news The Australian Federal Police (AFP) raid on the Department of Parliamentary Services yesterday was possibly illegal, according to Senator Stephen Conroy, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Special Minister Of State.
The AFP search was “intended to access the emails of Labor staff members”, Conroy said, and related to “alleged unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information relating to the NBN Co”, according to an AFP statement made before the raid.
The Labor senator said the raid was a “shameful attempt” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “hide his incompetent administration of the NBN”.
“It is an extraordinary attack on the Parliament and its constitutional duty to hold the government of the day to account,” he added.
Conroy further claimed that NBN Co has “initiated this investigation” based on a claim that it is entitled to special protections from disclosure of information about its operations because it is part of the Commonwealth.
This is contrary to its own enabling legislation, according to Conroy, which he said “clearly and unambiguously” states that NBN Co is “not a public authority, not part of the Commonwealth and not entitled to any of the immunities or privileges of the Commonwealth”.
The Senator cited the government’s own website as evidence, quoting Section 95 of the National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011 – “NBN Co is not a public authority”:
NBN Co is taken for the purposes of the laws of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a Territory:
(a) not to have been incorporated or established for a public purpose or for a purpose of the Commonwealth; and
(b) not to be a public authority or an instrumentality or agency of the Crown (however described); and
(c) not to be entitled to any immunity or privilege of the Commonwealth;
except so far as express provision is made by this Act or any other law of the Commonwealth, or by a law of a State or of a Territory, as the case may be.
Conroy stated that NBN Co should explain how the AFP search has “any legal justification”.
He further suggested that NBN Co “initiated” the raid to “cover up Malcolm Turnbull’s gross mismanagement” of the NBN.
“Under Mr Turnbull, the NBN has been beset by lengthy delays and cost blowouts,” he said. “In fact, the cost of the Mr Turnbull’s second-rate copper NBN has nearly doubled to up to $56 billion.”
“I will continue to assert parliamentary privilege over all material and information gathered as part of this investigation, including in the raid this morning,” Conroy concluded. “It is my duty as a Senator to hold the Government to account. That is what I intend to do.”
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting