Labor’s Senator Stephen Conroy has revealed that Australian Federal Police “will conduct a raid on Department of Parliamentary Services at Parliament House this morning to access the emails of Labor staff members”.
In May, the AFP raided Conroy’s electoral office and the homes of Labor staffers in the search for the source of leaked internal documents used by Labor to criticise the NBN rollout. The AFP investigation stalled after Conroy asserted parliamentary privilege over documents seized during the raids.
The AFP said that NBN had referred the leaks to it on 9 December.
The timing means that NBN referred the leaks to the AFP shortly after a document revealed a greater than expected cost of copper remediation for fibre to the node and another leak that included an unflattering assessment state of the Optus HFC assets.
NBN chair Dr Ziggy Switkowski further stoked the controversy over the raids by issuing a staunch public defence of the decision to refer the leaks to the AFP — a move that the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said breached the caretaker conventions that guide the actions of the public service during election campaigns.
A statement issued by Conroy this morning said:
NBN Co initiated this investigation to cover up Malcolm Turnbull's gross mismanagement of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Under Mr Turnbull, the NBN has been beset by lengthy delays and cost blowouts. In fact, the cost of the Mr Turnbull’s second-rate copper NBN has nearly doubled to up to $56 billion.This is a shameful attempt by Malcolm Turnbull to hide his incompetent administration of the NBN.
It is an extraordinary attack on the Parliament and its constitutional duty to hold the government of the day to account.
Conroy said that there was no legal justification for NBN to initiate the investigation because the company’s enabling legislation “clearly and unambiguously states that NBN Co is not a public authority, not part of the Commonwealth and not entitled to any of the immunities or privileges of the Commonwealth”.
“I will continue to assert parliamentary privilege over all material and information gathered as part of this investigation, including in the raid this morning,” Conroy said.
“Parliamentary privilege ensures Parliament is able to do its job without interference by the Executive. It protects the right of the Parliament, on behalf of all Australians, to scrutinise waste and maladministration even when the truth embarrasses the Government.”
“The AFP can confirm a search warrant will be executed today in relation to its investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information relating to the NBN Co” an AFP statement said.
“A warrant has been lawfully obtained for the execution of this search and will be conducted by consent with the cooperation of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the relative parties involved.”
The AFP said that a claim of parliamentary privilege had been and that “All material seized during this warrant will be handled in accordance with the provisions and guidelines relating to Parliamentary Privilege.”
“The AFP is satisfied that it is acting lawfully in accordance with relevant legislation and guidelines,” the AFP said. “While this investigation is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”
The initial round of AFP raids was condemned by the journalists’ union.