SUBJECTS: AWU raid and Michaelia Cash; High Court decision
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
WEDNESDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECTS: AWU raid and Michaelia Cash; High Court decision
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: Mark Dreyfus thanks for joining us.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Emma.
ALBERICI: The Registered Organisations Commission was especially set up to increase financial transparency among unions and employer groups so isn’t it entirely appropriate that this body would look to investigate any potential problems with a donation given by the head of a union to his own election campaign?
DREYFUS: We don’t know anything about these allegations but what we do know is that it is transparently a politically motivated activity by this Registered Organisations Commission which is…
ALBERICI: How do you know that?
DREYFUS: Because Senator Cash, the minister, directed the Registered Organisations Commission to undertake this investigation and now because of the spectacular arranged raids in front of TV cameras on the offices of the AWU in Sydney and Melbourne that we saw on TV screens last night. It’s hard to imagine something that’s more transparently politically motivated than this.
ALBERICI: Michaelia Cash has told a Senate inquiry that she didn’t know about these raids. There is some question about that though tonight?
DREYFUS: She also told the Senate that her staff didn’t know about the raids and her staff were not involved in tipping off journalists and TV crews to be in attendance to witness the AFP executing this raid. Reports tonight suggest that journalists are saying that is not the case and they were tipped off by Senator Cash’s office. So at the very least she seems to have misled the Parliament of Australia in relation to that particular point.
ALBERICI: Besides all of that, it is a bit beside the point isn’t it if the law has been broken? That’s the central focus, that’s where it should be right?
DREYFUS: Let’s put this in perspective. We’ve got an Australian Federal Police that yesterday told a Senate Committee that they didn’t have enough resources, that the cuts to their resources, the cuts to their staff have meant that they weren’t able to investigate a 1.6 tonne importation of cocaine. And the response of this government, other than to bluster, was within hours to organise 25 AFP officers to go and execute this raid on the offices of the AWU.
ALBERICI: Sorry to interrupt you, but if a law has been broken, it’s been broken. Whether it’s a $25,000 donation or a $100,000 donation as these two claims have been made. They’re not insubstantial amounts of money. If a law has been broken should that not be investigated?
DREYFUS: We need to look at what the allegation is. These donations were lawful donations. These donations were declared, all of them, at the time they were meant to have been declared. And the National Secretary of the AWU has made clear in media interviews today that everything was done completely in accordance with the union’s rules.
ALBERICI: So why are the documents being destroyed then?
DREYFUS: Well we don’t know that they were, because the Registered Organisations Commission hasn’t said that. It said that it had grounds for suspecting that documents might not be there if they went looking for them. But they hadn’t even asked the AWU to give them the documents. And I might say the AWU had already given the documents to the Trade Union Royal Commission. Let’s get this in perspective. It’s a civil penalty at best for an allegation..
ALBERICI: Destroying documents is a criminal offence right?
DREYFUS: No no, there’s no allegation of destroying documents. This is a search and seizure warrant that the Registered Organisations Commission obtained, at the direction it would seem of Senator Cash. And the way you get a warrant is to say we need to get hold of these documents because they might be hidden away or destroyed. And that ignores the fact that all of these documents had already been produced, as I understand it, to the Trade Union Royal Commission. And that’s the context.
ALBERICI: But this is a separate inquiry altogether, and there was still the potential for them to be destroyed.
DREYFUS: All the documents already exist in the records of the Royal Commission. Having failed to get anywhere with their politically motivated Royal Commission, this government has now set up another body called the Registered Organisations Commission. And they are going after the Leader of the Opposition. This is a politically motivated witch-hunt. That’s the only word for it.
ALBERICI: Why would the Australian Federal Police be involved if it was a civil matter?
DREYFUS: They’re involved because under the legislation that this government passed after the election last year setting up the Registered Organisations Commission, they’ve given it power to get a warrant for searching and seizure. And once the warrant is obtained, the Australian Federal Police are required to assist with it. So the Australian Federal Police didn’t have a choice. I’m not making any suggestion, I’m not questioning in any way the integrity of the Australian Federal Police. I do question the integrity of this government. And they’re chopping and changing, with Senator Cash trying to hide what actually happened here. Someone had to have tipped off the television crews to be there. Senator Xenophon rightly is saying that this needs to be investigated. We need to find out this abuse of power – how this happened. And how it comes about that the Australian Federal Police, 25 of them at offices in Melbourne and Sydney, accompanied by TV crews over at best a civil penalty infraction which is an allegation about 10 year old minutes in a union. You’ve got to put that in perspective. It’s being done to get at the Leader of the Opposition and no-one can be in any doubt about that. Because why are they doing this inquiry? It’s because Bill Shorten at the time was connected to the AWU.
ALBERICI: Can I just move to the other issue that will certainly exercise minds at the end of the week. And that is the decision when it comes down in the High Court about the citizenship of seven members of our Parliament. If it’s found of course that Barnaby Joyce – who everyone is most interested in – given he’s in the lower house – if it’s found that he is invalidly elected, will his actions as minister over the past year or so since the past election need to be reconsidered?
DREYFUS: All of Barnaby Joyce’s actions as minister from about the 20th October onwards will be subject to challenge if he is ruled by the High Court to have been ineligible from the election. And that’s because section 64 of the constitution only permits an Australian to have been a minister of the crown for three months before they are validly elected to Parliament. In other words you can be appointed as a minister but you’ve got to become a member of Parliament within three months. Barnaby Joyce has used up that time, and from the 20th October which we think is three months from the date he was sworn in – his time is up, every single decision he made as minister is now subject to challenge by people who don’t like that decision. And that is potentially chaos because he’s held some very senior ministries in this time. Including since July. All of the ministries that were formally held by Senator Canavan. And why the government did not stand down Barnaby Joyce as they did for Senator Canavan, only they know. It’s exposed the government of Australia to litigation, it’s exposed the government of Australia to challenge and well we’ll see on Friday whether this huge risk that was taken by the Prime Minister in allowing Barnaby Joyce to remain in his place was a risk that was appropriately taken.
ALBERICI: Mark Dreyfus thank you for your time.
DREYFUS: Thanks for having me Emma.