The labour movement and Labor’s federal parliamentary leadership have responded quickly to yesterday’s revelations of police accounts of domestic violence by the head of the New South Wales Postal & Telecommunications division of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union of Australia, Jim Metcher. Metcher has been kicked out of the Labor Party at the instigation of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Deputy (and NSW MP) Tanya Plibersek, the latter revealed this morning.

Yesterday Aaron Patrick and David Marin-Guzman of The Australian Financial Review revealed an extensive series of assaults by Metcher on his family in 2007. Metcher pleaded guilty to six counts of assault, but the magistrate dismissed the matter on medical grounds. Metcher was, according to the Fin, ordered to have six months of psychiatric counselling.

The article contains graphic detail from police reports about Metcher’s physical attacks on his family and his abuse of them, including allegations he pinned his wife to the ground and rained up to 20 punches on her head and face. Police successfully obtained an apprehended violence order against Metcher in relation to his family.

Victorian CEPU boss John Ellery responded quickly yesterday, describing the reports as “appalling behaviour of a type that is not acceptable in a civilised society.” Influential Transport Workers Union head Tony Sheldon slammed Metcher, saying “even while many across the labour movement are fighting for family rights, like the rest of society we are not immune to domestic violence, as either perpetrators or victims”. Other senior union figures also spoke out. Unions NSW stripped Metcher of his positions with that body yesterday afternoon.

Plibersek now wants Metcher outed as head of his union branch as well, which would for a complete fall from grace for the once-powerful unionist. This morning Labor announced it was backing domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty’s call for an end to the cross-examination of victims of domestic violence by those they accuse in the Family Court.

The story curiously continues to generate minimal coverage on social media, where incidents of domestic violence by high-profile figures are normally the subject of storms of outrage.

Peter Fray

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