MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has joined the chorus of criticism of raids by the AFP on AWU offices in Sydney and Melbourne last night, saying the Turnbull Government has "lost the plot".
The AFP executed search warrants in Melbourne and Sydney in support of the Registered Organisations Commission, which has been investigating donations made a decade ago to progressive campaign outfit GetUp.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash referred the GetUp donations to the ROC, having said under parliamentary privilege that Shorten had "serious questions to answer in relation to the $100,000 donation" to GetUp when he was the union's national secretary and a GetUp board member.
"What happened next door at the AWU shows how the government has lost the plot,” Crumlin said today.
"To attack Getup! - they are mainstream and progressive like the rest of us.
"The media was outside, it’s clear that they were tipped off.
"I thought Bill Shorten made a very good statement this morning.
"There is no doubt that we are in for the fight of our lives, and this is dangerous times for our workers.
At a doorstop in Canberra this morning, Shorten said this was a new low, quite a feat given they have already ploughed $80 million of taxpayers’ money into a politically motivated royal commission into trade unions.
"I am proud of having spent my adult life, working and standing up for working people and the less disadvantaged in our society, and I am frankly, appalled at the Turnbull Government hitting a new low yesterday with their attempts to smear myself, Labor and unions,” Shorten said.
"This is an increasingly desperate Government who stands for nothing and their last resort is to smear their opponents.
"Now, this is not the first time the desperate Liberals have tried to smear me.
"A whole Royal Commission was set up in no small part, to attack my reputation. $80 million of taxpayer money, wasted.
"I answered and attended that Royal Commission over two days and I answered nearly 1000 questions and at the end of that massive waste of money, that political smear-fest, there were no adverse findings made.
"And yet again yesterday, the Government is wasting taxpayer money in a - in an increasingly grubby effort by a grubby Government and quite frankly a grubby Prime Minister, who has been exposed as standing for nothing and all they have left is to try and damage the reputation of their opponents.
"I want to make this pledge to the Australian people. Turnbull can be as focused as he wants on smearing me, I'm focused on serving you."
Senator Nick Xenophon has called for an independent inquiry to establish who tipped off the media prior to the AFP raids.
Senator Xenophon, who supported the legislation establishing the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC), said the very credibility and integrity of the ROC was at stake here.
"The public deserve to know how and why the media were tipped off about these raids. The tip-off compromises the integrity of the entire process," he said.
"The rule of law is being turned into a farcical sideshow with tip-offs like this. It drags the AFP and ROC into a highly partisan and toxic environment.”
AWU National Secretary Dan Walton said the AWU had nothing to hide.
"This isn't a question of whether or not the donation was made," he said.
"This is a question of whether or not we filled in the paperwork correctly. And we ended up with 32 AFP police officers barging down the door."
Mr Walton branded the raids "an extraordinary abuse of police resources" and smear attempt.
"I'm quite comfortable to stand up here today to be able to say everything was above board," he said.
Opposition spokesman for Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor said that on the same day Parliament was told that Turnbull’s cuts to the AFP have meant serious crimes like drug smuggling could not be properly investigated, we see these extraordinary raids.
"Turnbull and his Government openly directed the Commission to start this witch hunt.
"He is entirely responsible for this turn of events - it’s an alarming misuse of ministerial power.
"The Liberals have already wasted millions of taxpayers’ dollars on their witch hunt into unions.
"They will stop at nothing to attack workers and their representatives.
"This is the NBN raids during the election campaign all over again.
"Australians will see this for the desperate tactic that it is."
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus criticised the nakedly political use of the AFP in today’s action against working people and their representatives.
"Using the police in such a way, while refusing to do anything to prevent money laundering by terrorists and drug dealers by the big banks, demonstrates the government’s appalling priorities,” McManus said.
"This is the sort of action you would expect to see by an authoritarian dictator, and it has no place in Australia - all Australians should be disgusted.
"Malcolm Turnbull’s grubby political tactics and abuse of power to attack those who oppose his anti-worker policies is a new low."
GetUp put out a statement condemned the strong-arm tactics of the Turnbull Government
"How a 12 year old, very public donation to GetUp could lead to dramatic raids raises concerning questions,” the statement said.
"This evening’s raids were about union rules and part of an investigation undertaken by the Registered Organisations Commission.
"GetUp has previously acknowledged receipt of a donation of $100,000 in the 2005-2006 financial year from the Australian Workers’ Union. GetUp handled that donation appropriately, and there is no suggestion otherwise.
"GetUp’s decision not to declare as an associated entity with the Australian Electoral Commission has nothing to do with this Registered Organisations Commission investigation of the AWU’s authorisation of its donations.
"They are entirely separate matters handled by separate agencies."
GetUp national director Paul Oosting said tonight’s raids were yet another example of the Federal Government’s crackdown on organisations, experts and the community who are standing up for everyday Australians.
“This is part of a pattern from this government trying to silence its critics or anyone who challenges it.”
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Bill Shorten is the subject to an unrelenting abuse of power on behalf of this Government, a smear campaign and an abuse of the office of Cabinet Minister by Michaelia Cash.
"Michaelia Cash instigated this inquiry, that's a matter of public record. The Prime Minister can confirm or deny that all he likes, that is a fact,” Bowen said.
"Now we've had a Royal Commission into the Trade Union movement at the cost of $80 million to the taxpayer which did not make one adverse finding about Bill Shorten which examined every document under the sun in his relation to his management of the AWU and the Government keeps coming back to this.
"So we will call this as we see it and the Australian people when they see an abuse of power they know it.
"This is an abuse of power.”