Contributed from Victoria
The decision by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to consider laying charges over leaks from jobs minister Michaelia Cash’s office, relating to last year’s 24 October raids on the Australian Workers Union (AWU), is a smoking gun, lending truth to the allegation that the action was a media stunt.
According to a DPP source, “The [Australian Federal Police] AFP has commenced an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information concerning recent search warrants executed in support of a Registered Organisations Commission investigation.” Anyone found guilty of the charge, faces the possibility of an up to two year jail term.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the raids were conducted to gain political advantage, and if this is so, Cash and the federal government had something to gain from the leaks. At the end of the day, they bear responsibility for what happened.
This is the reason why there is a growing call for the minister to resign. The determination to hold on at all costs, may well prove to evolve into a new scandal for a government, already reeling from a spate of disasters and the byelection drubbing it has just received.
The raids were associated with a vendetta against social media activist group GetUp, which has been a major embarrassment for the government. And the alleged association between it and the union once led by opposition leader Bill Shorten, was later used to justify the foreign donations legislation, which, above all else, was designed as an attack on the community organisations that might be critical of government policy.
By using underhand and illegal methods to impose its will, the government shows just how frightened it is of any form of dissent from its political program, and to what lengths it is willing to go, to remain in office.
Meanwhile, the AWU’s Federal Court challenge into the “improper political purpose” of the raids is now on hold until the AFP’s investigation is completed. The union is arguing for access to three confidential AFP affidavits relating to the raids.
There is a lot at stake here. Should the evidence that AWU action was carried out in what is supposed to be the letter of the law, it points to a government increasingly prepared to go to any lengths. A failure by Malcolm Turnbull to act promptly to put a stop to it and punish those responsible, suggests complicity.
Put aside the matter of legality, it remains that the behaviour is morally corrupt.
If they get away with this, it will further undermine confidence in the political institutions of this country.