SUBJECT/S: Minister Cash misled the Senate and must resign

KIEREN GILBERT: Mr Burke joins me live here now, here in the studio. The Minister says the tip-off to the media happened without her knowledge, without her authorisation.

TONY BURKE: So, here’s what we’re meant to believe. That Michaelia Cash misled the Senate five times on what she herself said was a very serious allegation that she herself was offended to hear. We’re meant to believe her office watched her do that and didn’t tell her what had happened. What’s revealed last night, which hasn’t appeared in today's papers because it happened very late last night, was before question time. Michaelia Cash went specifically to the Prime Minister and the person from her staff who has now left the office who had advised the media, was with her at the meeting of the Prime Minister. She went to the Prime Minister to respond to allegations that had been made yesterday morning by Anthony Albanese, they were reported at the time. Where it was the allegation that her office had been calling the media about the raid. We’re meant to believe that with the member of staff who made those calls who was there with her, Michaelia Cash told the Prime Minister ‘oh with that Anthony Albanese allegation, I never made any calls.’ And we’re meant to believe that was it? That Malcolm Turnbull, as a trained cross-examiner, never said ‘no, no, the allegations were about your office and your office is there with you.’ Either Malcolm Turnbull did ask and we’re not being told or he knew to not ask. It defies belief that an allegation about her office when she has misled the Senate five times that her office doesn't tell her ‘hang on this is what has happened.’ That they then go with her to the Prime Minister of Australia and he as a trained cross-examiner doesn’t ask ‘well hang on the allegations are about your office not about you’. This defies belief. 

GILBERT: Is there a prospect though that the staff member thought they would try and protect the Minister and the Prime Minister in that scenario and not divulge the information? There is that scenario, isn’t there?

BURKE: If that’s the scenario what we’re then talking about is the person who is meant to be running the industrial relations system for Australia can’t run an office. If that’s the best she’s got it’s the person who has the level of responsibility of having a legal role in every workplace in Australia can’t run her office. So if the best she’s got is total incompetence, she has to go. But it defies belief.

GILBERT: So you don’t believe she didn't know?

BURKE: It defies belief that your staff can watch you mislead the Senate five times, can be with you with a meeting with the Prime Minister that the Prime Minister is then questioned about in question time on exactly that issue, questioned twice by me. And when you look at the answers that the Prime Minister gave he was very careful to not talk about the office and not want to say anything about the office. Very careful. Either, the question was asked and the mislead goes all the way through or the Prime Minister knew to not ask. But there is no doubt now two things we know for sure - one, Michaelia Cash has to go and two, the Prime Minister is up to his neck in this. 

GILBERT: In relation to her awareness of what went on in terms of the tip-off, she is adamant that she gave no authorisation and was not aware of the raid in fact until she saw it on the television herself. 

BURKE: We asked her about her office. Labor was ridiculed by her for asking about what her office had done. She said in response how serious the allegations were and how offended she was that Labor was asking about this. Let’s look at what the Government then did. They waited until all the evening news’ had concluded. They waited until it was too late for any resolutions to be moved in the Parliament. And then, they waited for a Buzzfeed article by Alice Workman to appear where it became clear that the media was starting to notice that the media had been advised. This information hasn’t come out because there was a crisis of conscience from a staff member. This has come out because the cover-up wasn’t going to work. This has come out, and the Government would have had to reveal this information because they realised they were being found out.

GILBERT: Is there any defence, in your view, under the Westminster system of Ministerial accountability that if the Minister was not aware of her staff member’s actions. Is there any defence? Is there any survival for her in that sense?

BURKE: You can’t survive by deliberately avoiding finding out.  You can’t survive with a nod and a wink saying ‘we won’t ask about the real issue.’ This might be different were it not that the whole way through, we’re being told, that these conversations were responding to Anthony Albanese’s allegations.

GILBERT: But what if the staff member didn’t tell her when he was asked? Is there a defence?

BURKE: She hasn’t said that the staff member lied to her. She hasn’t said that.

GILBERT: No she hasn’t.

BURKE: She hasn’t said that. What she said is that it took until then for the staff member to have a conversation with her. Let’s be clear here. There is no defence for any Minister ever that ‘oh, I thought it was better to not ask, that I avoided asking and that just led me to mislead five times.’ We’ve got specific questions in the Senate to Michaela Cash where the answer she gives, even she now admits, were patently wrong. We’ve got two answers in the Parliament yesterday from the Prime Minister of Australia where he was careful to not answer anything about what her office knew.

GILBERT: What do you say to the suggestion that this is an elaborate distraction from Labor to take attention away from the fact that the registered organisations commission is probing the donations made when Bill Shorten was secretary?

BURKE: This is a donation to GetUp! ten years ago that was already looked at by the royal commission. Where the union has said that they were happy to provide whatever information that was being sought. And let’s not forget, and we get to the absolute core of this Kieran, when you think of this point – at the raid, if you want to question whether this was a stunt or not, at the raid, the TV cameras had arrived before the police did. The TV cameras were there before the police were there. That has stunt written all over it. And it’s not like Labor tried to avoid this issue. Everything that’s been uncovered is because Labor has called this out and wanted to get to the bottom of a born to rule Government. That thinks it can own and get away with anything, break the rules of Parliament, manipulate the rules in whatever way they want and today both Minister Cash and the PM have been caught out.

GILBERT: Mr Burke, thanks for your time.

BURKE: Good to be here. 



Tony Burke