Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash may find herself in front of a court if the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) decides to lay charges over leaks from her office regarding a raid on the Australian Workers Union (AWU) last October.
The Australian Federal Police is referring material such as witness statements, emails, text messages and phone records to the CDPP over the next few weeks.
Police raided the AWU offices on October 23 last year as part of a Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) investigation into the union’s $100,000 donation to campaign group GetUp! in 2005–06. It has been alleged that Cash’s office tipped off the media to the raid in an attempt to maximise anti-union publicity regarding a possibly illegal donation under AWU rules.
Cash denied that her office had anything to do with leaking the raid details to the media. However, the raids drew public scrutiny because the media arrived at the AWU offices before police. It then appeared that Cash had lied, when her senior media officer David De Garis resigned after Buzzfeed revealed he had in fact tipped them off.
If the prosecution proceeds, the offence is punishable by up to two years in prison. It is illegal to publish information obtained by virtue of a person’s position as a Commonwealth officer without authorisation.
Cash’s involvement has always looked suspicious, as it was she who wrote to the ROC last August and included a media report insisting the AWU donation be investigated.
It is alleged that Cash had been desperate to have a win against the unions because her government has been ridiculed for spending $46 million on a Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption that led to only one conviction.
National secretary of the AWU Daniel Walton said: “Cash and her government are obsessed with harming unions and their members”. Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said the referral to the CDPP was very serious and Cash should have resigned when it was revealed her office had been involved in the tip off.
The Australian reported McManus went on to say: “It has cost the taxpayer $614,000 to defend Michaelia Cash through the 279 days that the federal police have been pursuing this matter.
“The whole time Michaelia Cash has been in hiding. She hasn’t answered questions about this matter. This further undermines our faith in her government and faith in her judgement.
“This was a really big call to make to leak this to the media. We think she has very big questions to answer and that she should front the media.”
“She should be the one here explaining what has happened. She should be the one explaining why the priorities of the Turnbull government are raiding unions over decades-old minutes from meetings and not focusing on the very bad behavior of the big end of town.”