The House of Representatives has upheld a claim of parliamentary privilege made by Labor MP Jason Clare in relation to documents seized by the Australian Federal Police in an August raid on the Department of Parliamentary Services.
The raid was staged as part of the AFP’s investigation into the leaking of internal NBN documents, the contents of which was used by Labor to attack the government's management of the National Broadband Network rollout.
The documents revealed a range of challenges facing the government’s ‘multi-technology mix’ blueprint for the network, including greater than expected costs for copper remediation for fibre to the node, an unflattering assessment state of Optus' HFC assets, and problems sourcing power for FTTN.
The search warrant for the DPS raid, which focussed on parliamentary email servers, did not name Clare but named one of the MP’s staff members. It followed two earlier AFP raids: In May, the AFP raided the electoral office of (since retired) Senator Stephen Conroy and the home of a member of Clare’s staff.
A report from the House of Representatives Privileges and Members’ Interests Committee on the DPS raid was tabled on 28 November. The lower house today passed a motion supporting the report’s recommendation that the claim of privilege be upheld and that material seized in the raids be returned to Clare (the documents have been held by the clerk of the house while the claim of privilege was assessed).
Two Senate inquiries relating to the AFP raids and a claim of parliamentary privilege by Conroy are ongoing. The inquiries by the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges include assessing whether the AFP committed a contempt of parliament by accessing Conroy’s or a staff member’s telecommunications data.