“Either he resigns now or these rules will come into place and he won’t be able to stay on the line and he’s going to go down anyway. Is it worth taking 1.4 million union members down with him?”
The Morrison government has singled out Mr Setka in its push to legislate the “Ensuring Integrity” bill and create a list of criminal offences that provide grounds for the automatic disqualification of a union or other registered organisations.
The bill is fiercely resisted by Labor and the union movement but is close to passing the Senate, with the government confident of securing support from independent Cory Bernardi and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – needing only Senator Lambie’s vote to make it law.
Without Senator Lambie behind the plan, the government would be forced to go to Centre Alliance and its two senators, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, without any certainty the pair would support the bill.
Senator Lambie said she would try to stop the bill in this fortnight of Parliament if Mr Setka stood down and ended his behaviour as a “bully” in the union movement.
“Instead of being such a bloody meathead, he needs to wake up to himself and he needs to resign because he’s doing a hell of a lot of damage,” she said.
“He’s doing no good whatsoever and it’s all just damage. He’s finished. He’s gone.”
Mr Setka was given a good behaviour bond in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in June after pleading guilty to harassing his wife, Emma Walters.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus has said most of the union movement wanted Mr Setka to resign as secretary of the construction division of the CFMMEU in Victoria.
While Mr Setka lost a bid in court to prevent Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese forcing him out of the Labor Party, he has aired plans to appeal the decision.
Mr Albanese said last month that Mr Setka was not assured of gaining leave to appeal and the Labor Party was determined to expel him.
“The Australian Labor Party takes issues of domestic violence seriously. The fact is that Mr Setka’s actions over a long period of time, across a range of issues, have brought the Labor Party into disrepute,” the Opposition Leader said.
The Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill passed the lower house in July and is now before the Senate, where it is facing a review before a final decision by November.
“By the time that’s finished I’ll be ready to take that vote unless he resigns first,” Senator Lambie said.
“If he wants to resign and put his members’ interests’ first, then we can probably vote this away and get rid of this bill in the next fortnight.
“So that’s up to John Setka if he wants to continue to put the pain on the 1.4 million union members out there. That’s what it comes to.
“If I was him I’d bloody smarten up for once in his goddamned life and stand down immediately.”
Senator Griff said the resignation of Mr Setka would “ease the immediate political pressure” to pass the bill but said there were others in the union and corporate world who needed to do the right thing.
If I was him I’d bloody smarten up for once in his goddamned life and stand down immediately.
Senator Jacqui Lambie to John Setka
Senator Patrick said he would not pass the Ensuring Integrity bill in its current form and the law needed to address wider issues than one individual.
The two Centre Alliance senators are holding out for changes to the bill to prevent Attorney-General Christian Porter gaining ministerial discretion to deregister unions and they want to prevent criminal convictions overseas being grounds for punishing a union leader in Australia.
A Senate committee will hold hearings into the bill this Thursday and Friday in Canberra and Brisbane, with any final decision on the bill likely to wait until the committee reports in October.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.