Peter O’Brien: The Cash Affair

There are two dimensions to the AFP raid on the AWU.

The first is the administration of justice.  The government had credible information that Bill Shorten may have made donations to GetUp and his own campaign without obtaining proper authorization and was within its rights to refer the matter to the Registered Organisations Commission.  Whether or not the ROC felt that this was a case they should pursue was up to them.  Being a statutory authority they do not act on the government’s direction.  They could have declined to pursue the matter for any number of reasons, including:

  • it was so long ago,
  • it was an internal procedural matter within the AWU,
  • the AWU may not see itself as an injured party on the basis that the donations would have been approved anyway had proper approval been sought, etc.

They chose to pursue it.  Fair enough.

The other dimension to the affair is ‘politics’.  There is no doubt that the government saw this as an opportunity to embarrass Bill Shorten.  That alone should have given the ROC pause and, at the very least, caused it to act with the utmost discretion.

At the point of accepting the brief the ROC should have ceased all contact with the Minister’s office on this matter.  The Minister should have instructed her staff likewise.  It is not believable that the AFP would have alerted a staffer in Minister Cash’s office to an impending raid, so the information must have come from the ROC.

That speaks to an unhealthily cosy relationship between the government of the day and a statutory authority.  Why would not the ALP cry ‘stitch-up’?

Minister Cash, by her failure to enforce strict standards of probity within her office, has not only screwed up the politics in a spectacular way, damaging the whole government in the process, she has also managed to debase the Registered Organisations Commission to such an extent it is quite likely now unfit for purpose.

Cash should resign or be sacked.  Fat chance of that though, ministerial accountability being not even a shadow of its former self.

Incidentally, the real political damage to Shorten arising from this affair is not that he made donations without obtaining proper authorization, but that he gave a substantial amount to an organization devoted to destroying AWU jobs.  That is more likely to resonate with both unionists and voters than the arcane matter of authorization.  And that advantage could have been pursued vigorously without ever having to resort to the ROC.

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7 Responses to Peter O’Brien: The Cash Affair

  1. thefrolickingmole

    I have trouble believing theyd be stupid enough not to think that calling the media 15 minutes before the raid wouldnt result in the AWU having 14 minutes and 59 seconds to dispose of or hide evidence.

    Gretchian in its stupidity.

  2. stackja

    MSM doing its usual job!

  3. candy

    To me it seems a person in the ROC was pals with the staff in Ms Cash’s office. Otherwise why would they feel so comfortable in calling the Minister’s office about the impending raid and not worried about getting into trouble with Ms Cash and causing an extremely problematic situation and indeed compromising trust in the ROC and the Federal Government.

    The staffer only owned up because it was found out.

  4. Leo G

    It is not believable that the AFP would have alerted a staffer in Minister Cash’s office to an impending raid, so the information must have come from the ROC.

    If the information came from the ROC, then the staffer should have immediately notified the Minister. If from another source then the staffer should have checked with the ROC and AFP before notifying the Minister.
    Probity- ie honesty- is not the issue. Propriety- in the sense of conforming to standards- is the issue.
    Why did the staffer not inform the Minister promptly? Was he under instructions to act improperly when informed of the timing of the AFP/ROC operation?

  5. Peter O'Brien

    Why did the staffer not inform the Minister promptly? Was he under instructions to act improperly when informed of the timing of the AFP/ROC operation?

    My point is that the Minister’s office should not have been informed of the raids in the first place. The investigation should have been carried out at arms length from the government. Once the government had passed the information to the ROC, it should have had NO further involvement in the process, the result of which would have been either a recommendation to the appropriate authority for prosecution or a recommendation that no further action be taken.

  6. Roger

    It is not believable that the AFP would have alerted a staffer in Minister Cash’s office to an impending raid, so the information must have come from the ROC.

    But it is conceivable that an AFP experiencing budgetary cuts from the government would have contacted, via their media office, one or more persons in the msm to alert them to the raid so as to gain positive publicity which could then be used as leverage in discussions with the government over their budget. Said preferred contacts in the msm let it slip to the ministerial staffer…the rest is now history.

  7. benaud

    If it goes to trail wouldn’t the Minister interference create a selective prosecution defense. This was retarded anyway.

    If you are going to go after unions then the target should have been the CREMU. The blade should be money laundering (if the donations to get-up and the labour party were dodgy, anti-terrorism laws where they interact with finance and comspiracy). Then widen it if need be, the wider investigation would exhaust their resources.

    But all this would do is result in mud and a fine, the govt needs to kill the target.

    E

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