Australian Federal Police have raided two addresses in Melbourne as part of an investigation into NBN leaks.
Search warrants were conducted in the Treasury Place office of former Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy. The second property is reported to the Brunswick home of a staffer of Labor MP Jason Clare, Andy Byrne.
The raids relate to complaints from NBN, the company rolling out the national broadband network, following alleged leaks of internal documents to the media.
The NBN has been the subject of a series of damaging leaks revealed in Fairfax Media and New Corp titles since November. These include a confidential briefing presentation that outlined that the Optus cable TV and broadband network bought by the NBN is in such poor condition the NBN is considering replacing it entirely.
In a statement on Friday morning, the AFP said the referral was received from the NBN on December 9 last year.
In more recent months documents marked “commercial in confidence” and “for official use only” had outlined problems in delivering the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) rollout model.
Labor figures have criticised the AFPs actions.
Shadow Attorney Mark Dreyfus said in a statement: “Tonight’s events are unprecedented – we have never witnessed such an extraordinary action during a Federal election campaign.
“There is no doubt there would be many, many documents that would be of major embarrassment to Malcolm Turnbull.
“What we also know is that there have been many other serious leaks out of Government – including relating to national security, defence, and the Federal Budget – and none of them have resulted in Federal police raids.”
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese told the Today program this morning: “Malcolm Turnbull has to state exactly what his involvement in this is, given particularly that it relates to, frankly, facts that the public have a right to know about the National Broadband Network and the fact he has turned it into ‘fraud-band’.”
“We know that he was desperate to stop it getting out that the roll-out is way behind time. What we saw was the media notified in advance, in advance of the people themselves being notified.”
Independent of government
The AFP denied any political involvement in the timing of the raids, saying the investigation has been undertaken independent of government, and decisions regarding yesterday’s activity were made by the AFP alone.
“The federal government and opposition were appropriately notified and advised of operational activity regarding this matter after it commenced yesterday.”
“This is entirely a matter for the AFP,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told news.com.au on Thursday.
“They operate entirely independent of government and the Labor Party knows that as well as I do.”
The police said it had received assistance from the NBN in facilitating interviews with a number of employees yesterday. The investigation is ongoing.