Speeches | June 19, 2019

Assembly - Grievance debate - John Setka

Victorian Parliament - June 19, 2019 -  Ms KEALY (Lowan) (14:01:27): This is actually my very first grievance, can you believe it? In five years of being in the Victorian Parliament, this is my first grievance. But that is not the reason that I grieve for Victorians today. I grieve for Victorians today because we have a Premier who talks a lot about calling out violence against women, but when it comes to calling out John Setka, or mentioning that man’s name in this place, he is completely and utterly silent when it comes to calling out violence against women. John Setka, as we know, has been in the media quite frequently lately in particular in relation to charges that he is facing which he has indicated he will plead guilty to. He has indicated that in the courts; he indicated that again just last week. However, it is the same John Setka that, while facing charges of harassing a woman and of breaching family violence orders, was also serving on the government’s very own board, the Building Industry Consultative Council, which ironically is responsible for the women in construction strategy. Now, the women in construction strategy, I would think, needs to have people, particularly women, on it. What an irony: we talk to women about trying to get more women into the construction industry. But more than anything else we certainly do not need anybody who has a cloud of charges over their head in relation to how they are treating women in the community. He is facing charges, which at one stage included throwing an iPad at a woman’s head causing injury and sending horrendous messages to a woman—in fact the list of things which was reported in the Age last week that the police found on Setka’s phone included calling a woman 25 times and sending her 45 text messages. He called her—and excuse me, I will refer to it broadly, Speaker—a 'weak, effing piece of shit’, a 'treacherous Aussie’, an 'effing c’ and an 'effing dog’. There is absolutely no place for people like that, like John Setka, who are willing to harass a woman to that level, to be on a government-appointed board responsible for developing women in construction strategy. As soon as the minister and the Premier became aware of these actions they should have immediately taken steps to denounce the actions of John Setka and stand him down—if not sack him—from this very, very important board. But what has the Premier done? All he has done is remain completely and utterly silent, saying that the matter is before the courts. This is even though Setka himself has admitted that he will plead guilty to these charges. But this is not a one-off; this is not the first time that we have seen appalling action from the leader of the CFMMEU, John Setka. In fact he comes with a historical line-up of charges. He has been jailed twice after being found in contempt of court. Over 20 years, he has been found guilty five times for assaulting a police officer, five times for assault by kicking, seven times for wilful trespass, five times for resisting arrest, once for theft and once for attempted theft by deception. How on earth is this man able to tell the Premier what he should be doing in the state of Victoria, particularly when it comes to getting women to serve in the construction industry? There is no way that women will ever work in the construction industry when you have got a leader of the key union in that precinct being John Setka. He appears to be such a good mate of the Premier that the Premier refuses, to this day, to say one bad word about John Setka or to call out his abhorrent violence against women, his harassment of women and even his breaches of family violence orders. We do not hear his name—not once, not one single time. That is a complete and utter blight on the Premier; it is a complete and utter blight on the Victorian Labor Party. I will expand this to the grieving of all Victorians, because it is not just the man at the top of the tree, it is not just the Premier, who refuses to call out Setka. When we look at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee over the last couple of weeks there were numerous ministers who were actually asked point-blank about whether they would call out John Setka and his abhorrent views on women. Would they finally walk their talk? Would they finally put their words into action? Would they call out John Setka for being the bully of women and the thug that he is? Do you know what the most appalling thing was? It was not the Minister for Women who would call him out; she remained silent. When it came to that opportunity of calling out violence against women, our own Minister for Women in Victoria refused to call out John Setka. When it came to the Attorney-General she also had the opportunity to put her thoughts on the record and call out John Setka for his appalling treatment of women. What was her response? Silence, again. That is what we hear over and over and over. After all the lecturing about the changes we need to make in Victoria and about the need to call out violence when we see it, we cannot stand by in silence when it comes to family violence. There is an amazing amount of money being spent on ad campaigns with a man leering at a woman saying, 'You need to call this man out’, but when it comes to the Premier, when he has actually got one of his own, when it is one of his Labor Party mates, when it is someone who is one of his advisers, he and all of the people on the Labor side of the chamber stay absolutely silent. I think that is a blight on everybody on the government side of the chamber. You have had an opportunity, and you know that this is not a one-off. You know that this is not a one-off case, and to hide behind the fact that this is currently before the courts is complete and utter nonsense, because you can pull back on so many instances in history where John Setka was an inappropriate person to put on a government-appointed board, particularly one which was devising policy to enhance women, and that is exactly what it comes down to. In fact do you know what it came to? It came not to the leader of the Victorian state, it came to Albo. Albo came to the rescue finally in early June—I think it was on 11 June—when he finally came out and called for John Setka to be sacked from the Labor Party. Now even though John Setka heads up the Victorian branch of the CFMMEU, why did it take the national leader of the Labor Party to call for Setka to be finally sacked from the party? Why was the Premier still silent? It was not until later that day that the Premier finally put out a statement. But did the Premier follow in Albo’s footsteps? Did he say, 'Yep, you know what, we might be a bit slow to the mark, but Albo got it right, and we also call out Setka for his abhorrent views about women’? No. All he said was, 'Albo got it right’. I quote: They cannot be defended in any context and I support the actions that