After refusing to retract alleged slurs made towards Construction Forestry Mining and Energy organiser John Setka, Tony Abbott will now face a defamation suit.
The opposition leader delivered a speech at a Master Builders Association conference at the beginning of this year, where he labeled the union organiser as a ‘self-confessed thug’ who made threatening ‘home visits’ to industry members. The remarks blatantly suggest Setka intimidated industry members in their homes, in response to which the union organiser feels “gravely injured in his credit and reputation, (and) has been humiliated and embarrassed and suffered loss and damage”.
“Home visits from some of the gentlemen associated with some of the industrial organisations that you deal with every day” said Abbott. “We know they take place because people like Mr Setka have told us they take place”.
The opposition leader went on to explain that the reason for these ‘home visits’ were “for the purpose of making demands that amount to extortion”, underlining the very basis of the under the covers intimidation that goes on in the construction industry.
It is for this reason that Abbott has blatantly refused to retract his statements or offer an apology to Setka.
“There has been a great deal of intimidation in the construction industry and I make no apologies for being blunt about that” says Abbott.
Setka yesterday lodged a claim against the opposition leader in the Victorian Supreme Court for unspecified aggravated damages.
Abbott stands by the fact that he is simply defending construction industry members and has vowed to bring back the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which he believes will wipe out cases of industry intimidation.
“One of the first acts of an incoming coalition government would be to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission” says Abbot. ”Almost nothing is more important than upholding the rule of law and that is what a coalition government is determined to do.”
Abbott may however face criticism in taking a sanctimonious attitude over offering to eliminate intimidation and bullying from the construction sector, when many slate that allegedly defaming a union member by labelling them a ‘thug’ is just that.