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Byron Shire
April 22, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: on John Setka

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But fortunately he does exist, so it’s just a matter of slapping on a few bells and whistles, dimming the lights and tuning up the spooky music, and hey presto! The abrasive trade unionist is transformed into the demon prince, a bogey man designed to scare small children and gullible swinging voters.

Setka is far from a model citizen: long before he pleaded guilty to harassment, he had a long record of belligerent and abusive behaviour, often breaking the rules as a militant defender of what he saw as the legitimate rights of his constituent workers.

He has been a target of the conservative right for some years, and in the process has morphed into something far more menacing than the Victorian secretary of the CFMMEU. For neo-Liberals, indeed the entire capitalist class, Setka has become a symbol of everything they hate and fear about the union movement.

It is not just the CFMMEU, although that is the largest and most obvious threat to their comfortable dominance. It is about breaking down the entire basis of collective action, reducing unions to mere individuals who can never effectively oppose the far greater resources of the employers.

And since the Labor Party is – or at least used to be – the political arm of the trade union movement, the supposed sins of John Setka can be seamlessly grafted on to the ALP leader of the time. One of the constant refrains of the last three years has been the accusation that the CFMMEU was Bill Shorten’s paymaster, and because John Setka was an official of the rogue organisation, and was frequently notorious, especially in the pages of the Murdoch press, then the entire apparatus of opposition was illegitimate, if not actually corrupt.

So when the current dispute over whether Setka should be expelled from the CFMMEU or the Labor Party or preferably both hit the headlines, Scott Morrison and his media myrmidons couldn’t believe their luck. Not only did the controversy provide a very welcome distraction from the media furore over the AFP raids on journalism, but it allowed them to ramp up a still more virulent anti-union campaign, to resurrect bills previously rejected in the senate to further emasculate whatever remaining potency was left to the ACTU’s dwindling base.

ScoMo and the troops will be fervently hoping that the expulsions will not succeed – as they readily admit, for them John Setka is the gift that  keeps on giving. And equally, Anthony Albanese is determined to finally get rid of the albatross around his neck, as is Sally McManus, the ACTU secretary.

There may be some dispute over exactly what Setka said to set off the row, about how and even whether anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty was brought into a speech which touched on the diminution of men’s rights. Apparently Setka was able to convince McManus that reports that he did so were erroneous, and that his remarks had been taken out of context. Albanese is not persuaded.

But that is no longer the point: as McManus has said, Setka’s reputation – and particularly the admission of harassment – is damaging the entire Labor movement at a time when things have not been going too well anyway, and it would behove him to step down to avoid further harm.

Setka bluntly refuses: he has been elected by his members and as long as they support him – and they apparently do – this is what matters. Which means that both Albanese and McManus will have to either concede, which would be a disastrous humiliation, or fight on, which could lead to a dangerous split, certainly within the CFMMEU, probably spreading into the ACTU and very possibly into the ALP organisation and even into the caucus.

McManus is the most immediately vulnerable – she has no power to force the issue, the CFMMEU is an autonomous body within her ranks. She can try to drag them into line, but if they tell her to go and get stuffed, she is, well, stuffed, and will just have to cop it as sweet as she is able.

But Albanese has far more to lose. As a new leader, it was probably unwise to test his strength so early. He rightly says he did not prevaricate – he demanded Setka’s resignation from the party as soon as he believed he had confirmation of the remarks about Batty. And he has doubled down: whatever Setka has told McManus, the miscreant has to go. So Albanese will take his ultimatum to the ALP’s ultimate arbiter, the federal executive meeting next week.

It will not quite be a Gough Whitlam crash or crash through confrontation: Albo is not threatening to resign if he does not get his way. And it is unlikely, in all the circumstances, that the executive will defy him – that would do far more damage to his leadership than anything Setka could manage.

But even if Setka is expelled, that would not be the end of the matter. If the CFMMEU is intransigent, it would almost certainly suspend its contributions to the federal party, if not split from it altogether. Some other big union allies could do the same. And the cancer would in all likelihood spread through the rest of the broad left. Chaos and confusion, dysfunction and disunity – just what the coalition ordered.

