Registered Organisations Commission staffer denies being source of leak in AWU police raids

Posted February 25, 2019 15:52:10

A former media adviser to the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) has denied he was the source of a leak about police raids on the Australian Workers’ Union in October 2017.

Key points:

  • The AWU is seeking to shut down the ROC’s investigation into donations the union made to GetUp! in 2006
  • Michaelia Cash’s former chief of staff Ben Davies told the court Mark Lee was the source of information which was leaked to the media
  • Mr Lee today denied that and told the court he didn’t know ‘the raids were imminent’

Mark Lee is giving evidence on the seventh day of a civil case brought by the union seeking to stop an investigation into donations made by the union to GetUp! in 2006, when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten headed the AWU.

The court has heard the media was tipped off to the raids by the office of then employment minister Michaelia Cash, and were waiting for the AFP to arrive at the AWU’s offices in Sydney and Melbourne at around 4:00pm on October 24, 2017.

Last week Senator Cash’s former chief of staff Ben Davies named Mr Lee as the source of the information about the raids.

But today Mr Lee repeatedly denied he was responsible and told the court he did not talk to anyone in Senator Cash’s office about the raid.

“I didn’t know the warrants were going to be issued. I didn’t know the raids were imminent,” Mr Lee told the court.

“It couldn’t have been me.”

Lee rejected job in minister’s office after raids

The week before the raids Mr Lee had accepted a job as media adviser in Senator Cash’s office.

The court was taken through telephone records and emails between Mr Lee and members of Senator Cash’s office.

He told the court the only conversation he had with anyone in Senator Cash’s office on October 24, 2017, was about completing his employment transfer to her office.

The court heard after he was referred to in Senate estimates as being involved, he decide not to take up the position.

“I felt I was already part of the story,” Mr Lee said.

“The next part of the story would be amplified if I was to take the position in the minister’s office.”

The union is seeking to stop the investigation into 2006 donations to GetUp!, claiming the probe was politically motivated.

“We contend the Registered Organisations Commission was involved in furthering the political purpose of the minister,” AWUs lawyer Herman Borenstein, QC, said.

During this trial, Mr Borenstein has been seeking to determine what was said between Senator Cash’s office and the ROC between August 2017, when Senator Cash wrote two letters of referral to the ROC about $100,000 in donations by the AWU to GetUp!, and the day of the raids.

The case has been dominated by fierce legal discussions about the admissibility of evidence and the ability of the AWU to cross-examine witnesses.

In making his case to be able to cross-examine Mr Lee, Mr Borenstein said the discussions between Mr Lee and the ROC’s executive director Chris Enright about “sensitive operational material from the Registered Organisations Commission … are of considerable significance to our case”.

Topics: unions, government-and-politics, courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, federal-parliament, parliament, federal-government, alp, liberals, vic, melbourne-3000, canberra-2600, act, australia, perth-6000, wa

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