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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10281

Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:54): My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. I refer to the minister's statement to the Senate today in which she said that her statements to Senate estimates on 25 October 2017 were based on advice given to her. I ask the minister: who gave the minister that advice?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:54): Senator Wong, I have been questioned on that at estimates extensively. I believe that if you actually read the Hansard you would see I stated that it was my then media adviser who gave me that advice.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a supplementary question.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:55): Can the minister explain why the advice she apparently received from her senior media adviser, and acted upon, has now been contradicted by that person in evidence given under oath in the Federal Court?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cormann on a point of order.

Senator Cormann: Senator Wong is now asking the minister to put herself inside the mind of another person that is not the minister. I don't know that it is in order for the minister to be asked to speculate on what motivated a witness in a court proceeding—

Senator Wong: That's not what I asked—

Senator Cormann: That is precisely what you asked—

The PRESIDENT: On the point of order, Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: On the point of order: Mr President, that is not what I asked. I asked why we have a statement from the minister and evidence in the Federal Court that are not consistent. I am offering the minister the opportunity to explain to the Senate why these two pieces of evidence are inconsistent.

The PRESIDENT: I do not believe the question is out of order. It is a question the minister is free to address in the manner that she sees fit.









Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:56): Again, I will need to refer to the statement that I made at the beginning of question time. The AWU's legal action against the Registered Organisations Commission, in relation to the investigation into the donations made by Mr Shorten when he was secretary of the AWU, is in the course of a hearing before the Federal Court this week. As I am yet to give evidence in the case, I am subject to restrictions in relation to what I can be told about the case and about evidence that has been given by other witnesses. Although Senator Wong is putting information to me and is providing commentary on the case, I have no way of verifying whether or not what Senator Wong has said is true.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.



Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:57): Can the minister advise who is telling the truth: the minister, the minister's former senior media adviser or the minister's former chief of staff?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:57): I stand by the statement I gave at the time.