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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10019

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (10:35): Let me say from the outset that I have supported a lot of the government's industrial legislation—I've had Senator Cameron shout, 'Shame, Senator; shame,' at me across the chamber—but, on this issue, I want to go back to the estimates committee hearings and why I supported having Senator Cash come here today. On her road to Damascus after the dinner break, she came back and said that she has misled the Senate five times. She said that one of her staffers, David De Garis, had, in fact, got information—a tip—from a media source and had then passed it on to other media. She hadn't done it but she'd found out that a staffer had done it. We knew then that, in a way, the fix was in, because he did not get the information from a media source. The implication was that, yes, maybe De Garis got a phone call from a journo. Or someone up in the press gallery, walking along the corridor—a television reporter, a radio reporter or a newspaper columnist—just happened to mention to him, 'Hey, there's going to be a raid on the AWU,' and he passed it on to other media. That's not true. From what we're gathering now, the media source was not the mainstream media; the media source was a media adviser from another government agency—a totally different thing. The feeling was that, yes, he a bit recklessly without telling his own minister, he got a tip-off from a journo—'Shucks, it's good news; it's interesting news. I'll pass it on.' He ended up with the media getting there 20 minutes before the Federal Police got there.

The minister has said today that she is not under an investigation, and yet she has been hiding behind the idea that if she gives us information it will affect an AFP investigation. How would it affect an AFP investigation for the minister to tell us how long the staffer had worked for her? How would it hurt the minister to tell us whether we can expect any more of her staff to leave during the Christmas-New Year break? How can it affect an AFP investigation if, in a small office, one of her media advisers was overheard telling another media adviser—or getting information from somebody else's media adviser—what was going on? I keep going back to this media source thing because I've come to the reluctant conclusion that this was a deliberate decision by the minister and her department to use the term 'media source' rather than a ROC media adviser, a Fair Work media adviser or a senior media adviser. It was done deliberately—to say 'media source'—to throw the senators in those estimates hearings off the track. If it was a tip-off from a journo in the press gallery corridor, that's one thing. Somebody might have thought, 'A bit of gossip; I'll pass it on,' but it wasn't that at all. It was something that was given, allegedly, to David De Garis. Since then, we haven't been able to find him. The AFP can't find him. It was information deliberately given by an independent agency to somebody in Senator Cash's office. Something's rotten in the state of Denmark.