Cash Refuses To Answer Subpoena Questions In Fiery Hearing

"You're running a protection racket for Bill Shorten", Cash tells Labor senator.

What you need to know
  • Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash was served with subpoena to appear in federal court
  • Cash has refused to answer most questions about the AWU raids and media tip-off
  • Fronting an estimates hearing, Cash took most questions on notice

Under-fire minister Michaelia Cash continually refused to answer questions about a federal court subpoena issued to her in relation to the Australian Workers Union case, in a fiery Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.

As reported on Wednesday, Cash and several others have been issued with court orders in relation to the case between the AWU and the Registered Organisations Commission. The federal jobs minister has been asked to appear in Melbourne to speak about the involvement of her office in media being tipped off to the raids of AWU offices in Sydney and Melbourne last October.

Cash ducked an appearance in Senate estimates on Wednesday, but gave a press conference where she claimed the subpoenas were politically motivated and said her legal team would ask to have the orders set aside.

On Thursday, Cash fronted the economics estimates hearing, where Labor senator Murray Watt attempted to ask her for further details on the subpoena, any court proceedings, and whether she had been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police. However, committee chair and Liberal senator Jane Hume ruled the questions out of order, and Cash continually declined to answer.

"You know that's not an appropriate question for the economics committee. If you'd like to take those issues to the education and employment committee, where those issues arose originally, that would be entirely fine," Hume told Watt.

"I'm going to rule every one of those questions out of order and demand the minister does not answer them."

Cash claimed Watt's questions were a "stunt". After minutes of debate, Watt called for the meeting to adjourn so that members could discuss whether questions about the subpoena be allowed in the hearing. Following a short break, Watt resumed his questioning but Hume again advised Cash that she did not have to answer questions which were not related specifically to the economics committee.

"Senator Watt is entitled to come in here and pull his stunt. I'm not going to indulge, however, Senator Watt's stunt. Senator Watt, you have your media headline," she said.

"You're running a protection racket for Bill Shorten."

Cash declined to answer most of Watt's questions, referring almost every question -- on when she was served the subpoena, if or when she or her staff had been interviewed by the AFP, or whether the government was paying for any legal team she had retained -- to be taken on notice.

"I am more than happy to take on notice any of these questions and have them directed to the relevant portfolio," Cash said.

"You are the relevant minister. They were served on you," Watt interjected.

"You are the only person, apart than the person who served the subpoena on you, who knows when you were served. I don't see why you have to refer it to anyone else."

Following Cash's repeated refusal to answer questions, the committee descended into near-farce as Watt searched for a question the minister would answer.