John Setka and His Wife Emma Waters
John Setka and His Wife Emma Waters

John Setka’s wife tells: I didn’t feel safe

"Drunken moron", "weak piece of sh--" - those are some of the shocking messages aired in court that visibly shook John Setka's wife Emma Walters. Now in an exclusive interview, she reveals why she's staying with the union boss.

But Emma Walters claims her relationship with the controversial CFMEU leader is now stronger than ever.

Setka, 54, was yesterday ordered to be of good behaviour for a year after pleading guilty to using a carriage service to harass his wife and breaching a court order.

Melbourne Magistrates' Court heard Setka tried calling Ms Walters 25 times and sent her 45 messages containing "insults and offensive language" when she walked out on him on October 26.

Ms Walters, who supported her husband in court, ­became visibly upset when the messages - calling her a "drunken moron", "c---", ­"f---ing dog" and "weak piece of s---" - were read out.

Emma Walters walked out on Setka in October and said it was “the hardest decision of my life.” Picture: Mark Stewart
Emma Walters walked out on Setka in October and said it was “the hardest decision of my life.” Picture: Mark Stewart

Hours later, at their West Footscray home, she told the Herald Sun it was the message she received about her late father that was the worst.

"Your dad would be so proud of you, you turned into a drunken moron … you weak f----n piece of s---," Setka had messaged her.

"Words are incredibly ­destructive as they stay with you," Ms Walters said.

She said she was in a "dark place" when she made "the hardest decision of my life" to leave Setka.

"I was in a situation where, despite loving someone very deeply, I knew that it was ­unhealthy for me and unhealthy for the children.

"I was drinking too much to try and escape everything. Then I went, 'I can't do this any longer', and that I'm not going insane. This is wrong and it has to stop."

Asked if she ever feared her husband, she said: "There were times when I did."

But she said she was ­"unwell" at the time and that her fear was now gone.

After a row on Boxing Day, Ms Walters was pulled over by police for alleged drink-driving, while travelling with her children to ­Adelaide. She had a blood ­alcohol reading of .282.

She has since admitted herself into a detox program.

But she was adamant, despite going to police in December and Setka being charged with assault and recklessly cause injury (both later withdrawn), that he had never physically assaulted her.

"There has been so much myth around this, that people had the perception that John was beating me up every night - this is not the case," she said. "Yes, there were ­arguments, yes, they were very heated."

She rejected claims he had thrown an iPad at her.

"He didn't throw it at me. He threw the iPad and it actually skimmed my head."

But to critics who can't understand why she has returned to Setka, she said: "I completely reject the characterisation of myself as the victim going back for more. I wouldn't have gone back to this relationship if I didn't think John could change."

She did not think the Labor Party should distance itself from the union movement, and said her husband was being used as a scapegoat for the election loss.

Setka would not be bowing to pressure to step down as CFMEU secretary, she said, saying he still "absolutely, 150 per cent" had the support of union members.