Outspoken Jobs Minister, Senator Michaelia Cash, could be Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s latest headache. Picture Kym Smith
Outspoken Jobs Minister, Senator Michaelia Cash, could be Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s latest headache. Picture Kym Smith

Michaelia Cash’s outburst the latest in a long line

JOBS Minister Michaelia Cash is wearing out her front bench security with a string of controversies which are exasperating the Government.

The threat to spread rumours about Labor women joins a lengthening list of headaches caused by the administration of her portfolio, and her personal conduct in public.

Last year she was defiant as she walked away from a tough Senate committee grilling over leaks from her office.

"Girl power, girl power," she called out to no one in particular as she exited the room.

She could be easily heard as Senator Cash is credited with one of the loudest voices in Parliament, so loud a Labor Senator in June 2013 asked if Standing Orders allowed it to be turned down.

Minister for Jobs and Innovation Senator Michaelia Cash with the PM Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Minister for Jobs and Innovation Senator Michaelia Cash with the PM Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

The response from Senator Cash was to go even louder: "If you want to talk about exceeding decibel levels, I wonder how loud former Prime Minister (Julia) Gillard screamed when her own sisterhood knifed her in the back and took her out," she said.

"Minister (Penny) Wong is now sitting, reaping the spoils of the victory, drinking from the chalice of blood - Ms Gillard's own sisterhood took her out."

She was supposed to be speaking about the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Bill 2013.

The now-notorious Chalice of Blood eruption was a clear indication that here was a Liberal who would not be silenced or even have the volume lowered.

And she was not afraid to be seen as well as heard.

In September 2016, she was among the first to congratulate Pauline Hanson on her first speech as a senator, gripping the One Nation leader in a long hug.

The closeness of the pair wasn't appreciated back in Senator Cash's home state of Western Australia where she was accused of proposing a One Nation preference deal at the state election. This angered the state's Nationals and a significant number of Liberals.

In December 2016 Senator Cash took Senator Hanson and her adviser James Ashby to dinner when they visited Perth, carting with them hopes of taking state seats from the Liberals and Nationals.

Senator Cash also has had to deal with an accumulation of disruptive controversies in her various ministerial responsibilities.

Senator Michaelia Cash’s closeness to One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson is not appreciated by some Liberals and Nationals in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith
Senator Michaelia Cash’s closeness to One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson is not appreciated by some Liberals and Nationals in Canberra. Picture Kym Smith

As Minister for Women she cancelled an October, 2016 meeting with the states on domestic violence. As Employment Minister in March 2016 she scrapped public service domestic violence leave - on International Women's Day.

But her biggest problems have come from management of official agencies - the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission.

Both are centrepieces of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's industrial policy.

Senator Cash, who was an industrial relations lawyer from 1999-2008, first tripped up in a submission opposing a rise in the minimum wage.

Her argument included the assertion a rise wasn't warranted because people on the minimum wage "are often found in high income households".

When asked to explain this dotty theory by broadcaster Neil Mitchell, she couldn't.

Senator Cash replied: "I don't have the figure, it's not as simple as that. You pick and choose a particular line from the submission and what you then lose is the totality of what the submission says."

The episode with the head of the ABCC was more dramatic but just as baffling.

Nigel Hadgkiss had breached the Fair Work Act and as his minister, Senator Cash knew it but did nothing for a year and Mr Hadgkiss stayed in his job until September last year.

Not only did she say nothing or act on the breach, she ensured the Government offered an indemnity for his legal bills of some $400,000.

After repeated denials, Senator Cash’s office admitted a media advisor tipped off the media about a police raid on the AWU offices. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
After repeated denials, Senator Cash’s office admitted a media advisor tipped off the media about a police raid on the AWU offices. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

A bigger scandal soon followed. Late last year the Registered Organisations Commission was asked to investigate whether the Australian Workers' Union in 2005, when Bill Shorten was leader, had donated money to activist group GetUp.

Police were ordered to raid AWU offices because of fears documents related to the deal might be destroyed.

When they arrived at the offices they found news cameras waiting for them.

In Senate estimates soon after Senator Cash said on five separate occasions, her office had not leaked the raids to news organisations.

However, it emerged her media adviser had provided the top-off, and he resigned, as did a staff member at the ROC.

The episode is still being investigated and is being used to further criticise the performance of Senator Cash.


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