Anthony Albanese has taken. He did not say that Setka should go from the Labor Party. He did not say that he should not be on our government-appointed board to devise a women in construction strategy. He did not even take any steps at that point in time to stand down John Setka pending the court case. If that is the big thing that Labor are hiding behind—'We can’t call out Setka because there’s a court case’—guess what? He is going to plead guilty. He has admitted he has harassed a woman. He has admitted that he has breached a family violence order, but all of you still remain silent when it comes to calling out one of your Labor mates, and that is an absolute disgrace, but it is reflective of this government. It is reflective of a government that is willing to put out glossy statements about the wonderful things you are doing for the people of Victoria—'Aren’t we great. We’re stamping out family violence. All of you other people have to call out family violence when you see it. All you other Victorians have to call out when people are leering at you on a train’. All those other people have to call out when women are not treated with equality, but when it comes to your union mates you stay silent. You cannot walk the walk, and what came to light over the weekend was perhaps a little bit of an insight into what is actually driving the reason behind this silence, because what did we see over the weekend? We saw the union come out and say, 'We are going to look at pulling funding from the Labor Party. We have got you by the short and curlies, Premier, because if you come out and you call out John Setka, we’re not going to give you millions of dollars for your next election campaign’. It is not just the CFMMEU who has come out and said that. We also saw similar comments from the Rail Tram and Bus Union just yesterday saying, 'We will also seek to pull political funding from Labor’s next campaign if you do not do as we say and you call out John Setka’. So I ask the Premier: who is actually running this state? When it comes to actually making policy around women and how we treat Victorian women, is it okay that we have somebody who is actually taking horrific actions against women—harassing women, as I said—calling 25 times, sending 45 text messages which contain horrific language? This is a maintained, awful harassment of a woman. It is horrific. The SPEAKER: Order! The member should be able to air the issues she is raising, but I just remind members in this debate on this particular topic that there is a matter before the court; it is not completed yet. The member is able to canvass broadly the issues, but I would just remind the member of the conventions of sub judice that the house applies to itself. Mr R Smith: On a point of order, Speaker, the member for Lowan is clearly canvassing things that are reported in the paper—in the general media. I am sitting next to her and I can see her notes. She is actually reporting things that are in the paper; she is not straying from that. They are publicly reported, they are widely reported, and the member, I believe, is quite in order to be canvassing the issues that she is. Mr Wakeling: On the point of order, Speaker, the member is actually referring to cases that occurred years ago. She is not talking about the case that is currently before the courts. Ms KEALY: On the point of order, Speaker, I am actually quoting from a document. It was a piece from the Sydney Morning Herald written by Jacqueline Maley and published on 16 June. I am happy to table the document if you would so like. The SPEAKER: Order! Firstly, the member for Ferntree Gully, I think, was referring to the fact that there might have been comments made previously. My understanding was—and from the comments just made by the member for Lowan—she is referring to more recent matters and a particular case that is before the courts at the moment. The fact that a matter is reported in the press does not mean that sub judice does not apply to that particular issue. Earlier on the member mentioned the issue and I allowed her to continue because she did not go to the specifics. She is going very much to the specifics now of the matter that is yet to be decided by the court. So I just ask the member to talk more broadly about the issues that she is raising. Ms KEALY: I am so looking forward to next Wednesday, 26 June, because that will be a telling moment for the Victorian government. It will be a telling moment for the Premier, because at that stage the court will have heard the guilty plea of John Setka to these exact charges of harassing a woman by carriage service and breaching a family violence order. So I, like many other Victorian women in particular, will be interested to see if that is the trigger point, because that is what we have heard the government hiding behind all the time: 'We’re not going to hear this matter, we’re not going to listen to it, we’re going to completely ignore it because it is before the courts’. Well, let us see what action the Premier takes on 26 June, because if he takes immediate action to call for Setka to stand down from the CFMMEU—when he says, 'I’m not going to accept another dollar of donations from the CFMMEU’, and when he says, 'We will not have any meetings, we will not have any relationships with the CFMMEU until John Setka is sacked as secretary of that union’—then I will be happy; then Victorian women will be happy. We have got a very, very key opportunity here because the Premier has hidden so many times, as have the Minister for Women and other ministers within the government—in fact every minister within the government. This is not a one-off case. I go back to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, where it was heard and found that Setka allegedly threatened to bury a concreter’s head next to Ned Kelly’s unless he was kicked off a worksite. Now, if this is not union thuggery, if it is not absolutely encouraging somebody who has a rich history when it comes to violence, harassment, absolute contempt for police and contempt for parliamentary systems, then I really ask: what sort of people do Labor think should be in positions of power in this state? This bloke, John Setka, has got so much power over the Premier by threatening to withhold donating union money from future Labor campaigns. Whether it is about factional numbers to make sure that the Premier remains Premier of this state or whether it is about factional numbers to make sure he retains his seat, that is what is motivating all the Labor MPs to stay silent. That is why I grieve for Victorians. I am so, so concerned that it is not the Premier who is running this state of Victoria. It is in fact people like John Setka, who are absolute thugs and who are violent against women. It is an absolute disgrace, and I will wait till 26 June to see what action the Premier will finally take to call out violence against women.

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