Cash, De Garis, Lee and FWO ordered to hand over AWU raid documents

20 December 2017
Key parties involved in raids undertaken by federal police on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) will have to hand over documents and correspondence, after the Federal Court this morning dismissed applications by Michaelia Cash, David De Garis, Mark Lee and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for subpoeanas to be set aside.

The AWU made an application for the subpoeanas last month, in addition to court proceedings underway against the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC). The subpoeanas seek access to documents including emails, text messages and other correspondence that may be relevant both prior to and after the raids were carried out on the union offices.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Principal Josh Bornstein, who is acting for the AWU, welcomed the Court’s decision, and said that Minister Cash, the ROC and others had continued to try and block access to key documents for months.

Mr Bornstein said the Court had now found that a number of documents sought by the union may be relevant, and that these should be handed over because they are relevant ‘to the AWU’s legitimate forensic purpose of demonstrating that the decision to initiate the investigation was motivated by the political purpose alleged or was directed by the Minister’.

“We first requested all documents, including records of phone calls, between Minister Cash and her office and the ROC in October. Since that time, at every turn we have seen Minister Cash, the ROC and others involved in this matter seek to thwart scrutiny of their role in the disgraceful raids on the AWU by federal police,” Mr Bornstein said.

The Federal Court has today made orders requiring documents, including those recording communications:

  1. Between Minister Cash, her staff and the ROC, including those documents recording phone conversations with the staff of the ROC;
  2. Between Minister Cash, her staff and the Fair Work Ombudsman;
  3. Between the FWO, the media and the AFP;
  4. Between FWO’s Media Director Mark Lee and Minister Cash, including personal employment records regarding his job offer in the Minister’s office.
  5. Between De Garis and the ROC and the FWO.

“If the Minister, her former advisor and the ROC and have nothing to hide in this matter, then why seek to take every avenue possible to block access to documents?” Mr Bornstein said.

“It is also noteworthy that the Court criticised ‘the reliability of the information provided by the FWO’ to the Federal Court[1]

“It has taken an order from the Court to force their hand. The Court’s orders mean that we are moving closer to establishing the truth behind this investigation and the police raid.

“The union’s case challenges the legality of the raids conducted on the offices of the AWU and alleges an unlawful political motivation for the ROC’s investigation, at the request of Minister Cash.

“The Court has also recognised that after these documents are produced to the AWU, it may be appropriate for the union to seek further relevant documents from these parties,” he said.

The Federal Court has ordered that production of the subpoeanas and documents are required to be provided by 11 January 2018.


[1] Paragraph 67 of Federal Court judgement dated 20/12/2017, VID1151/2017.

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