The heavy ROC that the Federal Government hoped to drop on the head of Opposition leader Bill Shorten has instead come crashing down on the feet of Michaelia Cash.
Cash was given the job of breaking the unions by Malcolm Turnbull. Prior to her election as a WA Senator, she had been a solicitor for anti-union law firm Freehills. Honorary Associate Professor of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Dr Michael O’Brien said at the time that Freehills “are well known as advisers to very big employers. I gather she’s not particularly a friend of unions but anyone who works for Freehills usually isn’t.”
One of her first acts was to take away employment from Australian workers by increasing the level of s457 visa workers in the offshore oil and gas sectors covered by unions such as the MUA.
She also drove the passage of the revived Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) legislation, attacking workers in the construction industry, and the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC), attacking workers everywhere.
If her name stinks in the nostrils of the working class, it is also starting to worry noses that are usually pointed skywards. She is a walking disaster for the bourgeoisie.
In November 2016, Cash bought an investment property alongside her own house in the exclusive Perth suburb of Floreat. At a time when the Federal Government is showing absolutely no sign of being able to make housing affordable for low- and middle-income earners, it was her fourth property purchase. But what really got her into trouble was her failure to declare the purchase on her parliamentary register of interests. Politicians are required to update their register of interests within 35 days of purchase. It was only following questions from the media that Cash registered the new property - on 21 January - or eight days later than she should have.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accepted Cash's apology, explaining she was "mortified" by the error, and emphasised the delay was only a matter of days and that Cash had been away on holidays at the time.
One wonders whether the ROC will take a similarly forgiving attitude to any union caught out on a technicality.
Then she further embarrassed the government by appointing the notorious Nigel Hadgkiss to head the revamped ABCC months after it emerged he was facing allegations of breaking the Fair Work laws he was meant to enforce.
Hadgkiss had to resigned from his $420,000 job after he admitted to contravening the Fair Work Act by recklessly misrepresenting union rights to enter workplaces in 2013 when he was heading up a Fair Work office for more than two years.
Cash kept her job, but not her already tarnished credibility, refusing to comment on whether she told PM Turnbull or cabinet of the allegations against Mr Hadgkiss before he took up the role in December or whether she had received any legal advice on the matter.
Now this bumbling embarrassment expects us to believe that she had no prior knowledge of the ROC’s decision to raid the Australian Workers Union (AWU) in relation to matters that occurred 11 years ago when Opposition leader Bill Shorten was its leader. After denying that her office had tipped off the huge media contingent that arrived at the AWU hours before 32 Federal Police (surely the numbers indicate prior knowledge of a media presence!), she had to backtrack and “accept the resignation” of one of her media advisers who had done just that.
Even if she didn’t know that the ROC raid was to take place (warning: credibility gap!), and even if she didn’t know that the media was to be advised to be there to capture the event (warning: credibility gap!), the very least that can be said is that the anti-union and anti-worker atmosphere inside her office is so toxic that at least one of its staff could feel comfortable in taking the initiative to try and embarrass the union in this way.
Cash’s already-damaged credibility is a bit like a three-strand fence on a country farm: it neither keeps the air in nor the wind out. Her assurances hold no water; the conjectures they give rise to cannot be checked.
Still, she has her defenders and she has her scapegoat. Whether one respects her or reviles her depends on one’s class position.
She tried to abuse the workers, but can only amuse the workers.
Yes, she should be sacked, but then, more importantly, so should the system she admires and works for.