| 12.06,19. 03:24 PM |
John Setka defies calls to quit CFMEU leadership after moves to expel him from Labor Party
Video: John Setka decries "false allegations" against him as he vows to stay on at the CFMEU (Photo: AAP/Stefan Postles) (ABC News)
Victorian construction union boss John Setka has defied calls from both sides of politics to step down, after days of intense scrutiny over his position.
Labor Party officials yesterday suspended the party membership of Mr Setka, who is the Victorian and Tasmanian secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese moved to expel Mr Setka from the Labor Party after reports he disparaged the work of anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty.
The report in The Age newspaper said he had told a union meeting that men had fewer rights because of Ms Batty's work.
"What was reported in relation to Rosie Batty was completely false," Mr Setka said at a defiant press conference in Melbourne today.
"There's no reason for me to resign," Mr Setka said.
"I'm staying as the secretary."
He said he did not denigrate Rosie Batty during his speech, but instead spoke about changes which had been made since a royal commission into family violence.
The Victorian branch of the CFMEU elects its leaders through its members, who Mr Setka called his "bosses".
"As long as I am elected leader, one thing won't change: I will always put our members first," he said.
Calls to quit blamed on 'dirty politics'
Pressure has been mounting on Mr Setka to stand down, with Labor politicians joining Prime Minister Scott Morrison in calling for his resignation.
Many within the labour movement are now waiting to see what steps will be taken by Sally McManus, the head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Mr Setka is a heavyweight in the CFMEU, which has long-standing links to the Labor Party and provides political donations on a state and federal level.
He said there appeared to be "some sort of push" inside his union to remove him.
"I've got a view of where the union should be in regards to the ALP, and some people probably don't share that view," he said.
"So there's a lot of dirty politics at work here."
Mr Setka was flanked by his wife Emma Walters at the press conference, who said her family had been "dragged through the mud".
"We've both said and done things that we aren't proud of, but this is not an opportunity to get John Setka," Ms Walters said.
Electrical union backs Setka
Following the press conference, Mr Setka was backed by Electrical Trades Union Victoria secretary Troy Gray, who called for Mr Albanese to end his bid to have Mr Setka removed from the party.
"Yesterday Anthony Albanese made disparaging remarks about Mr Setka and his alleged 'views'," Mr Gray said.
"Today we've learned they were based off of a complete fabrication and Albanese needs to withdraw."
Yesterday, Mr Albanese said motion moved to expel Mr Setka was due to a range of factors, including the reported comments about Ms Batty.
He also pointed to comments Mr Setka made about inspectors working for the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which drew widespread condemnation at the time.
"If people want to expel me from the Labor Party over false accusations and over things I've never said, then so be it," Mr Setka said.
Earlier this year, Mr Setka was charged with using a carriage service to harass a woman.
Mr Albanese yesterday said the moves to remove him from the ALP were unrelated to those court proceedings.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he would not weigh in on whether the CFMEU should dump Mr Setka, but confirmed he had removed the union leader from a government advisory board.