It's Been 149 Days And The Police Haven't Interviewed Michaelia Cash Over AWU Raids Tip-Off

    "Does anyone have any questions in relation to the good news of today?"

    Jobs minister Michaelia Cash hasn't been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), 149 days after it launched an investigation into the media being tipped-off about raids on Australian Workers' Union (AWU) offices last October.

    Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

    At a press conference at Parliament House on Thursday afternoon the minister said she had not been questioned by the AFP over the ongoing scandal, but refused to say whether her staff had been questioned.

    BuzzFeed: Minister, have you been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police?

    Cash: I think the AFP answered that at Estimates.

    BuzzFeed: That's not true, at Estimates they said that they had yet to interview any ministers. So since Estimates, have you been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police?

    Cash: No I have not.

    BuzzFeed: Has anyone in your office been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police?

    Cash: Again, that as you know is subject to a PII [public interest immunity] claim.

    BuzzFeed: Did your office get tipped off about the police raids on union offices by Michael Keenan's office?

    Cash: No.

    BuzzFeed: Did you have any conversation with Michael Keenan's office since we released a story indicating that he had tipped off journalists about the raids?

    Cash: I think what's so interesting about your line of questioning, and I mean I've answered questions many times in relation to this, in terms of my own knowledge, and I did not know about the raids until I was watching them on the TV. Go back to the very beginning. Were the raids authorised or not? These donations were authorised, produce the documentation and that is the end of the matter. Does anyone have any questions in relation to the good news of today? The job creation figures?

    BuzzFeed News: Will you make yourself available for cross examination in Federal Court?

    * Cash walks away*

    Earlier this week Cash refused to answer similar questions in Senate Question Time.

    BuzzFeed News revealed in October that Cash's former senior media adviser David De Garis had tipped off several media organisations, and last month a journalist claimed they received a phone call from then justice minister Michael Keenan's office informing them of the raids before they took place.

    The raids were part of an investigation by the Turnbull government-established watchdog the Registered Organisations Commission into donations made by the union over a decade ago, when it was led by current Labor leader Bill Shorten.

    The minister denied her office had any involvement in the leak five times in Senate Estimates last year, before announcing De Garis was behind it. After admitting he tipped of the media, De Garis resigned in October.

    BuzzFeed's @workmanalice grills jobs minister Michaelia Cash about the AFP's investigation into her office tipping off the media about union raids. https://t.co/zKvCLMkpLG

    Cash has done her best to evade the Canberra press gallery since, by abruptly changing the time and location of press conferences and infamously hiding behind a whiteboard.

    Thursday's press conference was only her second in Canberra since August.

    Her office gave the media nine minutes notice of her last press conference and were later caught censoring the transcript, by removing any questions to do with the raids. The questions were replaced with the line "[Non-portfolio related questions/answers]".

    An "overzealous" public servant in her department was blamed for the edited transcript.

    Minister Cash's office has been in touch with @calbd to say this censored transcript was put out by an "overzealous staffer" in the department, not by them. https://t.co/tpyLJZKvK3

    Earlier this week the Federal Court adjourned the AWU's challenge into the legitimacy of the raids until the AFP's investigation is finalised. The next hearing is scheduled for June, but the investigation is expected to take at least another three or four months.

    The AWU successfully argued the trial should be delayed until it can be granted access to three confidential AFP affidavits relating to the raids, which have only been seen by the police and a judge.

    Last week the AWU flagged that when the case goes ahead it will seek to subpoena Cash, as well as De Garis and former Fair Work Ombudsman official Mark Lee.

    Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

    Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

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