Let’s say you’re a government who, to be polite, the nation is increasingly swiping left upon. And let’s say you had a budget to deliver in a few weeks in which you wanted to really sell your credentials as economic managers of the nation. And let’s say that you had genuinely good news about employment in Australia that you wanted to sell. You’d have your Employment Minister getting out and about yelling about it at every opportunity, surely?
And yet said minister has been downright coy of late, keeping herself very much in the background. And that’s because this government really cannot catch a break at the moment.
Senator Michaelia Cash has had a horror run in recent times and is facing three awfully large obstacles to getting her message out. One is a whiteboard, behind which she has hidden from impertinent questions from know-it-all journalists.
Yeah, that wasn’t a metaphor.
(This isn’t an isolated incident either. Cash has done a handful of press conferences in Canberra, but reportedly keeps changing the location at the last minute without informing BuzzFeed in what seems like a deliberate attempt to avoid answering question from her bête noire, political journalist Alice Workman.)
The other two issues are rather more serious, and the fact that Cash has been assiduously avoiding addressing either of them for months now suggests that there’s absolutely nothing to hide. After all, as the old saying goes, “if there’s smoke there’s definitely no fire what are you implying how very dare you?”
First there’s the Australian Federal Police raid on the offices of the Australian Workers Union over an alleged donation they made to advocacy group GetUp! – a donation which, even if true, wasn’t actually illegal – and the fact that the media mysteriously knew about the imminent raid before the AWU did.
It was established that the leak to media came from Cash’s office and a staffer was sacked over the matter, but neither said staffer nor Cash has deigned to answer questions about the matter despite this actually being illegal. There’s an AFP investigation happening into the matter, supposedly, although the AFP have also made clear it’s a low priority for them.
Given what’s been revealed about the financial sector in the last little while, it’s especially weird that a union should get such heavy treatment as opposed to, say, banks. ACTU secretary Sally McManus summed it up rather nicely on Twitter:
The second is rather more tragic, and harder to justify. Two years ago 18 year old Josh Park-Fing died in an accident on a Work for the Dole project. At the time Cash promised there’d be an inquiry which would have answers within a month. And nothing has happened since.
Cash’s office has insisted that there have been changes made to the way W for the D programmes operate since, but they’ve declined to explain what those changes are or how they’ve been implemented. And Labor are now threatening to force Cash to release the report she’s declined to make public.
Labor’s Ed Husic isn’t letting this lie either: “There isn’t a whiteboard in the country big enough to shield Michaelia Cash from the growing safety concerns about this failing jobs program.”
Mind you, Cash is pretty skilled at avoiding questions about things she doesn’t like. Like, for example, her own staffing – watch how she responds to the question “who is your chief of staff” with ” FEMALE STAFFERS ARE FLEEING BILL SHORTEN’S OFFICE!” A claim which doesn’t appear to be based on anything, but… well, just watch:
So, in short: if Cash is to keep avoiding scrutiny over things happening in her office and in her portfolio, she’s really going to need a bigger whiteboard.