Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee
At the request of senators Watt and Cameron, I move general business notice of motion No. 1450:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) on 24 October 2017, an unauthorised leak to the media occurred concerning an upcoming raid by the Australian Federal Police and Registered Organisations Commission on the offices of the Australian Workers Union,
(ii) the then Minister for Employment, Senator Cash, appeared before the Education and Employment Legislation Committee at the 2017-18 supplementary Budget estimates hearing on 25 October 2017, and misled the Senate five times regarding her office's involvement in the leak, and has since refused to correct the record,
(iii) Senator Cash has since relied on this evidence, including by providing it in a letter to the Australian Federal Police,
(iv) since giving evidence:
(A) former personal staff of Senator Cash have made admissions in court, under oath, about their role in leaking confidential information concerning the raid,
(B) the Australian Federal Police gave evidence at the 2018-19 additional estimates that Senator Cash sent them a letter in relation to their investigation into the leak which they would not classify as a witness statement, that she refused to provide a witness statement despite at least two requests to do so, and that there was a prima facie case to support a conviction for a criminal offence in relation to the leak, beyond reasonable doubt, and
(C) the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions gave evidence at the 2018-19 additional estimates that there was a prima facie case to support a conviction for a criminal offence, it was in the public interest to prosecute an offence in relation to the leak, it did not pursue a prosecution because there were not reasonable prospects of a conviction, the failure of certain witnesses to provide witness statements was a factor in it deciding there were not reasonable prospects of a conviction, and Senator Cash did not provide a witness statement to the Australian Federal Police, and
(v) notes that paragraph 1.3 (iv) of the Ministerial Standards states "Ministers must accept the full implications of the principle of ministerial responsibility. They will be required to answer for the consequences of their decisions and actions"; and
(b) requires Senator Cash to attend the 2019-20 Budget estimates hearings of the Education and Employment Legislation Committee on Friday, 5 April 2019, in order to answer questions relating to her in relation to her former portfolio responsibilities and provide a full and frank explanation to the Senate regarding the inconsistencies between her original evidence to the committee, and:
(i) new evidence provided by former members of her staff in court, under oath, in relation to her office's involvement, and
(ii) subsequent evidence given by the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions at the 2018-19 additional estimates.
The government opposes this motion, because it contains a number of mistruths. Minister Cash has answered numerous hours of questions at several estimates hearings concerning the matter since October 2017 and has provided consistent answers throughout this period. She will again be at Senate estimates this Friday. The person who refuses to answer questions about this matter is Bill Shorten. He still needs to explain to the Australian people whether union donations to his own personal campaign and to GetUp! were properly authorised.
The standing orders clearly go to the sorts of comments about a person in another place that the senator was making. I know that she has been given these talking points, but it is inappropriate to use a statement by leave to engage in a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Wong, it may be inappropriate, but I didn't detect a breach of the standing orders, other than maybe the lack of use of a formal title for Mr Shorten. Leave was granted to make a one-minute statement, so I'm afraid that the statement was not out of order. I will now put the motion. The question is that the motion No. 1450 be agreed to.