Emma Walters insists her husband John Setka was never violent towards her despite “stomach turning” allegations the CFMMEU union boss threw an iPad at her face during a heated argument.
The claims, contained in an affidavit that was leaked to the media against her wishes, were central to the decision by ACTU leader Sally McManus to call on Mr Setka to stand down.
But he was not prosecuted over the allegations that were dropped in a plea deal with police.
In an interview with The New Daily, she insisted her husband had never been physically violent towards her.
“He threw an iPad during a heated argument. He never threw an iPad at me,” she said.
“I don’t want to rehash the intimate details of my marriage. And I don’t want to give his enemies ammunition, and it’s not just ammunition, nobody should have my statement.
“He never hit me.”
On Boxing Day, the pair were both arrested – Mr Setka after an argument at the family home where police were called, and Ms Walters for drink driving.
Ms Walters, who admits at times she feared Mr Setka, concedes she wasn’t thinking straight that day, when she fled the family home with her children after his arrest.
When she was stopped in western Victoria, allegedly on her way to Adelaide, she blew an “evidentiary breath test of .282”.
She has subsequently completed a detox program, blaming the stress of Mr Setka’s arrest on blackmail charges and spending years on bail before the case collapsed.
He was arrested in front of the couple’s young children.
“I went through a phase where I drank too much. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to handle it all. I’ve had to pull myself up on that and I did,” she said.
Ms Walters said that while she understood some people would regard her as “a victim” who was standing by her man, she still regarded herself as a feminist.
“It’s about not throwing stones and not judging people,” she said.
“It’s about not saying, ‘Oh, she’s the victim going back for more’.
“That doesn’t help people going through this … (if) you are going to get persecuted, lose your job and get shamed.”
She said the stigma of admitting family violence – including emotional violence and abuse that she concedes were an issue in her marriage – was stopping men and women from getting help.
“My statement should not be in the hands of the media. It was improperly obtained as part of a smear campaign against John. It was given for a purpose, a political purpose,” she said.
Mr Setka pleaded guilty on Wednesday to calling his wife 25 times and sending her 45 text messages containing “insults and offensive language” on one night in October last year.
He called her a “drunken moron”, a “f—— dog” and “weak piece of sh–” in the text messages.
Mr Setka was sentenced to a one-year good behaviour bond, a men’s behaviour program and required to make a $1000 donation to an Aboriginal family violence support network.
But Ms Walters insisted the couple’s marriage breakdown was a turning point and the couple had reconciled.
“He’s changed. He has genuinely changed. I got well and John has changed. We are going to another counselling session tomorrow. We go once a week. It’s changed our lives for the better. We are in the best place we have been for a very long time,” she said.
After reconciling with her husband after blow ups in October and January, she said she had never asked for her husband to be charged.
“That was completely taken out of my hands. It’s a very difficult situation because no two situations are the same. So that might be a good thing for some,” she said.
Mr Setka was upset he could not contact his wife or communicate with her during this period, something he complained of when discussing the matter at a CFMMEU meeting.
Ms Walters said it was disgusting the issue was being used to expel her husband from the Labor Party.
“Anthony Albanese doesn’t want to put the spotlight on Labor and how they lost the unlosable election. He wants to distance himself from unions,” she said.
And she was “disappointed” with ACTU leaders Michele O’Neil and Sally McManus, who unsuccessfully called for Mr Setka to resign from his job.
“That disappointed me greatly. I think they’ve let women down,” she said.
“They never once picked up the phone to ask me what was going on. They both knew it was me. They both knew it was part of my marriage breakdown. They knew that John Setka hadn’t said the Rosie Batty stuff. She’s admitted that.”
Mr Setka for his part admits he “stuffed up” and his language was abusive and inappropriate.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese insisted on Wednesday that Mr Setka was “gone” from the ALP and would be expelled next week.