ABC Lateline transcript

Subject: AFP raids











Subject/s: AFP raids



EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: The Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus joins me now from Melbourne. Mark Dreyfus, have you been able to establish who exactly sent in the Federal Police?

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good to be with you, Emma. No, the Federal Police are there because the NBN Co asked them to be there but it's pretty clear that there's knowledge on the part of ministers, perhaps the Prime Minister, and that's why we've called directly for Mr Turnbull to say what he knew about these raids before they happened, what he knew about the request that was made by NBN Co to the Australian Federal Police. He has avoided answering those questions up until now, Emma.

ALBERICI: I'm not sure that's entirely true because he has said the AFP acts independently?

DREYFUS: Well that's a different question. I'm not in any way criticising the integrity of the Australian Federal Police but this raid today, the extraordinary events during the campaign, only happened because the NBN Co asked the Australian Federal Police to take some action.

ALBERICI: But the NBN Co is a separate entity from the Government.

DREYFUS: It is a separate entity from the Government, it's wholly owned by the Government and it's subject to ministerial direction. So yes, it's separate from the Government but we've already been misled once about the raids on Senator Conroy's office and on the homes of his staff back in May.

ALBERICI: Misled in what way?

DREYFUS: The Minister initially denied, Emma, that he knew anything about the raids that were conducted then and then later had to correct himself and say well, in fact, he was told.

ALBERICI: So what evidence do you have of direct government involvement in this?

DREYFUS: We've got a government that's not prepared to actually tell the full story about what it knew and we've got ...

ALBERICI: Pardon me, though, that is different to having actual knowledge and evidence of an involvement.

DREYFUS: What we've got is a Government desperate to cover up, Emma, the leaks that have occurred here.

ALBERICI: But that's conjecture, right?

DREYFUS: You look for motive, Emma and we've got pretty direct motive here. We've got leaks that go directly to the complete botching by Mr Turnbull as Communications Minister…

ALBERICI: No, but I'm sorry, you may well have motive but it doesn't seem you have evidence.

DREYFUS: Motive is a very good starting point and we've got, what I would describe, as evasion on the part of Mr Turnbull. Not answering questions, not being prepared to say, nor has Senator Fifield been prepared to say exactly what he knew about the request that's been made by NBN Co here. And I want to keep focused, Emma, and I think everybody should keep focused on what these leaks are about which is about massive cost blowouts, massive time blowouts, a failure, complete failure to keep the promises that Mr Turnbull made from Opposition…remember he said that every Australian was going to have the national broadband network by the end of 2016. Well how's that looking now? Remember that he said that it was going to cost $29 billion, something that he had to correct to $56 billion.

ALBERICI: But with respect, Labor had its own problems when it was in government in terms of sticking to any one of the targets that it made for itself. Isn't your own, isn't it in fact your own embarrassment that needs a bit of checking here? The NBN has now connected, Senator Fifield says, to 1.1 million customers compared to 50,000 when you left office. The project will be completed by 2020, he says, which is six to eight years sooner than Labor's would have been and $30 billion cheaper?

DREYFUS: Well that's what he says, but I'm trying to hold this Government, which has been in office for three years, to the promises that it made which were promises and are promises that have absolutely not been kept. We are not going to have the national broadband network completed by the end of 2016. It's not going to cost $29 billion but $56 billion and Australia, in the time that Mr, on Mr Turnbull's watch has slipped from 30th in the world in internet speeds to 60th. This is an epic failure and that's why the Government's trying to cover it up.

ALBERICI: But they, the AFP in concert with the NBN is an entity entitled to conduct these kinds of searches and execute these kinds of warrants to look for material that is commercially-in-confidence that has been, in the words of the company stolen, taken in a manner that wasn't right and wasn't allowed?

DREYFUS: Well that's not actually the basis of the warrant. The alleged offences are unauthorised use of Commonwealth information. There's a real doubt about whether that offence can ever be committed in relation to documents of the NBN. It's not to do with commercial-in-confidence ...

ALBERICI: Senator Fifield this morning on ABC radio said it was a matter of commercial-in-confidence.

DREYFUS: He also said it was a matter of theft and both statements are false. They're not the basis of the warrant and it's pretty mysterious that Senator Fifield says, wants to say on the one hand "it's nothing to do with me" and then profess by his exaggeration to show what is apparently a great deal of knowledge about this. So I think we need to keep focused, Emma, on what's going on here. This is whistleblowers within the NBN assisting members of the Australian Parliament to do their job to hold the Government to account, to investigate the huge expenditure of billions of dollars of public money. That's what's going on here and we've got, I think everyone should look back at what Mr Turnbull said when he was concerned about his complete disaster with Godwin Grech and the OzCar affair, then he was very concerned to protect parliamentary privilege and very concerned to protect whistleblowers.

ALBERICI: I was going to say do you know yet whether you definitely have the numbers to attach privilege to these documents in the Parliament?

DREYFUS: It's not about numbers. It's actually a very, it's an absolute concept here, Emma and I'm a bit surprised to hear it being reduced to a purely political calculation. I would be expecting Liberal ...

ALBERICI: But do pardon me if I'm wrong, but does the Senate not need to vote on whether these documents will indeed have privilege attached to them?

DREYFUS: There's a long-standing protocol which the Australian Federal Police are now observing which is to deliver up to the clerk of the Senate all of the documents that they seize because there is a claim for parliamentary privilege. And well there should be because these are documents that go directly to a Parliamentarian doing his duty, doing his work and it protects Liberal senators, it protects National Party senators, it protects the crossbench senators just as much as it protects Labor senators. I'm expecting Liberal and National Party senators to uphold the privilege that is something that is central to our parliamentary democracy. It's not something that should be reduced to some parliamentary political calculation. It's something that actually goes back to, well, the British Parliament, it goes back hundreds of years. It protects the work of the Parliament and it's a really important concept.

ALBERICI: Mark Dreyfus, thank you for your time.

DREYFUS: Good to be with you. Thanks, Emma.