On Wednesday, Mr Setka pleaded guilty to harassing his wife through dozens of abusive text messages that included calling her a “drunken moron”, “c—”, “f—ing dog” and “weak piece of s—”.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said John Setka’s conviction for harassing his wife “adds to the case” for the controversial construction union boss to be kicked out of the Labor Party.
Ms Walters, who has said the couple have been through hell and back but are now repairing their marriage, told The Herald Sun she had decided to leave Mr Setka because the situation was “unhealthy for me and unhealthy for the children”.
She said “there were times” when she feared her husband but that she was “unwell” at the time and no longer feared him.
She said she deeply loved her husband and would not have returned to him if she did not think he could change.
Setka-ally and Rail Tram and Bus Union Victorian secretary Luba Grigorovitch posted on social media after the conviction that she “support[s] John on his journey for change”.
“I am prepared to give a man committed to change the opportunity to learn, heal & lead by example,” she said.
“Solidarity is not something we display only when the going is good. It’s when it’s the toughest – when our members are hurt and suffering the most that we need to stand by them.”
Mr Setka was released on a 12 month good behaviour bond and ordered to undergo a men’s behavioural change program and pay $1000 to an Aboriginal domestic violence service.
He apologised to his wife in a statement on Wednesday where he said he “never meant for her to be affected by my stress or behaviour”.
“I’ve sent messages and used language that I am deeply embarrassed by and regret. It’s not okay for us to speak to each other like that.
“There’s never been any physical violence in our relationship but we’re coming to terms with the fact that words can be just as hurtful. But despite the pain and suffering we love each other deeply.”
Setka a ‘negative’ for ALP: Albanese
Labor’s national executive will consider Mr Albanese’s motion to expel Mr Setka on July 5 but the Opposition Leader defended the party’s ongoing ties with the militant CFMEU, which is refusing to sack Mr Setka.
“The average construction worker should not be tarred with any of the issues that has brought the party into disrepute regarding Mr Setka,” Mr Albanese told Sky News.
“I’m not joining this anti-union chorus that the government wants people to be on because of the behaviour of John Setka.”
Mr Setka’s wife, Emma Walters, waived her legal right to anonymity following the case to declare her support for her husband and complained unnamed union officials had tried to silence her in favour of the Labor Party’s line.
Mr Albanese had been at pains to avoid referring to the court case in his list of complaints justifying Mr Setka’s expulsion, focusing instead on his conduct and abusive language as a union official and party member.
“These revelations that have come through the conviction of Mr Setka yesterday were well known in the movement,” Mr Albanese said.
“People couldn’t discuss the detail of them but now it is very clear this adds to the case I believe which is very clear that for a long period of time Mr Setka has brought the Labor Party into disrepute.
“I certainly don’t wish any harm to Mr Setka. I hope his relationship can be reset but this is a matter for the Labor Party on whether his ongoing membership is a positive for the party or a negative. I think it is very clear it is a negative which is why he should be expelled next Friday when the national executive meets.”
Mr Albanese said it was up to the union movement to determine its own destiny over Mr Setka’s continued role as head of the Victorian branch of the CFMEU after he refused to resign.
“I don’t seek to have control over that. I respect the fact that trade unions are democratic organisations that are controlled by their members,” he said.
“But the ACTU secretary Sally McManus and others have made it clear that they believe Mr Setka’s ongoing senior position in the union movement is something that doesn’t bring credit to the movement.”