And if it does not work out that way, all is not lost. Already other victims are being marinated in the steaming cauldron maintained by the witches and warlocks of Newscorp. McManus herself is a likely candidate, but the favourite seems to be Kristina Keneally – like McManus she is damned from birth, being, like McManus, both a woman and a lefty, need we say more?

Well no, but we will anyway, in article after article, page after page – such is the Murdoch press. And the fact that she will be face to face with one of their heroes, Peter Dutton, makes her all the more reprehensible. Her time will come.

But for now there is plenty to enjoy in the evisceration of Setka. And isn’t the right enjoying it.

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  1. Setka “transformed into the demon prince”implies a construction by the Murdock press and the coalition.Get real Mungo.This misogynistic thug needs no help in being branded as such.

    • Oh derr here we got with the PC feminazi newspeak. Oh dear look a misongynist, get him!! What a load of crap. The elsastic terminology of the chronically brain dead has run its course pal. No one is listening to your name calling rubbish anymore, time to grow up. John Steka has done more for woemns right sint he worlplace than yu cpoudl evr hope to. You have no idea what you are babbling about.

  2. If the leader of the CFMMEU was a model citizen like Bill Shorten we would know where the CFMMEU would be, in nowheresville and a loser like the ALP. The CFMMEU is fighting for its members against the Liberals and Labor and many of those members are women doing menial work, trying to scratch a living for their family.

    • Bill Shorten made the mistake of fighting fairly, being upfront and treating the Australian people as they see themselves: as fair minded people in an egalitarian society.

      Of course, that’s just silly.

      Australians have not been that for a generation, if they ever were. Today my countrymen are narrow, bigoted [email protected][email protected]&s who throw each other under the bus every time the LNP threatens their perceived affluence. As you well know, the NSW LNP raised the homelessness rate by 13.7% in their tenure and this should have been enough to bring down the government alone, but they got re-elected. The Tasmanian LNP has managed a disgusting 50% and this is no concern to the insular, self-satisfied voters.

      Murdoch has created the society he wanted, Margaret Thatcher would be proud.

  3. Setka might be a [email protected]#&k, but so are Morrison and Dutton. This whole scandal stinks of a set up and Albo has fallen for it along with many other members of the left. It is in Morrison’s best interest to divide the ALP and the unions, here’s his excuse to wedge them while appearing to be innocent, the same manner in which he became PM.

    The CFMEU members will have the final say, not Morrison, Murdoch or Albanese.

    If we are to hold this corrupt government to the same standards there wouldn’t be a soul left at the IPA or in parliament (after all, there isn’t much difference between both). The BCA would be gone and the Nationals would be in purgatory for life. Hanson wouldn’t exist and Anning would be a broken hotelier with an axe to grind.

  4. Thugs come in all shapes and sizes. They’ve even been known to wear suits and blue ties. A well ordered society has no room for thuggery of any kind. The existence of thugs in high places tells us we have a long way to go.

  5. Yet again, Mungo gets to the heart of the matter, his article bouncing off various points made in the Sydney Morning Herald,5 July 2017 by Josh Bornstein:’ Unions have been constantly weakened by 30 years of constant political and legislative attacks. The last conservative prime minister not to establish a royal commission into trade unions was Billy Mc Mahon’. Indeed the history of trade unions in Australia is a narrative for political and legislative attacks that began with Masters and Servants legislation predating the gold rushes, before unions were called unions. I sympathise with Sally Mc Manus who has not been helped by Setka changing his recall of what he said every other day last week.

  6. I have read what Sam Maiden reported was said, he was not having a go at Rosie Batty at all and nor was anyone else in the room as they have all clearly stated, why is this tired old chestnut still a story.

    Setka did not kidnap, traffic, jail and torture refugees in foreign nations did he? Did bomb Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, make repressive laws against all the citizens of Australia, leave Australian’s rotting in overseas prisons, turn in the Bali 9, set up Dr Haneef, call refugees baby killers?

    Nope, that is the LNP/ALP cartel even though Mungo and rusted on ALP luvvies won’t admit their part in all those things.

  7. This latest saga in the “Vacuum in the International Community” [Ric USA Sec. of State] is far too typical of anything to do with JUSTICE this side of the Howard Government Annulling THE ARBITRATION COURT.

