Union leader John Setka has commenced court action to quash Anthony Albanese’s attempt to expel him from the Labor Party, claiming it is illegal.
Mr Setka claims the Labor leader’s public statements confirming he will be expelled denied him due process and natural justice. He says they pre-judged the outcome of the expulsion process.
The New Daily has confirmed the CFMMEU leader issued legal proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court on Thursday.
If granted, the interlocutory injunction would legally prohibit the ALP national executive from granting Mr Albanese’s request to expel Mr Setka as planned on July 15.
Mr Setka is represented by lawyers from Doogue + George. He was previously represented by his lawyer wife’s former firm, Gordon Legal.
“It means before the matter is heard before the Supreme Court, the ALP national executive can’t do anything,” a Labor source said.
The legal action is another blow to Mr Albanese’s timetable to expel Mr Sekta. He has already granted the union leader a 10-day extension to his plan to expel Mr Setka on July 5.
When he announced his intention to expel Mr Setka, Mr Albanese cited comments the controversial union leader was alleged to have made about anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty. Other union leaders and ACTU secretary Sally McManus have subsequently confirmed Mr Setka did not disparage Ms Batty.
Mr Albanese said the planned expulsion was unrelated to charges Mr Setka faced using a carriage service to harass a woman. After Mr Setka was sentenced on those changes in June – and his wife Emma Walters was revealed as the victim – Mr Albanese said that conduct was also a factor.
“It is a fact that Mr Setka, of course, pleaded guilty to very serious charges of harassment. It’s also a fact that his wife Emma Walters identified herself as the victim of that harassment that included 45 text messages which were of a nature that clearly, clearly put, I think, Mr Setka outside the principles and values that Labor holds with regard to issues of domestic violence,” Mr Albanese said.
“If Mr Setka was a rugby league player he would have been kicked out of his club over the revelations that have been made. He will be kicked out of the Australian Labor Party because, quite frankly, his ongoing activities, statements and behaviour are not consistent with the membership values of the Australian Labor Party.
“My position is very clear, which is that Mr Setka, by his own actions, has placed himself outside the membership of the Australian Labor Party and that will be formalised by the national executive on July the 15th.”
Concerns about the need to follow due process in the Setka matter were noted by Labor frontbencher Tony Burke on Monday.
“You’ve got to make sure in anything like this you follow procedural fairness,” he said.
“When the letter came through requesting an extra 10 days to prepare his arguments then, in terms of procedural fairness I think it’s neither here nor there, particularly given that he’s already suspended.”
Last month, Mr Setka told The New Daily that if Mr Albanese tried to expel him from the party without due process when the ALP executive met in July, he would fight him in court.
“My view is I will challenge it. [But] It’s up to the [CFMMEU] members because it wouldbe a costly exercise,” Mr Setka said.
“I am a little bit old school, I actually think you should have actually done something before you get cooked on a spit about it.
“The bottom line is I am for fair play. They’ve accused me of bagging Rosie Batty. Now, it’s clear that wasn’t said. Well, good luck to them. It’s going to be a long, drawn-out thing.”
At the time, Mr Setka also threatened to cut union funding to the ALP.
The legal stoush is unfolding as the Morrison government moves to make it easier to degregister “lawbreaking” unions, including the CFMMEU.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the laws, which were introduced to federal parliament on Thursday, represented a major test for the ALP.
“The militant CFMMEU, for instance, has been penalised more than $16 million by the courts for over 2000 contraventions of the law in recent years,” he said.
“This repeated law-breaking, particularly in our vital building and construction sector, hampers the delivery of goods and services and increases the cost of vital infrastructure projects like roads, schools and hospitals – a cost that’s ultimately borne by taxpayers,” he said.