House debates

Wednesday, 25 October 2017


Minister for Employment, Turnbull Government

7:49 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

A few moments ago, Senator Cash returned to Senate estimates to advise the Senate that she had misled Senate estimates, not once, not twice, but five times. Five times!

When Labor first asked Senator Cash whether or not her staff—her office—had been involved in making sure that the media turned up to a raid before the police did, she said that she was offended by the suggestion. She ridiculed Labor for asking it. We still decided to raise the issue in question time today. I asked the Prime Minister this question:

My question is to the Prime Minister. Given TV cameras turned up at the sites of AFP raids yesterday before even the Federal Police did, can the Prime Minister guarantee that his employment minister or her office didn't notify anyone in the press gallery before the raid?

The Prime Minister's response was to say that something else was the real issue. So I then went back and asked the Prime Minister a second time:

My question is to the Prime Minister. In his previous answer, the Prime Minister said that Senator Cash had assured him that she did not advise the press gallery of the raids. Did Senator Cash assure the Prime Minister that her office did not advise the press gallery of the raids?

And the Prime Minister refused to answer.

Let's not forget the abuse of power that we are talking about today. The abuse of power that we are talking about is by a Prime Minister and a government on a power trip. What they have done is decided that the most important thing within minutes of this House yesterday having an argument about the fact that 1.6 tonnes of cocaine was something that the Australian Federal Police couldn't pursue because of a lack of resources—the government's response, within minutes—was to notify the media that more than 25 AFP officers had been deployed to seize a document about a donation that was made to an online click-like-to-this campaign organisation 10 years ago. Ten years ago!

But, if we are to believe what Senator Cash has told the Senate tonight, here is the argument: she misled the Senate five times and her staff watched her do it. They then heard the Prime Minister asked the same questions and they did nothing. But hours later, during the dinner break, they said, 'Oh, by the way, Senator Cash, that was me.' That's what we are meant to believe! When the government were calling the media yesterday and saying, 'Oh, there's a scandal happening,' they were right. They were right, and they were it! They were right that there was a scandal, and the behaviour of this government is the scandalous action that's taken place.

And can I tell you that there might be a member of Senator Cash's staff who has just resigned, but the wrong person has resigned. 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. No, no, no! Is it just a coincidence that they waited until after it was too late—after the news programs had finished at 7.30—before this was revealed, and until after it was too late for a motion to be moved in this parliament and a debate commenced in this House? They waited until after all of that. It was just such a coincidence!

This is a government that thinks it owns the Australian Federal Police. This is a government that is willing, with a born-to-rule attitude, to say anything and to do anything. When they come in here and when they make decisions like this, they are trying to intimidate the Labor Party, the Labor movement and workers. Well, be in no doubt: when they come in here, they fight for their jobs; when we come in here, we fight for a cause. And people on this side will not be intimidated for standing up for workers or from continuing to fight for workers, no matter what this government does. (Time expired)