SUBJECT/S: Minister Cash must go

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: For more, we're joined by Labor's Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke. Welcome to News Breakfast. Michaelia Cash's adviser has resigned, so surely that's the end of the matter. Why are you pushing for her to resign?

TONY BURKE: The issue has actually continued to go late into last night as well. There are two things that are clear from the new evidence that has come out. The first is that Michaelia Cash does have to go and the second is that the Prime Minister is up to his neck in this. In terms of what Michaelia Cash is now asking us to believe - we are meant to believe that her staff watched her give false information to the Senate on five separate occasions. That same staff member then went with her to a meeting with the Prime Minister and watched her give information to the Prime Minister that was not the full answer, and waited until the very end of the day into the evening in the dinner break, hours later, after there had been five pieces of misinformation that Senator Cash had given, after there had been two questions in Question Time from me that the Prime Minister had failed to answer, and then all of a sudden had a crisis of conscience at the end of the day and said, 'oh by the way, all I've been telling you all day is untrue.' That just defies credibility.

TRIOLI: That's where you will be pushing it today towards Michaelia Cash's credibility. But the larger issue around this is, of course, Bill Shorten's and that's where the Government is going again. That's the problem you have, isn't it? That Bill Shorten is not hugely popular in the polls and that many Australians are suspicious of him and that's why the Government attempts to keep throwing mud at him. That's the broader problem, surely that you have when it comes to credibility?

BURKE: It reminds of when Malcolm Turnbull tried to bring down Kevin Rudd about ute-gate, he was saying this was all about the credibility of Kevin Rudd and it completely blew up in Malcolm Turnbull's face, and we are watching that, in slow motion unfold once again. This is a Prime Minister who wants to cut corners. This is a Prime Minister who thinks, ‘I know how to destroy my opponent, there will be some big scandal.’ Well, the scandal has completely blown up in his face. Be in no doubt, this briefing that happened yesterday before Question Time with Michaelia Cash, the staffer who has now resigned and the Prime Minister. It was to say to the Prime Minister how he should respond to an allegation that Anthony Albanese put out yesterday morning which was that Michaelia Cash's office had been calling journalists about the raid. Michaelia Cash says to the PM, ‘I didn't call,’ and we're meant to believe that Malcolm Turnbull as a trained cross-examiner never said, ‘oh, no, the allegations are about your office.’ We are meant to believe that her staff member was there in a briefing with the Prime Minister of Australia knowing that his boss had already misled five times and still said nothing? There is no way, there is no way the Prime Minister can expect the Australian people to believe this.

TRIOLI: OK. If we're talking about direct answers, one thing that strikes me as interesting, and this goes to the heart of why those raids took place in the first place - let's go to the substance of that - is that no-one associated with this, whether it be the ACTU or the union itself ever seems to answer the question absolutely directly that they know for certain that formal and correct procedures were observed when those donations were made by the AWU. That's the heart of the matter and that's the reason that there has been this investigation in the first place. So as the leader of Opposition business, can you sit there and say hand on heart and say that you know that these donations were properly made?

BURKE: What I do know - obviously I'm not an official of the union, I haven't attended...

TRIOLI: Hang on, I do need to clarify something before you go on, because that's a slight shift, right? You're saying that the Prime Minister should have informed himself as a barrister and asked proper questions. Surely in the intervening few days, you've asked questions yourself to inform yourself about whether they were properly made or not. Have you not?

BURKE: Virginia, there was an entire royal commission, millions of dollars of taxpayer...

TRIOLI: You're still not answering the question.

BURKE: No, no, no. Virginia, an entire royal commission. Millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to answer this question. Does anyone believe that if this donation had been given from any other union and different unions would have made donations to GetUp! at different points in time, why is it that the only one that is being pursued here is one 10 years ago that was declared to the appropriate authorities at the time. When no-one argued at the time that there was any problem with it - does anyone think this investigation, this witch-hunt would be going on were it not for the fact that Bill Shorten is now the Leader of the Opposition? I mean, really, 10 years ago, a donation that the royal commission went into and couldn't find a problem with. This is Malcolm Turnbull playing a game and it's blown up in his face.

TRIOLI: And this yet another example of that direct question never being clearly answered and that's the political problem you have because you can't make it go away.

BURKE: Well, I've got to say, it's not for us to prove a negative. It's not for us to prove a negative here, and it's strange that that's where you are wanting to shift this. We've got the situation where an entire royal commission had a look at this, it was one of the things they were to look at. What happened two days ago was on the same day that we had been asking questions in Parliament about the Australian Federal Police not having the resources to pursue a 1.6 tonne cocaine raid, they then are told they've got to deploy 25 or so officers to seize a document about a donation that was given 10 years ago, and when they turn up for the raid, the TV cameras are there first, before the police! That's why this is the lead story today, not because of some allegation that something might have happened 10 years ago that they've only developed an interest in because they're desperate to throw mud when the Government, itself, is in a direct situation now of having a minister mislead the Parliament on five occasions and we're meant to believe her staff watched her do that, watched her give only half the story to the Prime Minister of Australia, watched the Prime Minister give answers that didn't fully answer in Question Time and they did nothing - there is no way that adds up.

TRIOLI: Tony Burke, let's see where it goes. Thanks for joining us today.

BURKE: Good to be back.


Tony Burke