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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10284


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:05): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education (Senator Cash) and the Minister for Finance and the Public Service (Senator Cormann) to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today relating to the execution of a search warrant on Australian Workers' Union premises.

Let me start where Senator Cormann finished. He indicated that the Prime Minister had confidence in Senator Cash, and then he went on to say that she was an outstanding minister. Let me say that if the Prime Minister has confidence in this failed minister, it's another demonstration that the Prime Minister we have in office now is not up to the job—not up to the job! As far as Senator Cash being an outstanding minister goes, let me remind you, Madam Deputy President, of some of the positions that have developed under Senator Cash in her various ministerial portfolios.

Firstly, she was the minister responsible for the ABCC when the Commissioner of the ABCC, Nigel Hadgkiss—another disgraced public servant—was forced to resign because he breached the laws that he was supposed to uphold. Senator Cash defended this disgraced public servant. This minister allowed a position to continue where, after it became public knowledge that he had breached the act that he was overseeing, she allowed him to continue in that position. And then when he was finally forced to resign, what did she do? She authorised, basically, a golden handshake for him to go away. That's the outstanding position that we heard from Senator Cormann in talking about Senator Cash.

Senator Cash is a disgraced minister. She is an incompetent minister—

Senator Ian Macdonald: What, like Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald—your mates?

Senator CAMERON: Senator Macdonald, you can intervene all you like, but this is a minister who has just got no idea about how she should operate and what the position is that she should be undertaking to tell the truth in this place. On at least seven occasions before question time she clearly refused to answer questions about her behaviour when it comes to her ministerial responsibilities. That went on again and again during this question time.

Here we have a minister where two of her senior staff are now clearly implicated—clearly indicating that they breached criminal law in this country—and yet Senator Cash comes in here and tries to wave it all away, based on public interest immunity. It is an absolute nonsense. This minister needs to tell the truth. She needs to tell the truth and come clean in this place. She needs to go to court tomorrow and tell the truth, because she has continually refused to do that in this place. She's not bad when she's up there haranguing union officials for breaching right-of-entry provisions, yet her staff are engaged in criminal activity on her watch. She is hopeless, she is incompetent and she should resign. That's what Senator Cash should do. She should resign. She is a disgrace to the ministry of any government. She is a disgrace even in this disgraceful government—a government that is an absolute rabble.

Government senators interjecting

Senator CAMERON: This minister epitomises the rabble that this government is—a government that is on its knees, a government that's on its way out. This is a government that is incompetent, a government that would cover up. It's spending millions of dollars of taxpayers' money covering up for Senator Cash's incompetence and deceitful approach on this issue. If she won't go, then the Prime Minister should grow a backbone and sack her.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Before I call you, Senator Macdonald, I do remind all senators that the acoustics in here are very clear and so just be mindful of the comments that you make. Please make your contribution, Senator Macdonald.