Fifield knew about AFP NBN investigation from the start


news Communications Minister Mitch Fifield today admitted he was told about the Australian Federal Police investigation launched in December into leaks from the NBN company, in a admission which directly contradicts a statement by the AFP Commissioner yesterday that the Government did not know of the investigation.

Late on Thursday night AFP officers raided the Melbourne office of former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, and the house of at least one Labor staffer working for Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, in an apparent attempt to ascertain the identity of whistleblowers who have leaked a series of key documents from within the NBN company.

Delimiter and a number of other media outlets have also been reportedly named as part of the search warrant issued on Thursday, although the AFP has not been in contact with Delimiter regarding the issue.

Although the AFP has denied any political influence on the investigation, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten subsequently blasted Malcolm Turnbull for what he said was the Prime Minister’s attempts to stop the public from knowing the “truth” about the National Broadband Network, which the Opposition Leader said had become a “national disgrace” under Turnbull’s watch.

Shorten said it was “inconceivable” that the Government would not have known of the AFP investigation.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the Government had not known about the investigation until Thursday, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also stated he did not know.

However, today, following an article on the subject by The Australian newspaper, Fifield issued a statement confirming he had known about the AFP investigation from the start.

“Last year there were leaks of commercially sensitive information from NBN,” the Liberal Senator said. “The senior management of NBN initiated an internal review, which identified matters of concern.”

“The NBN senior management subsequently referred these matters to the AFP. I was advised by NBN that the matter had been referred to the AFP.”

Labor has intimated that there was political involvement in the AFP referral. In addition, The Australian reported that NBN chief executive Bill Morrow “repeatedly had to face the Minister on the subject as the leaks continued”.

However, Fifield denied any political involvement in the referral.

“The referral to the AFP was made by the NBN senior management. I did not instruct nor request them to do so,” the Minister said. “It was quite properly a matter for NBN.”

Fifield further stated that as an AFP investigation into the leaks was under way, he did not advise other Ministers or Turnbull of the matter.

“I have had no interaction with the AFP during their investigation. Nor did I have any knowledge of, nor involvement in, matters that occurred this week, as was confirmed by the AFP Commissioner yesterday,” he said.

It is not clear whether other staff within the Prime Minister’s office were aware of the AFP investigation, nor to what extent Fifield’s own staff were aware of the investigation.

Of course Fifield knew about the AFP investigation — it would have been farcical for him not to. Fifield is an extremely competent operator and would have a detailed idea of what was going on in his domain at all times.

This is pretty much what Bill Shorten said yesterday, and he was 100 percent correct. Kudos to the Opposition Leader for having the guts to say what most of already strongly suspected.

He was also competent enough to have kept the matter from his Prime Minister’s ear, allowing Turnbull to deny all knowledge of this sensitive matter (although I suspect there would have been staff within Turnbull’s office aware of the matter).

What is fascinating about this revelation is that the AFP appears not to have known that Fifield knew, or at least chose not to know.

If I was AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin, I would not have made such a categorical statement yesterday that the Government had no idea that an AFP investigation was going on. Fifield’s direct contradiction of that statement today leaves Colvin in a … somewhat uncomfortable position.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. They ordered it to preserve themselves and Murdoch or did Murdoch order it ?

    So in effect have they blasted all the money to maintain it ? Telstra FTTN went down like ADSL recently. I reckon they have no money to maintain it so in the same state Telstra left it.

  2. I’d say it is inconceivable that Turnbull didn’t know about the investigation. While the leaks are damaging to the LNP generally, they are most damaging to Turnbull because it was his platform and plan when in Opposition, it was his project and portfolio as Communications Minister, the NBN board and strategic review appointments were *his* appointments, the claims made about the NBN and promises about the MTM were *his* claims and promises. The leaks, while embarrassing for the LNP, could be almost completely mitigated by hanging Turnbull out to dry – almost all of the damage to them results from his membership and Prime Ministership.

    While Fifield might be perfectly competent as a cabinet minister, he has taken his cues from Turnbull on Communications. At the time of the first leaks and the referral to the AFP Turnbull had only been PM for a matter of weeks. The directive to the AFP would not have proceeded without LNP approval. Fifield wouldn’t have approved it without Malcolm.

    It is simple for Malcolm to deny he knew – they’re just words after all. Just look at what the leaks have demonstrated Malcolm has lied about in the past – this is Chicken feed compared to the last six years.

  3. I read that Delimiter was named in one of the search warrants, prepared for an AFP raid Renai?

      • So in a raid of a media outlet, would the IP addresses, emails, names etc of customers in databases and files, such as our IP addresses, also be collected?

        • Next weeks articles – “Liberals NBN is awesome! Everything is awesome when you’re part of a team!”
          Er AFP has Renai’s computer.

      • So now the man is onto you are you gonna go full Hackers now? Ride around on roller blades, wear a rash vest, listen to prodigy and HACK THE PLANET?!

        We need to find out whats in the Gibson damn it!

        I wonder if Morrow rides around on a skateboard holding onto the back of a limo.

  4. Fifield really is the pits. Doesn’t even have the balls to front the cameras. If the relevant minister knows about a referral to the AFP and says nothing, he is SANCTIONING it. Gutless twerp. The claim he didn’t tell Turnbull about the AFP investigation shows either monumentally incompetence or is a flat-out lie. My guess is the latter.

  5. If NBN minister @SenatorFifield & NBN boss Bill Morrow ($3 million a year) won’t front media then media must front them. – MARGOT KINGSTON.

  6. So…

    Mitch knew (surprise, surprise) about the AFP investigation and one would assume ergo, any subsequent raids which would entail.

    An investigation/raids into NBN leaks, Mitch had refused to accept as factual and said were of no consequence…

    So, how far and to what lengths would Mitch and his cohorts have gone, if these leaks had have been “factual and of consequence [sic]”…?

    More flat earth “adult” logic…

  7. “Fifield is an extremely competent operator” – should read competent at being incompetent.

  8. Regarding whether the governement knew about the raids:

    I’m not sure if there is actual regulation around this, but I know there is convention that the PM or AG are consulted when the police are going to investigate a sitting member. It’s an essential part of the checks and balances to prevent bias and intimidation.

    Putting a finer point on it, what happens if the AFP end up with ALP election strategy documents as part of the raids on the Senator or his staffer?

  9. Why do honest public servants like Andrew Colvin always have to take it up the arse from dickheads like Mitch Fifield?

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