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Australia

John Setka declares war on his own union by hiring a private investigator

John Setka’s war on perceived enemies in his own union has intensified after he hired a former homicide squad detective to conduct an investigation into who leaked information against him.

The move prompted one CFMMEU official to say Mr Setka had “lost the plot” as divisions within the union deepen over Mr Setka's determination to hang on to power.

Former Victorian Police homicide detective, now private investigator Stephen Curnow has been emailing senior CFMMEU officials as part of an investigation into the leaks against Mr Setka seeking information about the “unauthorised disclosure” of confidential documents within the union.

John Setka after meeting Sally McManus in Melboune in June.

John Setka after meeting Sally McManus in Melboune in June.Credit:Eddie Jim

At the same time, a 14-page dossier has been circulated to union officials around Australia this week that includes graphic details of the police case against Mr Setka over his alleged harassment of his wife, Emma Walters.

The untested allegations - which are among the more than 30 domestic violence offences Mr Setka was originally charged with - were withdrawn after Mr Setka agreed to plead guilty to two charges.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have decided not to publish the allegations on legal advice, even though they have been circulated widely within the union movement.

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The CFMMEU, and the broader union movement, have been divided and in a state of upheaval since early June when The Age and Herald revealed the details of Mr Setka's harassment of Ms Walters, and comments he made about how the work of anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty had led to men having fewer rights.

The investigation by Mr Curnow, who is the chief executive of private security firm Corsec Services, appears to focus on who leaked to The Age the details of the police case against Mr Setka.

Mr Curnow has told CFMMEU officials he was authorised to do the investigation after a June 17 resolution of Mr Setka’s Victorian construction branch.

That resolution had condemned the “cowardly” leaks and said it would target the union’s staff and even its own lawyers, Gordon Legal.

Mr Setka has an ongoing relationship with Mr Curnow and his firm, which has done previous security work for his union branch, sources said.

One senior union official said Setka had engaged in “massive overreach” and had no legal right to launch an investigation into other “autonomous” parts of the national CFMMEU, which includes its mining, maritime and forestry divisions.

“John appears to have very little knowledge of his own union’s rules,” the official said.

Mr Setka has support from most of his own national construction division but much of the rest of the union have failed to offer him any public support.

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He has fallen out badly with national secretary Michael O'Connor, union sources said.

Mr Setka and Mr O'Connor did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Curnow, when contacted, declined to comment on the investigation. “I’m not prepared to discuss it at this stage,” he said.

CFMMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor has not offered any public support for Mr Setka

CFMMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor has not offered any public support for Mr SetkaCredit:AAP

Mr Setka's comments about Ms Batty ignited a political and media storm, with moves from Labor leader Anthony Albanese to expel Mr Setka from the Labor Party - moves which are yet to be resolved due to a court challenge.

Police analysis of Mr Setka's phone activity revealed on a single evening last October he called the woman 25 times and sent her 45 text messages.

In the messages he called her a "weak f---en piece of shit" and a "treacherous Aussie f---en c---" and a "f---en dog".

In late June, Mr Setka was convicted and fined as magistrate Belinda Wallington condemned his "nasty behaviour" and lack of contrition.

After the hearing, Mr Setka admitted he had "screwed up" and said he wanted to change.

Mr Setka has resisted calls since June for him to resign from his union position from ACTU secretary Sally McManus and 13 national unions.

The CFMMEU is democratically constituted and Mr Setka's removal would require moves to expel him from other leaders or members.

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