Federal police confirms NBN referred leak investigation

The AFP has confirmed that the NBN leaks culminating in a raid of Labor premises followed a referral of the matter from NBN, with seized documents to be handed over to the Senate.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor on

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation into the leaking of confidential National Broadband Network (NBN) documents has been ongoing since early December -- well before the election period.

The investigation culminated in the execution of two search warrants on Thursday night in Melbourne on the office of former Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy and the home of a communications staffer for Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare.

"These allegations were the subject of a referral from the National Broadband Network Company, received by the AFP on 9 December 2015. This investigation has been ongoing since that date," the AFP said in a statement.

"This investigation has been undertaken independent of government, and decisions regarding yesterday's activity were made by the AFP alone.

"Search warrants conducted in East Melbourne and Brunswick are part of a phased approach that the AFP has undertaken regarding this investigation. The next phase of this investigation involves the examination and analysis of material collected during these search warrants."

Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Andrew Colvin told media on Friday morning that the raids weren't completed until the "early hours" of the morning, and emphasised that the AFP is acting independently.

"There has been no influence on the AFP in the conduct of this investigation," Colvin said.

The government was not made aware of the raids until after they had commenced, he said, with the timing completely decided by the AFP.

"Investigators follow the evidence," he added.

"The offending has been ongoing throughout the conduct of this investigation."

Parliamentary privilege has now been claimed on the documents seized by the AFP, and have been sealed and will be given to the Senate, according to Colvin.

The Guardian is reporting that the AFP has also named five media outlets in its search warrants: The ABC, The Australian, the Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, and Delimiter.

The raids follow a number of leaks over the past six months: In November, a leaked document revealed that Optus' HFC network is "not fully fit for purpose", with 470,000 premises in the footprint needing to be overbuilt; and in December, a leak divulged that the cost to replace or repair the legacy copper network would amount to AU$641 million.

In February, a document alleged that the rollout was seriously delayed and costing more to connect each premises; in March, a document stated that NBN had conducted trials of FttP with skinny fibre that had found FttP was no more expensive than FttN; and in April, a leaked document alleged once again that 40 FttN areas were behind schedule.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on Thursday night that the NBN leaks have continually proven that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's NBN is delayed and over-budget.

"It's an extraordinary development," Shorten said in regards to the AFP raids.

"It relates to the time when Malcolm Turnbull was communications minister, and it concerns his embarrassment over revelations that the NBN under his watch -- the largest Commonwealth taxpayer-funded development of infrastructure -- it related to his embarrassment over the fact that there was a massive blowout in costs of billions and billions of dollars, and of course huge delays to the delivery and the rollout of the NBN."

Turnbull simply said that the AFP is an independent organisation that is separate from the government.

"It's entirely a matter for the AFP, you know they operate entirely independently of the government, so this is a matter for the AFP. The Labor Party know that as well as you and I do," the prime minister said.

NBN confirmed that it is assisting the federal police with the ongoing investigation, but said it wasn't appropriate to comment any further.

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