Contributed by Joe Montero
By ordering Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to hand over documents, relating to the Federal Police raid on the Australian Workers Union (AWU) offices and the tip off to the media, the Federal Court’s justice Mordy Bromberg made a significant decision.
Some of the documents escaped the order, but the way has been open for the union to make a new application for these.
The Federal Court is not exactly union friendly. Its usual routine is to apply decisions, based on the constraints imposed by the Fair Work Act.
But this case is unusual. The political nature of it is so obvious that it has brought about a great deal of criticism, and not been limited to the supporters of unions and the Labor Party. This is a case of over reach, which caused damage to Michaelia Cash’s standing and left Malcolm Turnbull wearing even more egg on his face. He had enough problems already and this is a festering sore that demands attention.
The case has also embroiled the Registered Organisation Commission (ROC), the Fair Work Ombudsman and Cash’s former senior media adviser David De Garis, who stand accused of being involved in a political plot. They have also been ordered to provide documents.
Whatever the view and intention of justice Mordy Bromberg, there is a need for a clean up of the political mess and, inadvertently maybe, the order can provide a way to do this. The chances are that there will be some more fallout as content from these documents becomes public. Someone is likely to ultimately pay the price.
But it won’t be the minister. Malcolm Turnbull needs her support, in his factional battle to hold the top spot. As Justice Bromberg made his order, Prime Minister reshuffled his cabinet and promoted Michaelia Cash, by adding jobs and innovation to her portfolio.
In the meantime, De Garis has taken a job with the Australian Hotels Association, which made a $10 million deal with Cash in August to take 10,000 interns under the government’s PaTH program, a program that looks more like a backhand way to provide a cheap source of labour than a genuine training program.
While the result in this case before the Federal Court is welcome news, it should not be forgotten that it remains a far cry from addressing the wrong and bringing all those who are responsible to account. While Michaelia Cash and those who protect her continue to go on as usual, there is every reason to suspect that more outrages like this will be committed. This is why it is important to press for some action.