Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin has denied suggestions that its decision to conduct a raid overnight on a Melbourne office of Labor Senator Stephen Conroy was subject to political influence.
The AFP raid on Conroy’s office and another on the home of a staffer for Labor’s shadow communications minister, Jason Clare, were part of an investigation into a series of leaks of internal NBN documents.
The documents have been used by Labor to attack the government’s handling of the NBN rollout.
“Let me say up front for the record, the AFP always acts independently and within the law,” Colvin said.
Colvin said that the investigation had begun in December last year after a referral to the AFP from NBN. In addition to the raids in Melbourne, the AFP commissioner said that interviews had been conducted at NBN offices in Sydney.
“NBN can confirm it is assisting the Australian Federal Police with an ongoing investigation,” a spokesperson for NBN said.
“As this investigation is ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment any further.”
“In regard to government and political influence that has been commented on this morning there has been ... no influence on the AFP in the conduct of this investigation,” Colvin said.
Colvin said that no-one in the government was aware of the leak investigation before the raids took place yesterday. The timing of the raids was determined by the investigation, Colvin said.
“The timing is completely determined by the AFP. It's determined by the status and progress of the investigation, not by any external factors and not by any government influence,” he said.
An NBN employee was present at the raids to help identify relevant material, Colvin said.
The AFP commissioner said that parliamentary privilege has been claimed on the documents seized during the raids.Read more:Telco coalition calls for govt to write off portion of NBN cost
“That is not something we presuppose — that is something that needs to be claimed by the owners of the documents and the owners of the premises,” Colvin said.
As a result the AFP will not have access to the documents, he added.
“They will be lodged in the Senate and a process will be put into play by the parliament to determine if parliamentary privilege is afforded to those documents,” Colvin said.
“It is not necessarily the case that parliamentary privilege will be afforded to those documents.”
Colvin said that his office had contacted the Police Integrity Commissioner in relation to suggestions the AFP had tipped of media outlets that had covered the raids as they took place.
“I will be extremely disappointed if any member of the AFP has alerted the media. I'm confident we have not alerted the media,” he said.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus has described the raids, conducted during a federal election campaign, as “unprecedented”.
“What we need to know is what the government's full involvement in this matter was and what pressure did the government put on the NBN to make this referral to the police, to complain to the police, to pursue whistleblowers,” Dreyfus said during an interview this morning with ABC Radio National.
“Because let's not be in any doubt about this, the documents in question are documents that reveal Malcolm Turnbull's mismanagement and incompetence in running the NBN.
Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p