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Union raids backfire on Turnbull

MALCOLM Turnbull today is being hit by an extraordinary sequence of blunders which could force him to find four ministerial replacements in a matter of days.

Labor is today demanding Employment Minister Michaelia Cash be sacked after it was revealed one of her staff had told news outlets of an impending police raid on AWU offices.

"Two things we know for sure," Labor front bencher Tony Burke told Sky News this morning.

"One, Michaelia Cash has to go; and two, the Prime Minister is up to his neck in this."

The minister is refusing to budge.

That is not the full sweep of Mr Turnbull's problems which will follow him on his visit to Isreal which he starts at the weekend.

Tomorrow the High Court will decide the fate of the Citizenship Seven, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and former front benchers senator Matt Canavan and senator Fiona Nash, whose posts have been kept open so far.

The Government could be compelled to hold a by election for Mr Joyce's seat should he have to leave Parliament.

The raids on the Australian Workers' Union offices in Sydney and Melbourne on Tuesday related to documents covering a decade-old donation of $100,000 by the union to activist group GetUp. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was union secretary at the time.

 

The police were called in by the Registered Organisations Commission, which had been told by an unidentified source the documents might removed or destroyed.

But the issue rebounded on the Government last night when Senator Cash revealed after a day of questioning a member of her staff had been told of the coming raids by a "medusa source" and had then passed this on to news organisations.

The Senate is not sitting today. It is holding Estimates committee hearings.

But there were discussions last night to today bring back the Senate, many of whose members already are in Canberra, to consider the Cash office leak and the fate of the minister.

Labor is demanding to know how Senator Cash could deny a leak five times without knowing the staff member, who has resigned, had told news outlets.

Mr Burke today said Senator Cash and the departed staffer had gone to Mr Turnbull's office to deny the minister was behind a leak.

He said Mr Turnbull had not asked whether the minister's office was responsible.

Mr Burke claimed that "either the question was asked, and the mislead goes all the way through, or the Prime Minister knew to not ask".

"It defies belief that an allegation about her office - when she's misled the Senate five times - that her office don't tell her, 'Hang on, this is what happened'," he said.

"That they then go with her to the Prime Minister of Australia. And he as a trained cross examiner - doesn't ask, 'Oh hang on. The allegation's about your office, not about you'."

The Prime Minister's office today said Mr Turnbull had originally been told Senator Cash's office had not been responsible for the leak.

Senator Cash had to endure prolonged questioning at an estimates hearing and it was not until a Buzzfeed report of journalists identifying her office as the source of the top-off that she told what had happened.

She continues to deny she knew of the leak and there is no evidence she did.

After an evening break she returned to the hearing to say a staffer had contacted the media "without my knowledge".

"My staff member came to me during the dinner break and has resigned from my employment," Senator Cash said.

"He has admitted he was wrong. He is very distressed."

Topics:  awu editors picks general-seniors-news labor lnp. alp malcolm turnbull



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