Labor politicians are calling for Michaelia Cash to make a public apology and resign over her comments threatening to reveal rumours regarding female staffers in Bill Shorten’s office.
The federal jobs minister was questioned by Labor’s Doug Cameron yesterday about whether her new chief of staff came from another Liberal office, as well as questions on the Australian Workers’ Union raids – and her response has riled the party.
According to multiple reports, she said: “If you want to start discussing staff matters, be very, very careful because I’m happy to sit here and name every young woman in Mr Shorten’s office over which rumours in this place abound. If you want to go down that path today, I will do it.’’
As Cameron attempted to shut down the comments, she added: “Do you want to start naming them? Do you want to start naming them for Mr Shorten to come out and deny any of the rumours that have been circulating in this building now for many, many years?”
It prompted Penny Wong to join the debate, and she branded the response “outrageous slurs”. Senator Cash later withdrew her comments as she faced increasing pressure from Labor, but has reportedly refused to apologise for them.
Now she’s facing calls for her resignation from Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor, who claims it was a “slanderous slur” against female employees in parliament.
“Minister Cash must do two things today – apologise and then resign,” he said in a statement on Thursday. “She needs to apologise for the slanderous slur she made yesterday towards young women working in parliament.”
Not done there, he also claimed she should resign as minister due to her allegedly refusing to “cooperate with the Parliament of Australia about the extent of her and her office’s involvement in leaking to the media the raids on AWU offices in October last year.”
He was backed by Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, who said it was an “unprovoked attack” and insisted Cash should make a full apology to the women she referred to in her speech, tweeting: “Her comments undermine the professionalism of the many competent, intelligent, hardworking young women who work on all sides of politics. The comments are disgraceful + sexist – she should apologise.”
.@SenatorCash used a Senate hearing to attack young women working in politics. Her comments undermine the professionalism of the many competent, intelligent, hardworking young women who work on all sides of politics. The comments are disgraceful + sexist – she should apologise.
— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) February 28, 2018
And Manager of Opposition Business, Tony Burke, demanded an apology in an interview with Sky News, saying female staffers were “of course” upset by Cash’s comments.
However, Cabinet minister Peter Dutton said in a press conference at Parliament house that MPs have been “lectured to and moralised on” by people who should “check their own situation first”.
He added: “I have said consistently in relation to these matters, I’m not part of the moral police, I believe very strongly as a Liberal, and you can look back at my record at parliament, that governments shouldn’t be involved in the personal lives of people.”
Elsewhere, speaking in an interview on Sky News, which has been published on his website, he added: “I think Mr Shorten has demonstrated on both of those issues that he doesn’t hold the credibility and that he doesn’t have the capacity to be the Prime Minister for these very difficult times.”
Starts at 60 has contacted Michaelia Cash for comment.