The Senate has agreed to refer to its Standing Committee of Privileges a claim of parliamentary privilege made by Senator Stephen Conroy. The claim relates to material seized during a series of high-profile Australian Federal Police raids that sought to identify the source of leaks of NBN internal documents.
The AFP in May raided Conroy’s electoral office and the home of one of his staffers as part of an investigation into the leaked NBN documents used by Labor to attack the handling of the National Broadband Network rollout. Last week, the AFP staged a further raid seeking access to email held on servers operated by the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Conroy claimed parliamentary privilege over the material obtained by the AFP during the raids, with the Clerk of the Senate now holding the material.
The leader of the opposition in the Senate, Senator Penny Wong, today moved the motion referring the matter to the privileges committee. Under the motion moved by Wong, the committee will not inspect the material seized.
“If the committee is able to determine the matter without examining the material, it shall report accordingly to the Senate, making recommendations for the disposition of the material,” the motion states.
“If the committee is unable to determine the matter without an examination of the material, it may, with the further approval of the Senate, appoint an appropriate person to examine the material and report to it on the claim of parliamentary privilege. The committee shall then report to the Senate.”
Attorney General George Brandis said the government would not oppose the motion but had “serious misgivings” over its structure.
“It seems almost impossible that the privileges committee can competently perform the task referred to it without the inspection of the content of the documents,” Brandis said.