ABC AM with Michael
24 August 2016
Subjects: AFP, NBN
E & OE
now to our earlier story about raids on the emails of Labor staffers. The
Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, says Stephen Conroy, Senator
Stephen Conroy has got the wrong end of the stick and Senator Fifield joins me
in the Canberra studio, good morning.
end of the stick, how so?
look, absolutely, I couldn’t believe my ears when I was listening to early AM
this morning. Everything that Stephen Conroy said was wrong.
Conroy said that the NBN is behind schedule and over budget. It’s not. NBN
results for the financial year released last week demonstrated that NBN is now
available to 3 million households. That there are 1.1 million Australians who
have connected. It’s available to a quarter of the population. It will be
completed by 2020. That’s 6 to 8 years sooner than would be the case under
Labor. 30 billion dollars less cost. NBN was a failed project under Stephen
Conroy. Contractors had downed tools in four states and only 51,000 people had
actually hooked up to the NBN. So Stephen Conroy was completely wrong.
are they still so sensitive then about these leaks? Because clearly the AFP
investigation is ongoing, the raids are continuing.
I think Stephen Conroy is just incredibly embarrassed about the contrast
between the NBN under Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister and me, with
his performance as Communications Minister.
Conroy is essentially saying that the Australian Federal Police don’t have
integrity. That the Australian Federal Police are not operating independently.
The facts are that there were, allegedly, documents that were commercial in
confidence that had been stolen from NBN. NBN is perfectly within its rights to
call the Federal Police to investigate this matter. Stephen Conroy has actually
called for the Federal Police investigation to cease and desist. Now that is
extraordinary. A Member of Parliament, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in
the Senate, seeking to intervene in a Federal Police investigation. He wants
them to stop going about their duty. Our view is that the Federal Police are
independent and they should be left alone to do their job.
one of the criticisms he points to is that the NBN is not a Commonwealth Public
Authority, and doesn’t have the same sort of rights that Commonwealth Public
Authorities have, and he says that NBN has asked for the similar sort of rights
as part of this investigation, is that correct?
not for Members of Parliament to determine what the jurisdiction of the
Australian Federal Police is. The Australian Federal Police determine what is
and what is not within their jurisdiction. The Australian Federal Police have
accepted this investigation. They are undertaking it. But the really curious
question and one that people might want to pose to Senator Conroy is: why is he
so sensitive about the Federal Police going about their independent
he says it’s a question of legality, I think he said in the interview these
raids are illegal. I mean does he have a case? I mean clearly the NBN Co is not
a Public Commonwealth Public Authority.
think it’s bizarre for a Member of Parliament to say that they should have the
right to determine what is and what is not within the AFP’s jurisdiction. The
AFP are best placed to know what is appropriate for them to investigate and
what is not. I have complete confidence in the AFP and I think it’s outrageous
that Stephen Conroy is continuing what he was doing in May, which is to seek to
besmirch the reputation of the AFP.
says he’s protecting whistle-blowers. He says it’s his duty to, you know, hold
the government to account, all of that is true.
this is not an inquiry, an investigation, into whistle blowers. Whistle blowers
that’s clearly why he’s asked for Parliamentary Privilege isn’t it?
blowers are people who seek to put information in the public domain, in the
public interest, in relation to issues of safety, malfeasance, financial
government to account.
is a case where NBN is alleging that there is theft of material which is
commercial in confidence. And I think any organisation is within its rights to
call in the appropriate authorities when they believe material has been stolen.
the raids will continue?
don’t know, because the AFP has complete independence of the Government. So I
don’t know if the AFP is or is not conducting any operational activity today.
That’s entirely a matter for the AFP. But the good news for your listeners,
Michael, is that the NBN is on track. It’s on budget. They’re going to get it,
the Australian people are going to get it much sooner than would be the case
under Labor. And we have a good institution in the AFP. It’s independent and
that independence should be respected.
Mitch Fifield, we’ll leave it there.