Wednesday, 24 August 2016 09:41

NBN leaks: AFP carries out raid at parliament house Featured

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The Australian Federal Police has conducted a raid at the Department of Parliamentary Services at Parliament House to try and find out the source of leaks that led to a number of stories about the NBN.

AFP personnel met staff of shadow special minister of state Stephen Conroy after they arrived at parliament house at about 10am. The meeting took place in a room of the basement of parliament.

Media personnel were asked to leave a section of the basement, but were later allowed to film AFP personnel as they left the area. The AFP officers are said to be looking at the email records and logs of Labor staffers, in order to try and track the media they were in contact with.

In February, there were claims in the mainstream media that the Coalition multi-technology mix broadband network faced mounting delays and rising costs.

The claims were based on an internal progress report which detailed a large number of issues that were hampering the progress of the rollout. NBO Co says it has asked the AFP to act. The Labor Party accuses the Coalition government of having orchestrated the raids.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke to the media earlier and defended the performance of NBN Co and the AFP's actions.

He said it was important to bear in mind that the AFP always acted independently of government.

"I've been very disappointed not for the first time to hear Senator Conroy this morning attack the integrity of the Australian Federal Police," he said.

"Really, Mr Shorten has to step up and pull Senator Conroy into line."

As the raids got underway, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus called on Turnbull to disclose what he knew about what was going on.

Dreyfus told a media conference in Canberra that uniformed AFP officers were now entering parliament in search of evidence related to the leak of documents that exposed the state of the NBN under Turnbull.

He claimed the documents that had been leaked contained information that Turnbull and NBN Co did not want to make public, due to mismanagement.

"Malcolm Turnbull promised the NBN for all by end of 2016 and that is an epic failure," Dreyfus said. "He promised that the cost would be $29 billion and it is now $56 billion."

He said Australians were getting a second-class network and that the country had dropped from 30th to 60th in Internet speeds on the Coalition's watch.

Dreyfus said the raids were being carried out to undermine those whistle-blowers. "The person who has the most to lose is Turnbull, only his integrity is in question," he added.

He said Turnbull was notified by Justice Minister Michael Keenan late last night about Wednesday's raids.

Dreyfus said people had been misled before about such matters. He said last time (in May) Communications Minister Mitch Fifield claimed he did not know about the raids and later changed his tune.

iTWire reported in December last year that an NBN cost scandal erupted with a new document revealing that copper for the Turnbull government’s hybrid MTM broadband network was going to cost 10 times as much as the original estimate.

iTWire also reported that the rollout of the NBN in the North-West region of Tasmania had been suspended while decisions are made on whether the region would have its NBN services delivered via satellite or a fixed line network.

The AFP carried out raids in May on the offices of shadow defence spokesman Stephen Conroy and the home of a staffer to Labor's then communications spokesman Jason Clare.

Around 20 NBN Co staff were also interviewed over the leak by the AFP.

NBN Co chairman Ziggy Switkowski used an op-ed in the Fairfax Press to defend the raids and was later found to have breached caretaker conventions by doing so.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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