The controversial photo in question. Pic: Twitter
The controversial photo in question. Pic: Twitter

‘Makes your skin crawl’: Parent’s photo slammed

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has angrily denounced a controversial social media post by union heavyweight John Setka, saying it made his "skin crawl".

Yesterday Mr Setka, the Victorian secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), posted a photo of his son and daughter holding up a sign directed at the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and its boss, Stephen McBurney.

"GO GET FU#KED," the sign read.

"Message to McBurney & ABCC: 'LEAVE OUR DADS ALONE AND GO CATCH REAL CRIMINALS YOU COWARDS!!' Happy Father's Day to all the CFMEU dads today!" Mr Setka said in the accompanying tweet.

Mr Setka posted this photo. His children’s faces were not blurred in the original.
Mr Setka posted this photo. His children’s faces were not blurred in the original.

Mr Morrison leapt on the post during an interview with 2GB radio this morning, berating Mr Setka and talking up his ties to the Labor Party.

"The CFMEU under John Setka has behaved like a bunch of thugs. And to involve his children in that, I think, is one of the ugliest things I've seen," the Prime Minister said.

"You know, when you see children being used in these sorts of protests, and we saw it in some of those horrific things in relation to the protests around terrorism, this kind of stuff just makes your skin crawl."

Mr Morrison tried to draw Bill Shorten into the story as well, accusing the Opposition leader of being "led" by unions like the CMFEU.

"What I can't understand is, this is a bloke the Labor Party gives life membership to and holds parades for. This guy shouldn't have a parade, he should be paraded out of the place," he said.

"If Bill Shorten is fair dinkum about anything, then he must cease all ties between the Labor Party and himself and John Setka and the CMFEU out of decency, let alone anything else.

"Bill Shorten's got his arms all around John Setka. And John Setka has his arms all around Bill Shorten.

"Bill Shorten is union bred, union fed and union led, and that's how he would run Australia."

Asked whether he would consider deregistering the CMFEU, Mr Morrison said "of course" he would, and indicated he would discuss the possibility with the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Kelly O'Dwyer.

Ms O'Dwyer herself has also slammed Mr Setka, telling The Australian he is "supposed to be the tough guy of the union movement, but uses his children to fight his fights".

"It is beyond the pale. I am disgusted that any father would use his children in such an obscene way to attack a regulator for doing their job," she said.

Mr Setka responded to the controversy by taking aim at Mr McBurney, saying he "wouldn't know justice if it slapped him in the face while every day children like mine lose a brother, sister, mother or father due to unsafe work sites". has contacted Mr Setka for further comment.

The CFMEU, meanwhile, reacted to Mr Morrison's 2GB interview on Twitter.

"Not addressing record low wage growth. Not helping working people with soaring power bills. This government is still focused on giving billions to the banks and big business and attacking unions," it said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Pic: AAP
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Pic: AAP

The ABCC has been the subject of intense political warfare for years.

It was first established by the Howard government in 2005, with a mission to ensure building work was carried out "fairly, efficiently and productively" - or in blunter language, to crack down on lawlessness in the construction industry.

The Gillard government abolished the ABCC in 2012, replacing it with a Fair Work body. Re-establishing it was a key promise of Tony Abbott's election campaign the following year, but the Coalition's efforts to follow through on that promise were repeatedly stymied in parliament.

Eventually, Malcolm Turnbull used the rejected ABCC legislation as the trigger for a double dissolution election.

In December 2016, the ABCC was finally reinstated thanks to crossbench support from Derryn Hinch, One Nation and Nick Xenophon's party.

Labor is promising to scrap it again, should it win government.

John Setka. Pic: Stuart McEvoy
John Setka. Pic: Stuart McEvoy

The CFMEU recently copped $577,000 in fines over the behaviour of three of its officials, who refused to show their entry permits at building sites and instead "engaged in abusive and threatening behaviour", according to the ABCC.

Justice Richard Tracey slammed the union, saying it failed to acknowledge its wrongdoing.

"The union has adopted the attitude that it will not comply with any legislative constraints placed on its operations with which it disagrees," Justice Tracey said.

"The union simply regards itself as free to disobey the law.

"Such an approach is an anathema in a democratic society."

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