Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education

3:21 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I also rise to take note of the answers from Senator Cash to questions today regarding this never-ending scandal involving her and her office over the leaking to members of the media of confidential police information regarding a police raid, something which the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police himself described as conduct that endangered the lives of his police officers.

Just a quick refresher for those who've forgotten the detail: what this involved was a leak of police information about an imminent police raid on union offices, which was leaked to the media by a former member of Minister Cash's staff. We know that that's how it occurred because Minister Cash, eventually, under protest, confirmed to Senate estimates that the leak had come from one of her own staff members and that he had finally admitted this in the process of resigning from her office. But, of course, before we got to finding out the truth—that this leak came from a former staff member of Minister Cash—we had to sit through Minister Cash on five occasions misleading the Senate and Senate estimates by saying that no-one in her office leaked the information and that she didn't know anything about it. In fact, at the estimates hearing on 26 October 2017—and we've referred back to what she said on that occasion—she assured the Senate that she had interviewed every member of her staff when this story finally broke and asked them whether they were aware of the police raids prior to them occurring. She told the Senate that every one of her staff members had said that they did not know and that they were not aware of these raids. We learnt today, through court proceedings brought by the Australian Workers' Union, that that is actually not true. Yet again it seems that we have Senator Cash providing incorrect, false information to the Senate.

Yesterday, in proceedings brought by the Australian Workers' Union, Minister Cash's former staff member, who resigned over this affair, refused to answer questions as to who informed him about the imminent police raids. The reason he gave for why he wouldn't answer those questions was very interesting. It was because he believed that he would incriminate himself. If that doesn't show illegal conduct, conduct that would potentially make him the subject of police or other legal action, I don't know what does.

Today, the truth has finally come out. Today, in evidence before the Federal Court, the former staff member of Minister Cash has identified Minister Cash's former chief of staff as the person who informed him that the raids were imminent. Let's remember, back in October 2017, the day that these raids occurred, the day that this scandal blew up, Minister Cash finally came into the Senate and Senate estimates and admitted that it had come from her office but that she had spoken to every single one of her staff members and they had assured her that they didn't know anything about these raids.

We now know today, through evidence given in court, that in fact the source of this information was her former chief of staff. Contrary to what she has said, it is in fact the case that other members of her staff knew about the raids and were in on the scandal. There really can only be two situations here: either Minister Cash was telling the truth at the time, and all her other staff members lied to her in saying that they did not know about these raids; or we have a former chief of staff of Minister Cash being fingered in evidence, given up in evidence by another member of the staff, and it would seem that someone has potentially lied before the court. Either of those situations is very serious and there will be definitely be more questions to answer.

Now that we know that more than one member of Senator Cash's staff knew about the raids, the obvious question is: who else knew? We have been saying for some months now that it is impossible to believe that only one member of Minister Cash's staff knew about the imminent raids and was in on the leak. We have learned today that it now involves two members, including her former chief of staff. It defies belief to think that it is confined to those two staff members and that other staff members were not involved, and perhaps even Minister Cash herself was involved in this. But of course we continue to get this refusal from Minister Cash to answer questions. She wheels out the whiteboard before estimates; she's effectively wheeled out a whiteboard again today. But I can assure her that we're not going to let this rest and there are more questions coming.

Question agreed to.

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