So what does it say to his male-dominated membership that he intends to remain in his role despite having been convicted of harassing his wife and showing scant contrition to the court?
Magistrate Belinda Wallington condemned Setka for his “nasty behaviour” and for his misogynistic language as she convicted and fined him. She said there was a lack of contrition and a need for him to take more responsibility for his actions.
It’s been a notable feature of this saga that Setka has taken little responsibility for what he has done, whether while speaking to union delegates in recent weeks or to other union officials.
Only after Wednesday’s hearing did he admit he had “screwed up” and wanted to change; that harassment by words or by text message can be as serious as by physical force.
Is it sincere? Is it enough?
Outside court both Setka and Walters described how hard their lives had been the past few years, of how Setka had been arrested in front of his kids on a charge of blackmail that later collapsed.
No doubt the stress had been intense from that and other politically motivated attacks.
But this issue, in the end, is about Setka’s conduct outside of politics and industrial relations. Stress is no excuse.
Police evidence shows Setka calling Walters 25 times in one night and sending her 45 text messages that included vile abuse.
It was a pattern of behaviour over several months and a classic form of family violence (which is not just physical violence; it can be emotional, psychological).
It is a welcome change that these cases are pursued by police and the courts even after a couple reconciles.
One tragedy of this case is that the union movement in Australia has done much over the past decade to raise awareness of these issues, and has won for millions of workers world-leading rights to domestic violence leave.
Victoria’s Labor government has also championed the issue with a royal commission and public advocacy.
Setka’s CFMMEU branch had taken an important role in that public advocacy. As recently as last December the union said it was “supporting 16 days of activism against gendered violence”. In such a male-dominated industry, its advocacy could save lives. A flyer it distributed to members described violence against women as including psychological and emotional abuse, as well as physical.
The flyer correctly noted that, whether it is physical, sexual or emotional, the abuse is overwhelmingly committed by men against women.
Now it’s up to the CFMMEU’s leadership and members to decide where they stand on family violence and whether Setka should be charged under union rules or not.
If he is, it could result in Setka’s removal.
It’s a key question of our times. Have attitudes to family violence really changed or is it still acceptable for a public figure and perpetrator of family violence to remain in his powerful role?
Ben Schneiders is an investigations reporter at The Age with a background reporting on industrial relations, business, politics and social issues. A two-time Walkley Award winner, he has been part of The Age’s investigative unit since 2015.