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Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Page: 7901

Ministerial Staff

Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:54): My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. Reports breaking today indicate that Senator Cash's former chief of staff has now been served with a subpoena to appear in court to answer questions relating to her office leaking details of AFP raids of AWU officers. Media reports also reveal that private investigators had to be hired to serve the senator's former chief of staff with a subpoena to produce documents and give evidence in the Federal Court. When was the minister first aware that her former chief of staff was served with a subpoena? Has she discussed the matter with him?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:55): I thank Senator Watt for the question. Senator Watt, you know more than I do, because I've only just been informed of that matter—by you. Whether or not it's true, I have no idea, but I'll take it on your word that it is. I have not discussed it with my former chief of staff, but I also would make the point that he is a private citizen, and it is sub judice. Also, Senator Watt, you would be aware that you can issue a subpoena to anyone. It does not mean that they actually had information that is relevant to the case. The AWU may well want to subpoena Mr Shorten, for example, to ask him, 'Did you authorise the $25,000 donation that you gave to your own campaign?' The AWU may wish to subpoena Mr Shorten to answer the question, 'Did you authorise the $100,000 that you gave to GetUp! that was the money of the member of the AWU?' They are the fundamental questions, and those on the other side have asked a lot of questions in relation to Mr Morrison over events that occurred some time ago. Well, maybe Mr Shorten ought to front up. The AWU can subpoena him, because you can subpoena anybody.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong on a point of order.

Senator Wong: Yes, a point of order on direct relevance: this minister is the last person who should be talking about 'fronting up'. The question had nothing to do with the issues she's raised. It goes to the subpoena of her chief of staff in relation to events that occurred whilst he was her chief of staff.

The PRESIDENT: Minister, Senator Wong has reminded you of part of the question. As long as you are directly relevant to part of the question, I cannot instruct a minister how to answer.

Senator CASH: The question was in relation to AWU subpoenas. I advised Senator Watt that I wasn't aware of what he just stated. I also advised him that you can actually subpoena anybody; there is no law against that. In fact, there is a law that allows you to do that. And perhaps the AWU would like to subpoena Mr Shorten so that he can absolutely give evidence—once and for all—that yes, he did or he didn't authorise the $25,000 he gave to his own campaign and authorise properly, in accordance with union rules, the $100,000 he gave to GetUp!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, a supplementary question.

Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:58): I thank the minister very much for her answer. Is the minister aware of the minister's former chief of staff playing any role or having any knowledge of the leaking of information relevant to AFP raids to the media?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:58): Senator Watt, I would also recall that you have asked me question after question after question at a number of estimates hearings in relation to this exact matter, and I stand by the answers I've previously given.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: I asked about knowledge, and she's refusing to answer.

The PRESIDENT: There's an opportunity after question time to address ministers' answers. Once the minister has concluded her answer, I can't take a point of order on relevance. Senator Watt?

Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:59): Senator Cash has also been subpoenaed to appear in the Federal Court but has publicly indicated that she has instructed her taxpayer funded lawyers to challenge the subpoena. Does this remain the senator's position? What does the senator have to hide?

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education) (14:59): Absolutely nothing. My position has been made incredibly clear from day one. Senator Watt, I'm not about to play out a court process here, because it is sub judice, but, as I've already stated, you do know you can subpoena anyone. There is no law against it. In fact, there is actually a law that allows it.