May 19, 2016 – 9:55PM
Jane Lee, James Massola
Former communications minister, Labor senator Stephen Conroy is believed to be one of the people being raided. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The Australian Federal Police are raiding Labor Party offices in Melbourne over the alleged leak of documents from the National Broadband Network.
Labor confirmed the raids on Thursday, shadow finance spokesman Tony Burke saying they were in relation to allegations about documents which revealed that the NBN roll-out was slower and more expensive under the Coalition than under Labor.
In an explosive development in the middle of a federal election campaign, Mr Burke said the revelations about the NBN had caused “immense damage” to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as former communications minister and questioned the timing of the raids.
Shadow finance spokesman Tony Burke said the raids were in relation to allegations about documents which revealed that the NBN was slower and more expensive under the Coalition than under Labor.
The Treasury Place office of former communications minister Stephen Conroy was searched.
Two staffers for Labor’s communications spokesman Jason Clare, one of whom is a former staffer to Senator Conroy, are believed to also be targeted by the raids. One of the staffers is a key operative in Labor Party campaign headquarters.
It’s also understood that up to 20 NBN Co employees have been interviewed by the AFP over the leak.
Mr Burke said the NBN documents caused “immense” damage to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as a former communications minister. Photo: Andrew Meares
Mr Turnbull said he couldn’t comment on the raids.
“It’s entirely a matter for the AFP,” he said. “As you know they operate entirely independently of the government so this is a matter for the AFP. The Labor Party know that as well as you and I do.”
In a statement, the NBN Co confirmed it is assisting the Australian Federal Police with an “ongoing investigation”.
“As this investigation is ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment any further,” the statement said.
A story published by Fairfax Media in February that outlined the National Broadband Network was facing mounting delays and rising costs, based on documents marked “commercial in confidence” and “for official use only”, is believed to have triggered the raid.
The Coalition had pledged that its roll-out of the NBN would be more affordable and delivered faster than Labor’s NBN plan.
“It is the case that those raids are happening,” Mr Burke told ABC’s 7.30.
“There are allegations floating around about documents that were leaked from the NBN. There’s no doubt the leaks that came from the NBN caused immense damage, immense damage to Malcolm Turnbull when they showed the cost blowout of the NBN, the fact that it was slower and going to be delayed.
“The thing that I also know with this, is during the life of this Parliament, on 23 different occasions we’ve asked about leaks from all parts of this government, right through to the national security committee of cabinet. The night before the budget government staffers were handing out cabinet in confidence documents around the press gallery.
“I know how many of those inquiries have resulted in police raids. I don’t know how many times they’ve been referred to the AFP.”
The Labor MP added that he was making no criticism of the federal police.
A government source said the NBN Co was responsible for referring the leak to federal police and distanced the Coalition from the raid.
“The first we heard about it was when the raids started to take place. By convention, the AFP chief has to call the Justice Minister when a politically sensitive raid takes place”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who also appeared on 7.30 said he was not aware of the raids and that the AFP was an “entirely independent organisation. It makes its own judgements on these things.”
“The AFP can confirm it is conducting operational activity in Melbourne this evening,” an AFP spokesperson said.
“As this activity is related to an ongoing investigation, it is not appropriate to comment any further at this stage.”
with Larissa Ham, Latika Bourke
Source : The Age