Senator Michaelia Cash threatened to name and shame young women working in Opposition Leader Bill Shortens office during a bizarre rant earlier today. Picture Kym Smith
Senator Michaelia Cash threatened to name and shame young women working in Opposition Leader Bill Shortens office during a bizarre rant earlier today. Picture Kym Smith

Extraordinary threat: ‘I’ll name every young woman’

IN AN extraordinary outburst Turnbull minister Michaelia Cash today threatened to name women working for Labor Leader Bill Shorten and rumours about them.

"You want to go down that path today, I will," Senator Cash said angrily to Labor Senator Doug Cameron during a Senate estimates committee hearing.

Labor's Senate Leader Penny Wong sped from her office to the hearing room to demand Senator Cash withdraw "the disgraceful slur". The minister eventually did. "If anyone has been offended by my remarks, I withdraw," she said.

The heated threat is being seen as a product of pressure on Senator Cash over leaks from her office on a police raid on the Australian Workers' Union last October.

And it is seen as a reflection of political tensions raised by the scandal around former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's relationship with a former Nationals staffer, Vikki Campion.

Vicki Campion, pictured in Canberra, is pregnant Mr Joyce’s son who is due to be born in April. Picture: John Grainger
Vicki Campion, pictured in Canberra, is pregnant Mr Joyce’s son who is due to be born in April. Picture: John Grainger

Senator Cameron had asked of a new, unnamed ministerial staff member whether "he or she" had come from another Liberal minister's office.

Senator Cash said the adviser had been selected because of the skill set they had.

She then exploded: "If you want to start discussing staff matters be very, very careful.

Barnaby Joyce, who has been relegated to the backbench over the scandal, during Question Time in the House of Representatives. Picture: Gary Ramage
Barnaby Joyce, who has been relegated to the backbench over the scandal, during Question Time in the House of Representatives. Picture: Gary Ramage

"Because I'm happy to sit here and name every young woman in Mr Shorten's office of which rumours in this place abound.

"You want to go down that path today, I will do it.

"You want to start naming them? You want to start naming them for Mr Shorten to come out [and] deny any of the rumours that are circulating in this building now for many, many years?

"(It's a) dangerous path to go down."

Senator Cameron replied: "Take what young people call a chill pill. Then you might be OK?"

Senator Wong soon after accused Senator Cash of "outrageous slurs".

Senator Penny Wong described Senator Cash’s comments as “a disgraceful slur”. Picture: Mick Tsikas / AAP
Senator Penny Wong described Senator Cash’s comments as “a disgraceful slur”. Picture: Mick Tsikas / AAP

"We have the Prime Minister a week ago giving us a fairly moralising speech saying we need to make this a better workplace for women and the minister representing the Minister for Women comes in here making, what can only be described as outrageous slurs about the character of female staff working for the Leader of the Opposition," said Senator Wong.

"It can't be allowed to stand, I think it is disgraceful and sexist and it is impugning of the character of various staff. I would ask the minister to withdraw."

Senator Cash replied she considered Senator Cameron had been maligning her staff.

"The point I was making was, rumours circulate in this building, it does not mean they are true. I referred to rumours," she said.

 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce with his girlfriend and former staffer, Vikki Campion before their relationship became public knowledge.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce with his girlfriend and former staffer, Vikki Campion before their relationship became public knowledge.

 

Senator Wong accused the minister of "frankly disgraceful remarks impugning the character of staff working for the Leader of the Opposition". "You should withdraw that," she told Senator Cash. "And if you don't, we will have to deal with it on the floor of the Senate."

In a Twitter post this afternoon, Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek weighed into the debate by stating that Senator Cash's comments undermined the professionalism of "the many competent, intelligent, hardworking women" on all side of politics.

In a separate incident, Senator Cash is still answering questions related to the leaking of details to the media, from her office, of an October 24 raid on the AWU offices by Australian Federal Police.

The AFP yesterday said it was questioning staff from two ministerial offices and government agencies on the matter.

"We're looking at the whole timeline of who had what information and when, including the AFP," Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close told a Senate inquiry on Tuesday.


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