Australia

Labor calls for Michaelia Cash's resignation after staffer admits to AWU raid media tip-off

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Employment Minister Michaelia Cash admits one of her staff members told journalists about possible police raids on the offices of the AWU without permission.

Labor has called for the resignation of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash after one of her staff members admitted to tipping off journalists about police raids on the Australian Workers Union's Sydney and Melbourne offices.

Senator Cash said she only found out about it on Wednesday night during the dinner break of a Senate estimates hearing. It followed media reports which claimed a staff member notified the media of the raids.

"I have just been advised that, without my knowledge, one staff member in my office in the course of discussions with journalists indicated that he had received information that a raid may take place," she told the committee.

"I am advised that this information came from a media source. I was not aware of it at the time and was not aware of it earlier today at Senate estimates. This took place without my knowledge and was not authorised by me."

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Tony Burke calls on Michaela Cash to go after her staffer told media about AWU raids

Senator Cash denied she misled the Senate when, in giving evidence earlier in the day, insisted her staff did not tip off the media about the raids.

Labor jumped on the revelation, calling for Senator Cash's resignation and accusing the minister of "misleading Senate estimates".

"There might be a member of Senator Cash's staff who has just resigned, but the wrong person has resigned," opposition frontbencher Tony Burke told the House of Representatives shortly after the revelation.

"There needs to be a resignation here because it defies credulity that Senator Cash gave false information five times to the Senate and her staff said nothing."

Earlier, Labor senator Doug Cameron asked if Senator Cash was certain no one in her office pre-warned the media about the raid.

Australian Employment Minister Michaelia Cash speaks during Senate estimates hearings at Parliament House in Canberra.
Australian Employment Minister Michaelia Cash speaks during Senate estimates hearings at Parliament House in Canberra.
AAP

"Yes," Senator Cash replied at the time.

"And quite frankly, I am offended on behalf of my staff as to those allegations. They are very serious allegations."

"As previously indicated I was not notified of the raids until I watched them unfold on the television," she said.

Wait begins as police hold AWU documents 

A watchdog investigating union payments faces a lengthy or indefinite wait to see the documents seized in federal police raids as a court considers the case which has rocked Australian politics.

The Australian Workers' Union went to the Federal Court on Wednesday seeking to have raids on its offices in Sydney and Melbourne declared invalid and that any items seized not to be passed on to the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC).

Parties agreed the documents would not be shared until the court matter is revisited.

While the ROC might not get its hands on the documents for some time, it said it acted and sought authority for the offices to be raided amid concerns the union was moving to destroy the paper trail.

The AWU denies the allegation, insisting it was willing to co-operate with investigators.

The allegations surround whether proper guidelines were followed in 2005 when the AWU, then under the leadership of federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, donated $100,000 to activist group GetUp!

Malcolm Turnbull insists the union and Mr Shorten have questions to answer.

"The AWU should comply with the law," the prime minister said.

The ROC is also examining a $25,000 donation to Mr Shorten's own campaign to enter federal parliament in 2007.
It sought search warrants because it had "reasonable grounds" to believe documents related to its inquiry could be "concealed or destroyed".

Malcolm Turnbull says the AWU and Bill Shorten have questions to answer after AFP raids on the union's officers in Sydney and Melbourne.
Malcolm Turnbull says the AWU and Bill Shorten have questions to answer after AFP raids on the union's officers in Sydney and Melbourne.
AAP

Mr Shorten accused the coalition of a "grubby effort" to "damage the reputation of their opponents".

"The regulator, at the behest of the government, is conducting a political witch-hunt designed to throw mud in the hope that some will stick," the opposition leader said.

GetUp! has previously acknowledged receipt of a donation of $100,000 in 2005 from the AWU.

-With AAP

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