John Setka: Albanese plan to expel union boss next week delayed after court ruling | Australia news

John Setka: Albanese plan to expel union boss next week delayed after court ruling | Australia news

Political News

Anthony Albanese’s vow to expel John Setka from the ALP next week is in tatters, after lawyers agreed the party’s national executive would not move against the union boss until after a supreme court decision was handed down.

Setka, the Victorian state secretary of the CFMMEU, is challenging the legality of a push to expel him from the party, and would have sought an urgent injunction in a bid to stop the Labor leader from doing so at a national executive meeting on 15 July.

Instead, at the end of the hearing, counsel for Labor, Michael Borsky QC, gave an undertaking that an expulsion motion against Setka would not go ahead on Monday.

Justice Peter Riordan said the complexity of the case meant he could not rule before the meeting next week.

Riordan reserved his judgment, telling the court he hoped to hand down his decision in August.

Counsel for Setka, Geoffrey Kennett SC, told the court the union boss’s reputation would be harmed if he was expelled from the party in a decision that was later found to be unlawful. His membership is currently suspended.

“It’s a matter of some significance to his reputation,” he said.

After Setka launched his legal bid last week, a defiant Albanese said: “He will not be advocating after 15 July as a member of the Labor party.”

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Riordan had earlier hinted he would consider granting an injunction, saying the “balance of convenience” was in Setka’s favour.

Borsky, acting for Labor’s national secretary Noah Carroll, told the court the party should be able to expel Setka at the Monday meeting because if the court found the decision was “made without power” the “consequences … would not flow”.

The case hinges on whether Labor’s national executive has the power to bypass a state party branch in order to expel a party member.

Borsky said it would be “unworkable for a national political party” to be required to follow the procedures of each state branch, including the Victorian body of which Setka is a member.

“We say that’s nonsensical, with respect,” he said.

Kennett said he was not arguing Setka “has not done anything that could possibly justify his expulsion”. But he described a letter from Albanese as “a charge sheet” that “doesn’t allege which rules have been breached”.

Setka was last month found guilty of harassing a woman via a carriage service, which was revealed to be his wife, Emma Walters.

He argues his expulsion would harm his reputation and limit his ability to advocate for his members.

Borsky compared Setka’s potential expulsion to the ability of the national executive to override state branch laws to preselect candidates.

He also said Setka’s “reputation on one view has been tarnished already” and that any impact from his potential expulsion was only “speculation”.

Setka’s position has split the union movement, with more than a dozen unions saying he should step down from his position as union boss, while others have publicly backed him.

Albanese had moved quickly to say he would banish Setka from the party, but the saga now looks likely to drag on for weeks, if not months.

“My view is this is a matter that could well go to the high court,” Riordan said.

Setka and Carroll did not appear in court.


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