The Court Case Into The AWU Raids Has Been Adjourned For At Least Three Months
We'll have to wait for the tea to be spilt.
The Federal Court has adjourned the Australian Workers' Union's (AWU) challenge into the legitimacy of police raids on union offices for at least three months, until the Australian Federal Police's (AFP) investigation into media leaks is finalised.
The AWU launched its court challenge following revelations from BuzzFeed News that jobs and innovation minister Michaelia Cash's office tipped off the media about the October 24 raids by the AFP on the union's Sydney and Melbourne offices.
The union aims to probe the validity of the raids, which were part of an investigation by the Turnbull government–established watchdog, the Registered Organisations Committee (ROC), into donations made by the union over a decade ago when it was led by current Labor leader Bill Shorten.
In a win for the union, Justice Anthony North ruled the trial – which was due to kick off next week – should be postponed due to the ongoing investigation by the AFP into the media tip-off about the raids.
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 North.
"It would be … a disadvantage and unfair if the [AWU] were forced to trial without having access to the documents," North said.
The ROC argued the case should go ahead as planned on Monday, because its own investigation into the AWU was being held up by the delays. The ROC has not been able to access the documents it seized in the October raids while the court challenge is ongoing.
Last week the AWU flagged that when the case goes ahead it will seek to subpoena Cash, as well as her former senior media adviser David De Garis and former Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) official Mark Lee.
Cash refused to answer questions in Senate Question Time on Monday over whether the AFP had interviewed her over the leak, or whether she planned to make herself available for the court case.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton told BuzzFeed News the ROC investigation was politically motivated and invalid, and that the court case aims to show the subsequent raids on the union offices were unlawful.
He says AWU staff in Melbourne and Sydney were informed of the raids by members of the media, who arrived at the offices well in advance of police and began broadcasting live into news bulletins.
De Garis resigned from Cash's office last year after admitting he tipped-off journalists ahead of the raid. He hasn't spoken publicly, or revealed who told him the raids were about to occur. He's one of four staff members to leave Cash's office since the leaks were exposed.
At the time of the leaks Lee was on loan from the FWO to the ROC and knew ahead of time that the search warrants were being sought. He's since resigned from the FWO, blaming intense media scrutiny, and hired the lawyer responsible for Rebel Wilson's historic multi-million dollar defamation win to represent him. Lee has denied he was the source of the leak.
Cash claims the leak occurred without her knowledge but has continually refused to say whether any other ministers or staff members were involved.
Last month BuzzFeed News spoke to a journalist who claims they received a phone call from then justice minister Michael Keenan's office informing them of the raids before they took place.