Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has said he has "no relationship" with controversial construction union boss John Setka, who remains a member of the Labor Party despite indicating he would plead guilty to a criminal charge of harassing a woman.
Mr Setka, secretary of the Victorian branch of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, said last month that he would plead guilty to using a carriage service to harass the woman in an alleged incident last year. He took personal leave but has returned to his role as the union's Victorian secretary.
Police analysis of Mr Setka's phone activity revealed that on a single evening last October, he called the woman 25 times and sent her 45 text messages, calling her a "weak f---en piece of shit" and a "treacherous Aussie f---en c---" and a "f---en dog", The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported on Saturday.
Mr Setka also told a meeting of his union's national executive this week that the work of anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty had led to men having few rights, but he said his comments had been taken out of context and he had great respect for Ms Batty.
Mr Albanese, who did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, said at a press conference on Saturday that "in terms of criminal investigations that are taking place, that are before the courts, we do have a separation of the legal system from the political system".
"I don't intend to comment on it," he said.
Mr Albanese added that he had "no relationship with the bloke [Mr Setka]" and "I have condemned previous comments that he has made ... and I will continue to do so".
The CFMMEU is facing escalating scandals in Victoria and NSW. Police have charged the CFMMEU's assistant secretary in NSW, Michael Greenfield, with buying cocaine from two union organisers who were allegedly dealing drugs from a union car. The three NSW officials are facing drug charges and, like Mr Setka, have retained their union roles.
In a statement to the Herald and The Age on Wednesday, the NSW branch of the union said the trio had received a "first and final warning" and were required to undergo drug testing twice a week as well as counselling.
Mr Albanese was in Burwood in Sydney's inner west on Saturday, engaged in what he called the "latest leg on my 'telling it straight' listening tour".
He said the ALP acknowledged that "we didn't do as well as we should have in the election" and the party would spend "the next three years listening, developing policies and making sure ... we hold the government to account".
"I want to hear directly from Australians why it is that we received the primary votes of just one in every three," Mr Albanese said.
As a democratically elected official, Mr Setka is hard to remove from his position and would likely require a lengthy internal union process to force him out if he does not stand down. The ALP could terminate his membership, but has not done so.
- SMH/The Age