Michael Keenan’s office also tipped off media on AFP raids on AWU offices, Federal Court hears

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February 13, 2019 15:54:59

The Federal Court has heard a media leak about AFP raids on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) in October 2017 came from the then-justice minister’s office as well as Senator Michaelia Cash’s office.

Key points:

  • The Federal Court has heard that Senator Cash’s chief of staff told her then-media advisor David De Garis about the raids
  • Mr De Garis then told Michael Tetlow, who was working for Michael Keenan, who was Justice Minister at the time
  • Mr De Garis tipped off print journalists about the raids, while Mr Tetlow contacted TV networks

The evidence came during a civil trial which is underway in Melbourne, where the AWU is seeking to shut down an investigation by the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) into donations the union made to activist group GetUp! in 2006.

Justice Mordecai Bromberg has heard that Michael Tetlow — who worked for Mr Keenan in 2017 when he was justice minister — also advised the media of the raids, in which AFP officers seized documents related to the donations, which were worth $100,000.

Senator Cash’s former senior media advisor David De Garis told the court that he informed Mr Tetlow of the imminent raids on October 24, 2017 after being alerted by Senator Cash’s then-chief of staff, Ben Davies.

The men then contacted different media organisations.

Mr De Garis said he called “several print journalists” while Mr Tetlow called TV networks.

Mr Tetlow has since left his job in Mr Keenan’s office and now works for the ABC in Perth.

The ABC has contacted Mr Tetlow for comment.

Mr Keenan, who is now the Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation, faced questions in Parliament from Labor about statements he made to the House of Representatives last year that neither he nor his staff were involved in the leaks.

Mr Keenan said he stood by those comments.

“Every single day, myself and my office dealt with sensitive information,” he said.

“We had protocols associated with dealing with that information, and we continued to make sure that those protocols were adhered to in those circumstances.”

Mr De Garis has been the only witness over the three days of the trial so far.

During evidence this morning, Mr De Garis was asked whether the motivation for the leak was to discredit Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.

“I don’t think I weighed it up as political damage to Mr Shorten but as beneficial exposure for the ROC’s first investigation,” Mr De Garis told the court.

Herman Borenstein, representing the AWU, asked him Mr De Garis if part of his function was to “assist the minister politically” to the detriment of Senator Cash’s political opponents.

“As a political staffer, yes,” Mr De Garis said.

When pressed further about the media aspect of his role in causing detriment to political opponents, Mr De Garis said: “Perhaps, it would have been at least part of my thinking, I’m sure.”

The trial has been dominated by heated legal debate from lawyers representing the ROC, Mr De Garis, the Government and other parties who have tried to limit questioning of Mr De Garis, citing parliamentary privilege provisions and other restrictions.

Senator Cash is scheduled to give evidence on Friday.

Topics:

courts-and-trials,

law-crime-and-justice,

media,

government-and-politics,

unions,

melbourne-3000,

vic



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