A second person has left embattled employment minister Michaelia Cash's office, following the scandal over Cash's office leaking information to the media about police raids on union offices.
Senior adviser Simon Berger resigned from Cash's office in recent weeks, after working in parliament for nearly four years. BuzzFeed News has confirmed Berger commenced his new job as the deputy federal director of the Liberal Party on Monday.
Berger made news in 2012 after hosting a Sydney University Young Liberals dinner where radio shock jock Alan Jones said former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard's father died of shame.
He also arranged the auction of a jacket, signed by Jones, which was made from a chaff bag. Jones had previously said on his radio show that Gillard should be put inside a chaff bag and dumped at sea.
Berger, a prominent NSW Liberal, voluntarily resigned as the government relations manager for Woolworths following the Jones scandal.
Cash's office said Berger's departure to join Liberal HQ was not linked with the scandal, but government sources told BuzzFeed News the timing of the departure was suspicious, and that they expect more heads to roll when further information about the raids leak emerges.
“Mr Berger has left the office in order to take up a senior position in the Liberal Party, with the full support of the minister," a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "Any suggestion that this is related to any other matter is utterly false."
BuzzFeed News understands no-one else has left the office.
"Minister Cash has lost yet another staffer, hot on the heals of her senior advisor resigning for leaking information to the media," shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Brendan O'Connor told BuzzFeed News.
"It's time the deception and cover ups end - who else in her office was involved and who else knew about the leak? How many people were involved? It’s time for Cash to finally tell the truth.
"Senator Cash's story is unravelling by the day. It's hard to see how anyone will trust anything she says."
Berger is the second staffer to resign from Cash's office in the wake of BuzzFeed News' revelation that media outlets had been tipped off about the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the Australian Workers Union (AWU) by Cash's office.
The AWU Sydney and Melbourne offices were raided by the AFP on the behalf of the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) in late October in relation to donations made by the union over a decade ago when it was led by current Labor leader Bill Shorten.
Before the story was published, Cash denied five times to Senate Estimates that she or her staff members had informed the media of the raid.
"Quite frankly I am offended on behalf of my staff as to those allegations," Cash said at the time. "They are very serious allegations."
After the story was published, however, Cash changed her tune.
She said that a senior advisor, David De Garis, had admitted to tipping off the media about the raids and had subsequently resigned. Cash repeatedly denied that she knew of the leak and said she did not authorise the leak to the media.
Cash said last month she had questioned several staff members in her office about the leaks.
"I've spoken to several staff members in my office," said told Estimates in October. "As I've stated, one has come forward and advised of their course of conduct, and they have resigned their employment."
The following day, the government tabled an email from the AFP stating it was investigating the leak, and as a result the government subsequently refused to answer all questions.
Cash is now using the AFP investigation to block the release of any communications between herself, her staffers and employees at the Fair Work Commission and the ROC about the raids.
BuzzFeed News filed a freedom of information request for these communications last month, and in a response emailed at 11:10pm on the date the FOI response was due to be received, Cash's chief of staff, Ben Davies, refused the request to hand over communications, citing the AFP investigation.
The employment minister's office refused to confirm the existence, or release, communications between Cash, her staff, and other key players in the scandal over Cash's office leaking information about the raid.
It has been 34 days since Cash fronted the employment committee to answer questions about the matter. At the last meeting, she sent attorney-general George Brandis in her place.
She is due to appear on Friday.
Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.
Contact Alice Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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