AWU Raids a Political Act by a Desperate PM
Last week Australian politics reached a new low, and with Team Turnbull beating the xenophobia drum with all the energy it can muster, that’s saying something.
The new low was of course the raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AWU is expected to mount an urgent Federal Court challenge.
The raids dramatically featured on prime-time evening TV news broadcasts, which at the time made me think that the media must have been tipped off about them, and as we soon found out, they were, by one of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s staff.
Ms Cash spent the best part of a day denying that important piece of information, which quite rightly has resulted in calls for her resignation, for given that under the Westminster system of government a minister is ultimately responsible for the actions of their department and their staff, Australian Greens Acting Co-Deputy Leader Adam Bandt’s comment that Cash’s position was untenable and that she should resign is entirely appropriate.
However, back to the main story. The AFP raids were part of an investigation by newly re-established union watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) into AWU donations to activist group GetUp! when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten led the union.
It’s clearly part of the Government’s ongoing attack on the union movement in general and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in particular. It is also an attack on Get Up, for Turnbull & Co certainly don’t like community based activism. As Mr Shorten said, the “AFP is doing government’s dirty work”.
The ROC said the raids were triggered after it received information that documents relevant to the investigation were being “concealed or destroyed” and sought authorisation from a magistrate for immediate AFP access to the documents.
The commission’s investigation, launched earlier this month, is examining whether the $100,000 donation was within the AWU’s rules.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton labelled the raids “an extraordinary abuse of police resources” and part of an attempt to smear Mr Shorten.
In a statement, GetUp! said the dramatic police actions raised “concerning questions” and said that the organisation handled the 2005 donation appropriately.
“This is part of a pattern from this government trying to silence its critics or anyone who challenges it,” GetUp! national director Paul Oosting said.
Greens industrial relations spokesperson Adam Bandt MP added that “This is part of a worrying broader crackdown on dissent in Australia”.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus pointed out that the raids “Meant to intimidate us. But we will not be intimidated or stopped for standing up for what’s right and standing up to the powerful. We will continue to call them out and fight for a better deal – better and stronger rights for working people.
“When the big banks were found to have allowed terrorists and drug dealers to launder money, they did nothing. This authoritarian behaviour is what you’d expect from a dictatorship”.
Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has condemned the raids as a ruthless political act carried out by a government desperate to protect its own power and that of the business constituency it serves.
“Like the government’s shrill and baseless attack on GetUp! this raid is a sign of an insecure government desperate to tie up the largest organised sections of our progressive movement” Senator Rhiannon concluded.