Labor has ramped up its attack over leaks to the media ahead of federal police raids on the Australian Workers Union, declaring “somebody is lying” after another government minister was drawn into the case.
Michaelia Cash’s former media adviser David de Garis on Wednesday told the Federal Court that he organised with then-justice minister Michael Keenan’s media adviser to tip off media to be there for the raids.
Mr Keenan has previously denied his office had any involvement with the leaks, and stood by his prior statements in question time on Wednesday.
“That is completely contrary to, of course, assurances that Minister Keenan provided the House on the 1st of March last year,” Labor employment spokesperson Brendan O’Connor told reporters in Canberra.
He went on to declare “somebody is lying” and called on Mr Keenan to repeat his denial outside of Parliament.
The AFP raided two AWU offices in October 2017 as part of an investigation into donations made to lobby group GetUp when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was national secretary of the union.
Print and television journalists were waiting outside the offices when AFP arrived.
“Clearly there is somebody lying. Either the former adviser to Minister Cash under oath is lying to the court or Minister Keenan is lying to the Parliament, and we need to get to the bottom of this,” Mr O’Connor told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“This is the misuse of state resources, and indeed an agency of the state, to go after the federal opposition.”
He continued the opposition’s criticism of union watchdog the Registered Organisations Commission (the ROC), claiming it was established to be a political tool to hurt Labor.
“We’ve said from the outset that the enactment of the Registered Organisations Commission was in order to ensure that the government could use the powers of the state, and taxpayers’ money to go after the federal opposition.”
Mr O’Connor’s comments came after he asked Mr Keenan in question time if he stood by his previous denials.
“The answer to the question is yes, I do stand by those statements,” Mr Keenan said.
Just posting original QT exchange. On second read I don’t actually get Keenan’s answer today. Michaela Cash’s media staffer De Garis says he was told by Cash COS. De Garis then rang Keenan’s media man Michael Tetlow and says they both rang media. Keenan still stand by answer 🤷🏻♀️ pic.twitter.com/PKYGgk0np4
— 𝕤𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕟𝕥𝕙𝕒 𝕞𝕒𝕚𝕕𝕖𝕟 (@samanthamaiden) February 13, 2019
“I was justice minister for four and a half years. Every single day, myself and my office dealt with sensitive information. We had protocols associated with dealing with that information and we continue to make sure those protocols were adhered to in all circumstances.”
The AWU is arguing in court that the raids were unlawful, alleging they were politically motivated.
Mr Keenan told Parliament the AWU was interfering in the investigation into whether the donations “were made in a lawful way or whether the law was broken”.
“Now, if those documents [seized in the raids] don’t incriminate the leader of the opposition, why is it they can’t be made public? What is it that the leader of the opposition is trying to hide?”
The Senate on Wednesday voted to force Senator Cash to “correct the record” at 2pm on Thursday in the upper house.
Labor, the Greens, Centre Alliance, Derryn Hinch, Tim Storer and One Nation voted together 35-27 to support the motion.
Senator Cash had in 2017 repeatedly rejected her office was involved in the media tipoff, before her media adviser came forward as the source of the leak and resigned on the spot.
Mr de Garis also told the court he was told about the raids by the minister’s then-chief-of-staff.
She has always maintained she was not aware of his involvement, which has not been disputed by her former media adviser.
Senator Cash is due to give evidence to the court on Friday.