Cash’s outburst could be her last

OPINION

MICHAELIA Cash's apparent attempt to hold to ransom the reputations of Labor's women staff members is the latest episode of her OTT style. And it might be the last.

The West Australian senator has previously been able to pass off ratty behaviour as demonstrations she can play politics as hard as the men.

But this time she showed she could be as much a trader in gossip and sexual sneer aimed at belittling women as any male colleague.

The Employment Minister today with angry tones and facial expressions made an extraordinary threat aimed at advisers to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

She told a Senate committee she would "name every young woman in Mr Shorten's office of which rumours in this place abound".

"You want me to start naming them? You want me to start naming them for Mr Shorten to come out deny any of the rumours that are circulating in this building now for many, many years?" she said to Labor's Doug Cameron.

Senator Cash later suggested her threat was only hypothetical, and it did mesh with a day of Government attacks on "two faced" Mr Shorten himself.

But there was nothing in the depth of her fury and menace that suggested she was merely following talking points, simply joining the political attack-of-the-day.

It was a vicious and unwarranted threat which, even though not carried out, has already aroused grubby speculation about all women who have worked for Bill Shorten.

Senator Cash withdrew the unspecific claims of misconduct among staffers with the always-unconvincing rider, "If I've offended anyone."

Well, she has offended many, as senior Labor women Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek made clear.

"It was an unprovoked attack from a minister under pressure. Like so many of my colleagues, I am very lucky to have smart young women working for me. And on their behalf I am offended," said Ms Plibersek, Deputy Opposition Leader.

The implications of Senator Cash's comments were obvious in the aftermath of the Barnaby Joyce scandal. The former Deputy Prime Minister had an affair with a staff member who is now his pregnant partner.

Senator Cash was hinting at a reprisal against Mr Shorten for the embarrassment caused by the Joyce revelations, although why she blamed Labor is unknown.

She tossed out the threat as part of a tantrum, a collapse of the control expected in a minister. It was a further indicator for some she cannot handle the job.

Senator Cash is still struggling with the consequences of a former staff member last October tipping off media that police were about to raid trade union offices.

The reasons for the raids are largely forgotten, but not the tip-off from the Cash office, which still is being investigated and still being used as an unflattering measure of her performance.

The brutal outburst against unnamed Labor staff members was an indication she is losing that struggle, and her better judgment.


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