    Since then we have had a WC and then a FWC and Justice is either Contributory as in Montaigne’s 4 Estate C1580 or Sacrificial as in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_de_Menteith 1305

    This latest “Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Case or should I say Tabloid, Interview and Internet? Needs to be a Call to Justice itself.

    So where as I appreciate the tenure of your article mate, NO ONE seems to be pointing out, just how bad Justice really is at present.

    When this case is a Prima Facie Case.

  8. Sally McManus has been the most ineffective and weak ACU seceratary for ages, not that many have been much good since Hawke, who himself was a union sellout. Afetr all he went to the same Univeristy, (Oxford) as the thug Tony Abbott. I mean McManus did not even know that Hawke had dereigistered the BLF so his mate Peter Abeles could delop the crpa out o finnner Sydney and destroy the few vestiges of green space they had preserved against all costs, even the murder of Juanita Neillsen. The ignonrance of people even like Mungo is sad. Wanna know how and when the unions started being sold out? It is especially relevant as we see Hawke being canonised by the elites. Read this. https://www.solidarity.net.au/highlights/bob-hawke-australias-thatcher/

    • So i read this piece by Rintoul, a welcome relief from homages, but still about the socialist discord, workers and bosses, class systems. Forgetting to accept that for every one employer who makes a mint, there’s 49 who barely make a wage and the other 50 who lose everything they invested. This creed was dead as soon as it lived when Lenin realised after a few months of power that Marx was wrong, workers could not control the factories, resources, delivery, even with ownership of the means of production, so gave new life to the Party which was never meant to live beyond the revolution. One step forward, 50 steps sideways, a strange kind of waltz.

    • The differences between various brands of communism – Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin – reads like different brands of corn flakes. Marx to start with made philosophical sense and it’s that sense we all deal with, it seems so true, of course we say … til history comes along. .. then the different brands have to compete, how is this war within the war any different from what the opponents are opposing, I ask, would any of us forsake our last dollar or not put it on a hundred-to-one shot, I ask? That’s business, call it what you like. The real truth for workers is keeping on as always, and maybe minding your work as business as well, efficiencies, futures, competitiveness, rapport, regimen and acceptance or hope. Business often comes down to being at the right place, the right time. Just luck in the end, mostly bad. But buying the brands before you look at the fine print, that’s just stupid.

    • But, Mike, this raising of Neilsen’s supposed murder ia certainly a thing, unsolved to this day, but predating Hawke’s days, not sure now wwhose involvement it was in office, 75. Hawke may have been with the actu then. Statewise maybe Wran. I don’t discourage this question. At that time I was just parts being assembled. How the names tumble including Saffron. Elements of connected parts from different puzzles.I apologise if I discount your words too lightly.

  9. ALP true believers look away = you won’t like what I am about to say …

    Albo keeps reminding me of Bob Santamaria.

    Mungo maintains the fiction that there is an actual “left” to the ALP in 2019.
    The coming split/purge will remove any hint of “left”.

    Uunlike Santamaria’s DLP, the split off new party will be reformist and leftwing .. leaving a solid unquestioned rightwing bully mob in charge of the rotting carcass of the ALP.

    • Yes I agree.Labor in a HAWKE like Eulogy is a ” shadow of What in best times it was”.
      It ( Labor ) is Populist , Yuppi driven GHOST of a Progressive PARTY, metamoorphising itself into ANOTHE LNP.

  10. I just like the fact Setka is not turning in at the throw of a few curve balls, even if he is a damned male with a few swear words. Sure, he underdone the SA branch of his union some years back, so has every political party forever, including the darling saints. His time is done for sure, you can’t withstand the wind from both sides, from Murdoch from starboard and the Monthly from the port.

  11. Tut-tut, dear Mungo, have I caught my favourite cryptic crossword puzzle setter falling into the (alas, increasingly frequent) error of misusing the word ‘prevaricate’ where one intends ‘procrastinate’?

  12. What is a union these days anyway. Sould one that represents workers in zombie industries such as forestry and coal be given blanket exemption. Apart from ALP arrangements and internal politics, the question might be how does the CFMMEU serve the broader community such as to warrant defence. If the union’s leadership showed it was capable of the necessary rapid future-proofing that is now an absolute requirement, then well and good. Otherwise they are (to me) just another aspect of destructive industrial practice.


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