SKY NEWS With Kieran Gilbert > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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24-August-2016

TRANSCRIPT

Sky News with Kieran Gilbert
9.10 am
24 August 2016

Subject: AFP, nbn

E & OE

KIERAN GILBERT:

Stephen Conroy, the former Shadow Minister for Communications and former Minister for Communications in the then Labor Government has said it’s an extraordinary attack on the Parliament and its Constitutional duty to hold the Government of-the-day to account. He says it’s a shameful attempt by Malcolm Turnbull to hide his incompetent administration of the NBN – what’s your reaction to that?

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well Kieran, I couldn’t believe my ears this morning when I heard Stephen Conroy on AM. Everything he said was wrong. The AFP operate independently of government. And the facts are that NBN was concerned about the alleged theft of commercial in-confidence material. And NBN did what is completely within their rights as an organisation. And that is to refer it to the relevant authorities to investigate. This isn’t a whistle blower inquiry. This isn’t a leak inquiry. This is an investigation into the alleged theft documents from NBN. But the other thing that Stephen was completely wrong on was the allegation that NBN is behind schedule and over budget. It’s not. Only last week NBN released their financial year results, which showed that NBN is on-track and on-budget. That three million households can now access the NBN. 1.1 million households have actually hooked-up, are paying customers. So that three million figure represents 25 per cent of the nation. And we’re on track to have it completed by 2020, and that’s years ahead of what Labor proposed.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Senator Conroy says it’s an attack on the Parliament and its Constitutional duty to hold the Government of-the-day to account.

He says he’s going to continue to assert parliamentary privilege over all material that’s gathered here. 

MITCH FIFIELD:

Well I’ve got to say, I don’t know if the AFP are undertaking any operational activity today. And I wouldn’t, because the AFP operates independently of government. 

KIERAN GILBERT:

Well he’s been told by the AFP that they’re going to raid the offices today, here in Parliament. It’s quite extraordinary, isn’t it?

MITCH FIFIELD:

I think the extraordinary thing is Stephen Conroy has called for the AFP to cease their investigation. I was on Radio National Drive with Patricia Karvelas a couple weeks ago, and Stephen said: “I’ve written to the AFP Commissioner saying that he should cease the investigation”. I mean that’s extraordinary, a Member of Parliament seeking to tell the AFP how to conduct their business. We respect the independence of the AFP. Stephen Conroy and Labor have continually sought to besmirch the good name of the AFP and to question their integrity.

KIERAN GILBERT:

But to have Federal Police on the grounds of Parliament, raiding politicians’ offices, is that appropriate?

MITCH FIFIELD:

The AFP conducts their inquiries in the manner that they think is appropriate to conclude their inquiry. The way that things have always been handled – and has been traditionally respected by both sides of parliament – is that we have a separation between the police and the Government and the Parliament. We should all respect the independence and the integrity of the AFP and allow them to get about their business.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Now the final question I ask you is about Stephen Conroy’s suggestion that NBN Co isn’t entitled to special protections as a Commonwealth Authority. That it is under its own enabling legislation, it is not a Public Authority, it’s taken for the purposes of the Commonwealth Law not to have incorporated for the purpose of the Commonwealth, not a Public Authority or an instrumentality or agency of the Crown. So is NBN overstepping its rights, its jurisdiction here?

MITCH FIFIELD:

The Australian Federal Police determine what is and is not within their jurisdiction to investigate. Again, this is highly unusual for a Member of Parliament to seek to take to them self, the duty of what is and isn’t in the jurisdiction of the AFP, that’s something the AFP…

KIERAN GILBERT:

This is more about the status of the NBN saying that they’ve overstepped the mark; that they’re not a Commonwealth Authority, as far as special protection from disclosure goes.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Any organisation is entitled if they have concerns about allegations of theft, to refer those to the relevant law enforcement authorities. Once something is referred to a law enforcement agency, that agency determines whether something is within their jurisdiction. The AFP have determined that it is. They’re conducting their inquiries. And it’s not appropriate for Members of Parliament to seek to heavy the AFP, or to seek to question the integrity of the AFP. We respect the AFP. We respect their integrity. Stephen Conroy should as well. And quite frankly Bill Shorten should pull him into line.     

KIERAN GILBERT:

Minister, thanks for your time.

MITCH FIFIELD:

Thanks, Kieran.

[ends]