Australia goes the full Stasi: AFP raids on the NBN

22 May 2016 9:39 am

(picture: David Rowe AFR)

The Turnbull government has turned Australia into a police state with the National Broadband Network raiding the office of former Labor Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy.

The raids were in relation to leaked documents given to The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian, the ABC and Delimiter detailing cost blowouts, costing errors, delays and a plethora of problems in the National Broadband Network and problems within it.

What made it politically explosive was they were happening when Malcolm Turnbull was in charge of the National Broadband Network prior to his leadership coup in September. The leaks about NBN’s operational nightmares were potentially politically damaging for someone who has enough political enemies on his own side.

It was not a good look for Turnbull two weeks into an election campaign where, if the polls are right, he will need every single vote he can get.

There are a number of questions here. Did the Turnbull government direct the raids? Was the attorney general George Brandis aware of the raids? Did he authorise them? Who in the NBN called the Federal Police? Were they connected with the Prime Minister in his former role as Communications Minister? There were a number of damaging leaks. Which one in particular triggered the raid? Was the information leaked commercially or politically sensitive? Why is no-one concerned that Sky News was there filming the raids? Is it really the role of the Australian Federal Police to investigate leaks from the NBN? How can we trust that the information obtained in the raid will not be passed on to the government to use in the election campaign?

The bottom line is that the NBN leaks showed massive cost blowouts. The public had a right to know. The police are being used, Stasi style, to attack whistleblowers.

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed his Communications Minister Mitch Fifield didn’t tell him about an Australian Federal Police investigation into leaks from the company building the National Broadband Network.

But it’s inconceivable that the NBN did not tell its owners, the Government, about the raid. If the NBN was reporting to the government on a weekly basis, how did the government not know about the raids?

In a Facebook post outgoing billionaire MP Clive Palmer said Turnbull had major concerns about Conroy and the NBN

“In 2014 Turnbull asked me to use our votes in the senate to remove Conroy from NBN committee.
Turnbull offered to appoint me Chairman of a Parliamentary Joint Committee for NBN. Turnbull was worried about the senate committee questioning the chief Executive of the NBN . I think he was worried the Truth would come out about NBN, he wanted me shut it down. He said he wanted to get Conroy. I refused. I have seen the Liberals direct police before.
Wink Wink. Nudge Nudge. Say no more promotion on the way”

The best comments on this terrible business comes from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

“The Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on the opposition (ALP) cannot be tolerated. Raiding a suspected media source for a story embarrassing to the government is bad enough. But to raid the opposition during a federal election campaign in order to hunt down the source of such stories makes Australia look like it has become an Asian democratic backwater. Of course, it is hard for me to have much sympathy for the hypocritical ALP, which created what it called a 'whole of government' task force against me, which included the AFP, in-order to ingratiate itself with the US. But the issue is not about ALP or the government. It is about the rights of all Australians to know what their government is up to. When the opposition and the media work together to publicly reveal infrastructure mismanagement they are doing their jobs and doing it well. When police conduct raids on the opposition during an election to hunt down media sources they are not doing their job. They're stopping all the rest of us from doing ours. It is not the role of policemen to interfere with elections--whether instructed to do so by the government or not. “