By Joe Montero
The vendetta being carried out against John Setka, the secretary of Victoria’s Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) is wrong. Plain and simple. It is those lining up to sink the boot, who are doing guilty of misconduct.
Respecting the right of women not to be subjected to either physical or verbal abuse is fundamental. We should all agree that no quarter should be given to it. But the accusations being made against Setka are something else.
Two things are being hung out for the purpose of character assassination. The first is Setka’s bad behaviour towards his wife. He admits that is acted wrongly. Both had been under intense pressure for some time, and it had an effect on their relationship. That they are now standing together should count for something, and it is wrong to use this matter for political advantage.
The other is, he has been accused of having said some terrible things against Rosie Batty, the campaigner to stop violence against women. This allegation came from an individual at a union meeting, who happens to be an opponent of Setka. At the very least, this should be questioned. It hasn’t been.
Others at the same meeting, have publicly stated that what has been attributed to John Setka was not said. But this has been buried under the tide of accusations.
It all boils down to one thing. The outrage being orchestrated, is not really about defending the rights of women. It’s a cynical act by some, manipulating the fact that most Australians want more to be done to protect women at risk to, using the guise of moral outrage, to wage a political war.
The accusations are unsubstantiated, and in the brave new world that Australia is entering, it seems that to be accused in the absence of evidence, is enough to be pronounced guilty.
A slide into targeting individuals through trial by media and the imposition of increasingly undemocratic laws and practices, are the greatest threat to human rights in Australia today. And what is being done to Setka is very much part of this slide.
In Goebbels style, the accusations are stated without proof and repeated again and again, with a good dose of name calling. This is how allegations are used to replace the truth. We are seeing far too much of it about these days.
Unfortunately, new Labor leader Anthony Albanese, for whatever reason is, at least for now, choosing to tow the line, and has even promised to have the union leader removed from the party. By doing this, he is not doing Labor any favours. He is dead wrong to give credence to a lynch mob, far less concerned with the rights of women, than it is about political ambitions.
At the head of it all, sit the Coalition parties and their backers.
John Setka has been victim of organised, relentless and unjust attacks for some time, aimed at throwing enough mud to ensure that some of it may stick.
The timing of this latest attack is important. The Morrison government is poised to move on its intention to change industrial relations laws, and make it much more difficult for unions to operate and meet the needs of their members. It wants to further erode wages and conditions at work, impose more casualised work and more.
The CFMMEU is seen as a significant barrier to these ambitions and Setka the soft target. In the eyes of this government, the union has to go. Hence the move to impose more severe controls on what it can do, and setting the stage for the union’s de-registration in the near future.
The attack on Setka is also a diversion, aimed to take public attention off the core intent. The bonus for the government is, if it serves to hamper the ability of the unions to act together to defend of union rights, so much the better.
Failure to stand behind this attack, will play right into the hands of the Morrison government, and undermine the position of unions as a whole along the way.
Those currently targeting the union leader, whether conscious of it or not, are doing the job for a government, which is proving its scant regard for basic rights, including those of women.
They should pull themselves out of this muck.