Australia

Union boss Setka sent to men's behaviour course in charges pressed by wife

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Construction union boss John Setka must be of good behaviour for a year after pleading guilty to harassing a woman by phone.

Construction union boss John Setka has been ordered by a magistrate to complete a men's behavioural program.

Setka, 54, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday to plead guilty to charges of breaching a court order and one other matter.

The offences do not relate to his CFMMEU leadership, in relation to which he continues to reject calls to step down.

Setka will also have to donate $1000 to an Aboriginal legal service and be of good behaviour for 12 months.

Outside court, his wife Emma Walters identified herself as his victim.

Setka called her 25 times and sent 45 text messages in October last year, the court was told.

He also sent a tirade of abusive messages over a series of days in December to 3 January.

There were images of Ms Walters with Setka with her face blacked out with the intention of "erasing the complainant from their life", Prosecutor Senior Constable Paul Brookes said.

"You are a c*** just like the rest of your family," one of the messages read.

Another said, "you are a treacherous Aussie f***in c***".

Ms Walters made a complaint to police on Boxing Day but the calls and messages continued until early January.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said it was time for Setka to take responsibility for his actions.

His lawyer Marcus Dempsey said the union boss' public profile was important for his work.

"It is a highly publicised and political world he lives in," he said.

"Publicly he needed to be seen as indestructible."

The court matters come amid ongoing fighting among Labor and unions over Setka's position as secretary of the powerful union.

There were calls for him to step down from the role and be ejected from the party after reports he told colleagues anti-family violence campaigner Rosie Batty's advocacy had led to men having fewer rights.

Setka denies the comments.

Mr Dempsey said it would be difficult for his client to reinvent himself as union boss.

"To be demonised in the way he has would be a punishment in itself," he added.

"Everyone has an opinion about whether Mr Setka should stay in his position. It would be very difficult for him to reinvent himself."

The ACTU and more than a dozen individual unions, including the three biggest in the country, have called on Mr Setka to step aside.

The CFMMEU and other unions including the ETU are standing by him.

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