Cash Asks To Have Subpoena Set Aside Over AWU Raids

Jobs minister Michaelia Cash ordered to appear in court in August.

Embattled federal minister Michaelia Cash will try to set aside a subpoena ordering her to give evidence in the federal court relating to her role in controversial raids of Australian Workers Union offices last year.

In a press conference on Wednesday, she attempted to downplay the news, calling it "just another effort by the union movement to protect Bill Shorten."

It was revealed in a BuzzFeed report a member of Cash's staff tipped off media outlets about the raids of AWU premises in Sydney and Melbourne last October, raising claims the police activity was politically motivated. The staffer soon resigned following the revelations, with Cash repeatedly denying she had any knowledge of the staffer's actions.

The raids were in relation to an investigation by the Registered Organisations Commission into handling of donations by the AWU, the union formerly headed by Labor leader Shorten.

The ABC reported, on Wednesday, court documents show Cash -- the minister for jobs and innovation -- will be ordered to appear in federal court in Melbourne in August. Subpoenas were drawn up several months for Cash, the staffer and several others allegedly linked to the raid and tip-off, but the orders were not issued at the time due to a probe by the Australian Federal Police.

On Wednesday, Cash told journalists her legal team would look to set aside the subpoena so that she would not be forced to appear in the court.

"I will comply with the legal process. As part of that process I have issued instructions to the lawyers to have the subpoena set aside," she said.

Federal court documents require Cash and others to provide documents by June, and to appear in court to give evidence by August 1.

Documents published on the federal court's website show the AWU filed four subpoena to give evidence and three subpoenas to produce documents on May 15.

Cash said on Wednesday her office had already supplied documents to the investigation.

Cash has repeatedly resisted further questions about her role, if any, in the AWU raids and the tip-off to media, citing an ongoing police investigation into the incidents.

She was due to front a Senate estimates committee hearing on Wednesday, where she was expected to face further questions. However, she stepped aside from that commitment on Tuesday afternoon with fellow Liberal senator Zed Seselja appearing in her place for the rest of the day and Wednesday. No reason was given for the substitution.

"Why can’t we just get the minister here... it seems like a cover up to me," Labor senator Doug Cameron told Seselja.

"I completely reject your assertion," the Liberal senator replied.

Labor senators pushed for Cash to return to the hearing to answer further questions.

A Labor source pointed out, however, that Cash found time to appear in a Facebook video with NSW Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis on Wednesday morning, during the time she would have been in the estimates hearing.

Labor's shadow employment minister Brendan O'Connor slammed Cash for not fronting the estimates committee to answer questions and called on her to provide information on her role in the AWU raids.

"It has gone on for seven months and I do believe it was incumbent on the minister originally to answer these questions and today, she has been unable to account for her conduct or the conduct of her office and now, she is not even in a position to do her day job," he told a press conference in Parliament House.

"Not turning up to estimates today, and leaving estimates early yesterday, instead of representing the Minister that she’s supposed to be representing in budget estimates."

At her press conference, Cash also spoke to the infamous incident in March where she was shielded from media cameras in Parliament House by a whiteboard.

"Can I be very clear, I had nothing to do with the whiteboard. Can I tell you? Do you think you were surprised? You should have seen the look on my face. I was the one who surprised," she said.

"I believe it is Parliamentary security had taken full responsibility for what occurred. We advised many journalists of that on the night...  I had nothing to do with it. My office had nothing to do with it. That was something that the Department of Parliamentary services took upon themselves."