ACTU’s Sally McManus calls on John Setka to apologise over Rosie Batty comments


Ms Batty, who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for her advocacy work on Sunday, said what should have been a day of celebration has been “hijacked” by the furore over Mr Setka.

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“I feel a bit sad that on a day I’m supposed to be celebrating an award, I’m struggling to know what to say about a man that I don’t even know,” she said.

Mr Setka, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, had not made contact with Ms Batty at the time of publication.

He has previously said his comments about Ms Batty did not amount to an attack on her and those claiming otherwise had taken him out of context or were being mischievous. He also said he had great respect for Ms Batty.

Pressure is mounting on Mr Setka to resign over the comments, which came after his lawyer last month told the Melbourne Magistrates Court he would plead guilty to using a carriage service to harass another woman.

A source close to the union movement said the ACTU was likely to step up its response if and when this occurred, as senior officials were of the view that a person convicted of such an offence had “no place” running a union branch.

Pressure is mounting on John Setka to resign over the comments.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Ms McManus has been criticised for her stance that it would be inappropriate to call for Mr Setka to resign or be sacked while the matter was before the courts.

Several unionists lashed Ms McManus on social media for what they saw as a “weak” initial response, after she tweeted an ACTU statement on Sunday condemning violence against women but refusing to comment on Mr Setka.

The issue has divided the union movement, with former ACTU assistant secretary Tim Lyons joining rank-and-file union members in calling for Mr Setka to be sacked.

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“He’s gotta go. Yesterday,” Mr Lyons tweeted on Saturday.

As an elected official, Mr Setka can be removed only if the CFMMEU successfully takes action against him for alleged misconduct, but such a process is time consuming.

Sharan Burrow, a former ACTU secretary who is now general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, praised Ms Batty as “one of the world’s heroes”.

Ms Burrow, who was herself appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia on Sunday for her service to industrial relations, said violence against women was “one of the scourges of our times”.

Ms Batty, whose son Luke was killed by her violent estranged husband, was named Australian of the Year in 2015 for her work raising awareness of family violence.

Asked about Mr Setka on Monday, she told the Herald and The Age: “Obviously it’s a very inappropriate situation for somebody of his leadership and influence to be in”.

Earlier, she told the ABC it was “ludicrous” for a union leader to accuse her of harming men’s rights through her advocacy work.

Attempts to reach Mr Setka on Monday were unsuccessful.

Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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