Doorstop, Melbourne

Subject/s: AFP raids

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE

MELBOURNE

WEDNESDAY, 24 AUGUST 2016

 

Subject/s: AFP raids

 

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I note that Australian Federal Police officers have entered Parliament House this morning to conduct a search of emails of Labor staffers on official parliamentary servers. This is extraordinary. First we had raids on Labor staffers and the office of Senator Conroy during an election campaign, now we have uniformed AFP officers entering Parliament House to access emails on official parliamentary servers. Let me remind you of what this is all about. It is about the leak of documents which exposed the true chaotic state of the NBN Co as managed by Mr Turnbull as Communications Minister. On the watch of Mr Turnbull, our current Prime Minister but when he was the Communications Minister. It’s information that NBN Co and Mr Turnbull did not want to be made public. Because it was embarrassing. Because it showed the cost blowouts and delays that were caused by the government’s mismanagement of a very important national infrastructure project.

 

Just let’s recall, Mr Turnbull promised that the NBN Co would roll out a national broadband network to every Australian household by the end of 2016. That has been an epic failure. Mr Turnbull promised that the cost of delivering the National Broadband Network to Australians would be $29 billion. It’s now blown out to $56 billion. Australians are getting a second-rate slower copper network, not what was promised and far slower than what was promised. Australia’s dropped from 30th to 60th in world internet speed rankings on Mr Turnbull’s watch. This investigation is an attempt by the NBN Co to undermine whistleblowers who have made all of this information public and it shouldn’t be happening. The person who has most to lose from this information being made public is Mr Turnbull.

 

Let me be absolutely clear. This is not about the Australian Federal Police. They are doing their job. The only person in this situation whose integrity is in question is Mr Turnbull. He says that he was notified by Justice Minister Mr Michael Keenan late last night that the raids were to occur, but I would say this – the Australian people have been misled previously about how much this government knows about this investigation, let’s hope we are not misled again. To be clear about that, when this occurred during the election campaign, Senator Fifield said that he did not know – that was his initial claim – he later said that was not correct and in fact he had been notified. Mr Turnbull needs to make a full disclosure of all of his dealings with the NBN Co board and all of his dealings with the NBN Co management about exactly what he knows and when he knew it about this investigation. Labor is very concerned that proper procedures are followed.

 

Australian Federal Police activities inside Parliament House which relate to the business of parliamentarians are highly regulated and so they should be. It’s of vital importance that parliamentary privilege is honoured. Parliamentary privilege is a part of our law which is at the heart of our parliamentary democracy. That is why there is such tight regulation of things like the execution of search warrants. Parliamentary privilege is one of the operating principles of our democratic system. It’s important for the proper functioning of our democracy. Labor has pointed out that parliamentary privilege will apply to the documents that are being sought here in Parliament House today. It’s a matter for the Parliament, specifically it is a matter for the Senate to determine whether parliamentary privilege does apply. It’s a disappointment to me that Senator Fifield, who has been in the media this morning, appears not to understand that parliamentary privilege, which applies to the business of parliamentarians, is not some party political plaything. It’s something all parliamentarians need to be concerned about because it is so vital to the functioning of our democracy. It’s vital to the way in which parliamentarians go about doing their work, it protects parliamentarians both communicating with each other and communicating with all of the Australian community. It protects documents that they obtain or documents that they create as part of doing their work which in the present situation is work that concerns the accountability of a government-owned corporation which is spending billions and billions of dollars of public money. Finally I would say that I note with concern that media inside Parliament House according to reports are not being allowed to film what is occurring there today. It is not a police state, it is a democracy. There is no reason for these activities to be hidden away or done in secret. Full transparency is necessary. Do you have any questions?

 

JOURNALIST: Just to be absolutely clear, what exactly are you trying to suggest is the Prime Minister’s involvement in this? Are you trying to suggest that he has instructed NBN Co that these raids are necessary?

 

DREYFUS: Mr Turnbull has not answered properly questions that are being put to him about what you have just asked me about. It’s important that Mr Turnbull make full disclosure of all of his dealings with NBN Co, all of his dealings with the board, and all of his dealings with executives of NBN Co or by his own office as to what he knows and what his office has known about this investigation.

 

JOURNALIST: But you’re not questioning the independence of the AFP?

 

DREYFUS: I’ve said earlier that this is not in any way about the Australian Federal Police. Our concern is with NBN Co calling in the Australian Federal Police. Our concern is with what dealings government ministers including the Prime Minister have had with NBN Co. Clearly directed at covering up the truth of the way in which NBN Co has gone about this roll-out, the truth about the huge blow-outs in time and cost that have occurred on Mr Turnbull’s watch.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you have any complaints whatsoever about the way the AFP has conducted themselves in this raid?

 

DREYFUS: Well, this particular investigation and the execution of a search warrant is still unfolding. I have said that we believe that there should be no basis for excluding the media from filming what is occurring in Parliament House today. This should be being done in the open. Parliament House is the people’s house. What goes on there is a matter, or should be, a matter that is fully open.

 

JOURNALIST: What evidence does the coalition have that the government leaned on the NBN board to instigate this investigation?

 

DREYFUS: We know that there was some contact, and we don’t know the full extent of the contact between government, ministers, the Prime Minister and NBN Co. That’s what we are calling on Mr Turnbull to make absolutely clear, full disclosure, of what his dealings or dealings by his office have been with the NBN Co. It should not be a matter of party political point scoring, as both Mr Turnbull and Senator Fifield have sought to do here today. It’s a real concern, I would suggest, if Senator Fifield who is wanting to have his cake and eat it too, say on the one hand “nothing to do with the government” but then pitching and asserting – quite falsely as I understand it – that the offences that the warrant relate to are offences of theft. As I understand it, the investigation is based on allegations of particular events – that being misuse of government information. And there is a real doubt about whether that offence can in fact occur in relation to documents at the NBN Co which is in fact directly not an agency of the Commonwealth.

 

JOURNALIST: Does that mean that we need whistleblower legislation… legislation that actually protects whistleblowers?

 

DREYFUS: Well there is a regime of whistleblower protection that exists at the Commonwealth level and protects both Commonwealth public servants and contractors who are dealing with the Commonwealth. What we’re seeing here however from the Government and NBN Co is an attempt to both uncover whistleblowers and to have them punished. The documents that have been leaked here, which are part of this investigation, are directly concerned with showing that the government statements about how well the roll-out of the National Broadband Network is going are false, and that in fact there have been on Mr Turnbull’s watch, on his watch when he was Communications Minister and on his watch as Prime Minister, we have had massive cost blowouts and massive time blowouts and Australians are getting a second-rate, slower, copper NBN instead of the national broadband network that they should be getting.

 

Unless there is anything else? Thanks very much.

 

ENDS