violence and intimidation. Its leader, John Setka is an old-fashioned union bovver-boy with a string of criminal convictions. But it is his domestic violence problems which are causing Labor so many headaches. Albanese and ACTU leader Sally McManus have vowed to expel Setka from the Labor movement. The unions are fighting back.

It’s become a death-struggle that neither can afford to lose and hold on to their credibility. So far, though, Albanese is losing the war.

Anthony Albanese and the ­­­­­nat­ional executive of the ALP have been forced to shelve their plans to oust union boss John Setka from the Labor Party after a judge threatened to slap them with a court injunction.

The backdown, announced to the Victorian ­Supreme Court by ALP lawyers late yesterday, means Mr Setka’s party membership cannot be revoked until judge Peter Riordan delivers a judgment on whether the federal Opposition Leader’s motion to expel him is lawful.

Pressed on when he would ­return a decision, Justice Riordan said he didn’t see any great ­urgency and needed to give careful consideration to a complex case…“My view is this is a matter that could well go to the High Court.”

What appeared as decisive ­action is shaping as a costly overreach.

This is a heavy blow to Albanese’s leadership, one that ultimately may turn out to be fatal. Naturally, the Labor leader is trying to be seen to stand firm.

The Opposition Leader this morning vowed to continue his push to remove Mr Setka — the Victorian secretary of the Construction, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union — despite the legal setback.

“We have not shelved anything. There will be a national executive meeting. It will expel John Setka,” Mr Albanese told the Nine Network…“We will get what we want. He will be out of the party. He has been suspended.”

This is not a fight Albanese can afford to lose. If Setka’s union mates are able to defy the party leadership, Albanese will be fatally damaged. He will be humiliated as possibly no Labor leader has since Arthur Calwell in 1963 was derided for being forced to wait attendance on “Labor’s 36 faceless men”.

Naturally, the government are making as much mileage as they can out of Albanese’s woes.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said this morning that…“The dog is wagging (the tail) as we expected he was. You are the tail in this relationship Albo” Mr Dutton told Mr Albanese on the Nine Network.

“It is interesting, this Kama Sutra model of leadership Albo has adopted. We call this political spin Albo has given you this morning. The fact is he has been outfoxed by John Setka.’’