SUBJECTS: Extraordinary AWU police raids

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, TERRITORIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Well you know it’s a sitting week in Canberra when the Government introduces legislation to have a go at the union movement. You know it’s a sitting week in Canberra when they have one of their goons standing up in here, using Parliamentary Privilege to slander and defame a member of the public. But yesterday, they took it to an all-time low. We now know that there is no limit to which the Government won’t go to use the power of the state to attack and go after their political opponents for political reasons.

At the very same time as the Police Commissioner was giving evidence to the Senate that they didn’t have the resources to go after drug smugglers and drug importers; you have a plan in place to use dozens of police officers to go and raid a union office in Melbourne over an event which occurred over ten years’ ago. Over a document that had already been presented to the Royal Commission. Over documents that would have been provided if the Minister had just picked up the phone and said can you send us these documents?

This is an absolute outrage. It’s a complete waste of public money and the Government is rightly condemned. Most Australians, I think, are rightly saying where are this Government’s priorities?

We want our federal police going after drug smugglers and real criminals, not being involved in this political witch hunt – going after their political opponents for political reasons. It is an absolute outrage.

JOURNALIST: So are you suggesting that the Government directed the AFP to raid the union offices yesterday?

JONES: It’s quite clear that this whole episode started from the Minister’s office. A very clear direction to the Registered Organisations Commission because we know these documents have already been provided to the Royal Commission. And I ask you to think about this, what is the document that they are after? Because the whole allegation is somehow that there is a donation that has been made that hasn’t been approved. That there is no paper trail in place.

So the document, the only document, that they could be after is the document that says these donations were authorised. It’s a complete rort.

JOURNALIST: So are you accusing the AFP of doing something wrong?

JONES: I’m accusing the Government of using the AFP for an improper purpose.

JOURNALIST: Did the AFP act improperly?

JONES: I’m accusing the Government of directing the AFP to operate in an improper purpose. Using police officers for a political purpose. To go after the Government’s political opponents for political reasons. That is the very definition of an improper action.

JOURNALIST: If Labor’s got nothing to hide, what’s the problem with these documents being in police possession?

JONES: Labor has got absolutely nothing to hide. The union has absolutely nothing to hide. They have already produced the documents. This is what is most ridiculous about what occurred yesterday. The union has already produced the documents. They produced them to the Government’s $46 million Royal Commission which produced diddly-squat, by the way. So the union has already produced the documents and now, the Government has been involved in this massive charade clearly to distract attention from its own political problems.

They are rightly condemned for an improper use of the agencies of Government.

JOURNALIST: Should the AFP stood up to the Government when it was directed to do as you say?

JONES: I’ve got great sympathy for the AFP. They are clearly operating under an enormous amount of pressure, their resources are stretched, they have lost 117 staff over the last four years because of Government budget cuts. They have got a very broad mandate, they are being stretched all over the place. They simply do not have the resources to do the things the public expects them to do and now, you have the Government directing them to do things that clearly the public does not want them to be doing.