As we go to press, the federal employment minister Michaelia Cash is being hounded — rightly — for yet another gross breach of her parliamentary office.
While Cash continues to deny she has done anything wrong, one of her staffers has resigned for allegedly tipping off the corporate media on October 24 that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were about to raid the Melbourne and Sydney offices of the Australian Workers Union (AWU).
She said she asked the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC), which is running the witch hunt into the AWU, to consider referring the leak to the AFP.
And so the circle turns.
Officially, the ROC is an “independent watchdog”. Actually, like the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and the Fair Work Commission (FWC), it is another of the federal Coalition government’s attack dogs aimed squarely at weakening the union movement.
It was first mooted by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and, after having been rejected twice by the Senate, was finally authorised last year.
But compared to the FWC, the ROC has enhanced investigation and information-gathering powers, including the ability to seize documents with a warrant.
The AFP raids on the AWU offices were ostensibly about “uncovering” a $100,000 donation the union made to GetUp! in 2006, when federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was its national secretary. Cash is impugning that the union misspent its members’ money by doing this, and has likened it to the corruption case in the Health Services Union.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has hit back, describing the raids as a politically-driven witch hunt. She told ABC’s 7.30 on October 24: “If they had of just asked the AWU for that evidence they would have got it, but they didn't, did they?”
She said the AWU had said that everything was above board and asked why the government was not asking the AFP to investigate the Commonwealth Bank’s money laundering, support for drug traffickers and more.
“I am entirely confident that everything is fine and the Australian people will find out this and everyone should be angry about the fact that resources have been used to raid union offices.”
They should be.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Mark Kenny, the subject of the raids involves documents that were made available to Abbott’s royal commission into the unions as well as the Australian Electoral Commission at the time.
The documents that were seized from the AWU’s offices may or may not be handed over to the ROC, depending on a court case on October 27.
The federal government and its anti-union allies, such as One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, desperately need the ROC to be a lot more successful than the ABCC and the royal commission into the unions has been. After spending more than $100 million and more than two years investigating, the royal commission’s findings led to just one conviction — Kathy Jackson, a former HSU official.