Senator Michaelia Cash will front the Federal Court to give evidence over police raids on two Australian Workers’ Union offices, but timing is an issue given the trial coincides with federal parliament’s only sitting week before the election.
The AWU is taking action against the Registered Organisations Commission, challenging the lawfulness of raids by Australian Federal Police on union headquarters in Melbourne and Sydney in October 2017.
The raids drew media scrutiny when journalists arrived before police after a tip-off from the office of Senator Cash, the then jobs minister.
Senator Cash was last year served with a subpoena requiring her to attend but had previously flagged her intention to have it set aside.
The trial is due to start in the Federal Court in Melbourne on February 11, but federal parliament’s scheduled to sit for the subsequent three days.
MPs have immunity from attending when parliament sits, ruling out those three days for her evidence, as well as potentially February 11, depending on her ministerial cabinet commitments.
David de Garis, the senator’s former media adviser who quit in October after admitting he leaked details of the raid, is also to give evidence.
On Friday, Justice Mordecai Bromberg ordered Mr de Garis must attend in person, after he argued having to travel from Perth would inconvenience his new employer.
AWU’s legal counsel Herman Borenstein QC said Mr de Garis was a significant witness and that, while he is appearing by subpoena for the union, they may seek to treat him as an unfavourable witness.
“He is not in our camp. He is in a camp of people we’re making allegations against,” he said.
Appearing in person would ensure the gravity and solemnity of the occasion was not lost on Mr de Garis, he said.