It is difficult to know where to start with an essay on Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator Michaelia Cash, without going from essay to treatise. However, I will largely restrict this to one instance which demonstrates her mindset, such as it is.
In Senate Estimates committee hearings on Wednesday, the AFP gave evidence that the raids on union offices were a bit more complex than expected, in that more people may be involved, and there may be other crimes to be investigated. This raid and its aftermath have been the source of exceptional interest in recent months. Senator Cash initially stated that her office had not tipped off the media before the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in October 20171. The raid was a fishing expedition attempting to find documents relating to donations by the union to the activist group GetUp2 while Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten was an official in the union. When queried at a subsequent senate hearing, Cash claimed ‘public interest immunity’ in refusing to answer questions1. After these hearings, Cash lost a case in the Federal Court in which she attempted to block access to key documents relating to the AFP raids2.
At senate estimates on Wednesday, when Cash was asked by Senator Doug Cameron for the name of her new chief-of-staff and their employment record, Cash replied stating that discussing staffing matters was a very dangerous road. She then threatened: “If you want to start discussing staff matters be very, very careful. Because I’m happy to sit here and name every young woman in Mr Shorten’s office about which rumours in this place abound… If you want to go down that path today I will do it.” Cameron responded to this with “That’s a nonsense.”3
In response to Cameron, Cash reiterated: “Do you want to start naming them? Do you want to start naming them and have Mr Shorten deny any of the rumours that have been circulating in this building now for many, many years? Dangerous path to go down and you know it.” Senator Cameron then told her to “take what the young people call a chill pill and you might be OK”3.
Senator Penny Wong was apparently following this exchange between Cash and Cameron and strode into the hearing room. She bored it up Cash for these outrageous slurs against the women who work in Shorten’s office, and asked Cash to withdraw the comments. Cash initially resisted, but Wong then said that if Cash did not withdraw the comment, it would have to be dealt with “on the floor of the senate”. This frightened Cash sufficiently such that she withdrew the comments. Wong thanked her, then left the room4.
This whole saga demonstrates the limited intellect of Cash who, after seemingly skating on thin ice with the ham-fisted handling of the raids on the AWU offices, then attempting to keep documents secret, has now spat the dummy in, of all places, senate estimates, by making a threat against women in Shorten’s office. Her lack of self-control and intelligence was brought into sharp relief by the demolition of her by one of the most disciplined and intelligent politicians, Senator Wong.
The final point, which says much about Cash and her conservative mindset is that she threatened only young women in Shorten’s office, not all the staff, just the young women. Given that Cash is apparently a woman, it demonstrates much about the conservative mindset. Not really surprising that one of the pejoratives used to describe her is ‘Senator Crash’. You know she is in deep poo when even the Australian Financial Review calls her ‘accident prone’3. That can be a terminal characterisation.