CFMEU boss John Setka has made a qualified apology for threatening to “expose” Australian Building and Construction Commission inspectors and make their children ashamed.
The Victorian state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said his speech at a Melbourne rally on Tuesday had been taken out of context and he would never go to people’s homes or involve their families.
“The speech was made in the heat of the moment and reflects what’s really going on across the country under this anti-worker government,” he said in a statement on Friday.
“But as a family man and father of three beautiful children, if my comments were taken out of context or if they came across in a manner that was threatening, then I truly apologise.”
Mr Setka told the rally the union was going to expose ABCC inspectors and make their children “ashamed of who their parents are”.
“Let me give a dire warning to them ABCC inspectors, be careful what you do. You’re out there to destroy our lives,” he told a crowd of thousands on Tuesday.
“We will lobby their neighbourhoods, we will tell them who lives in that house and what he does for a living, or she, and we will go to their local footy club, we will go to their local shopping centre, they will not be able to show their faces anywhere.”
On Friday he said his speech reflected the depth of anger construction workers feel about the ABCC.
“We’ve never gone to people’s homes or involved their families and we never would. The thought of anyone going to someone’s home is reprehensible,” Mr Setka said.
Minister refers behaviour to police
Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash on Wednesday told the Senate she had referred the “intimidating behaviour” to the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten quickly distanced the party from Mr Setka’s comments, while former trade union boss Martin Ferguson reportedly urged Labor to cut ties with the CFMEU’s construction division in Victoria and expel Mr Setka.
The ABCC was established by the Howard government in 2005 to tackle illegal behaviour on construction sites. The Gillard Labor government scrapped it in 2012, replacing it with Fair Work Building and Construction, before the coalition reinstated it in 2016.