Thursday, 25 August 2016 16:10

NBN leaks: Bernardi may back Labor over AFP raid Featured

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The Coalition government may face opposition from one of its own side over Wednesday's AFP raid on parliamentary offices, with right-wing Senator Cory Bernardi saying he may back the Labor move to refer the raid to the parliamentary privileges committee.

The raid was the second conducted by the AFP in a bid to find out who leaked material on the NBN earlier this year; the first raid was carried out during the election campaign in May. The leaked material formed the basis for several stories that embarrassed the government and NBN Co, which called in the AFP

Bernardi told the Guardian Australia on Thursday that has was seeking advice over what happened on Wednesday, and depending on what he was told, he would decide whether to back the Labor move to ask the privileges committee to decide whether material gathered during the raid should be handed over to the AFP. The material is now with parliamentary officials.

The three senators from the Nick Xenophon bloc have already said they will back Labor and the Greens are likely to do so as well. Independent Jacqui Lambie has also expressed her support.

The Labor deputy Senate leader Stephen Conroy on Thursday brushed aside the claims of national security that the AFP had invoked to carry out Wednesday's raid, which extended into the night, and prevent anyone recording what they were doing.

He said on the Guardian Australia podcast, Australian Politics Live, that when his Melbourne office was raided in May, his staff had also recorded the goings-on which was how they had known that an NBN Co staffer was accompanying the AFP on the raid.

Conroy said as a former communications minister he could confidently assert that there was no top-secret document in the possession of NBN Co as the AFP claimed. "No documents produced within the NBN Co... would come within a bull’s roar of top secret," he stressed.

Claiming that documents were commercial-in-confidence was another furphy, according to Conroy, as the NBN Co is a public-sector monopoly.

He also insisted that the AFP had no jurisdiction to conduct the raid because the staff of NBN Co were not commonwealth officers, adding that Labor would reserve its legal rights even though it was pursuing the matter in parliament.

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Sam Varghese

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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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