Monday, 23 May 2016

So who destroyed any credibility left to NBN Co. and the Australian Federal Police?

On 19 May 2016 it was reported that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) used warrants to search an electorate office occupied by former Communications Minister and current Shadow Minister for Defence Senator Stephen Conroy and the home of one of Shadow Minister for Communications Jason Clare’s staffers looking for evidence of a whistleblower involved in leaking NBN Co. documents, which outlined cost blowouts as well as planning and delivery failures in the rollout of Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull’s faster, cheaper, sooner national broadband network.

The ABC sighted a warrant and reported that it named Labor Senator Stephen Conroy, staffers, technology bloggers, and four major media organisations including the ABC and that It required the people subject to the warrant to hand over all documents relating to those people and organisations.

A number of NBN employees were also interviewed in relation to this matter on 19 May according to the AFP.

This is a redacted copy of the letter sent to AFP Manager Crimes Operations after the raid on Conroy's Melbourne office and the Brunswick home of a Labor staffer:

So who was this mysterious civilian seconded assistantwho apparently snapped over 30 images of documents over which parliamentary privilege had been claimed and, sent them on to various employees of NBN Co?

An un-redacted screenshot was displayed on Twitter in the early evening of 20 May for those who missed the hint In The Australian the first time around:

On the same day this set tongues wagging on Twitter:

So the cat is allegedly out of the bag and it is rumoured that the man at the centre of the political furore at the end of Week Two of the federal election campaign is a former Frankston detective senior constable, former partner in a furniture business, former head of security at a casino and current works in security at NBN Co.

However, this rumour remains unconfirmed because neither Team Turnbull, NBN Co. nor the federal police are about to name names. Transparency and accountability are not concepts that would normally be associated with these three.

The AFP stated in a 20 May 2016 media release that the federal government and opposition were appropriately notified and advised of operational activity regarding this matter after it commenced yesterday.

The current Minister for Communications and Senator for Victoria Mitch Fifield has admitted that he knew about the complaint to the AFP and the subsequent investigation but denies knowing of the warrants or tipping off the media to the night raids.

Sky News reported that Malcolm Turnbull said he first became aware of the raids when notified by Justice Minister Michael Keenan on Thursday, after the minister had been briefed by the AFP chief.

To date Attorney-General George Brandis is not on the record as to what he knew.

As the raids on both Steven Conroy and one of two Labor staffers were filmed by mainstream media there remains a suspicion that a person within government or police circles told the media about the when and where of these searches (second raid seen in this video).

When it comes to the exact type and status of those documents allegedly improperly distributed by the AFP/”Mr.Steere”, one will have to wait and see what any post-federal election Senate inquiry on the parliamentary privilege claim reveals or if Labor makes a formal complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman or commences legal action.


First leaked 12 page document from NBN Co titled Overbuilding Optus and marked Commercial Confidential,second leaked 12 page power point presentation CTO Briefing: Fibre to the distribution point and marked Internal Use and Scale the Deployment Program – Fttx Design and Construction. Copy of NBN Corporate Plan 2013 not yet found.

The Register, 22 May 2016:

The staffer has been identified as Simon Lee-Steere, nbnTM's general manager for security investigations, although in the only public document (below) his name has been redacted…..
Later, in defense of the staffer's actions, nbnTM corporate communications executive Karina Keisler Tweeted that the company's staffer was acting with the authorisation, and under the instruction, of AFP officers.

Business Insider, 23 May 2016:

NBN Co has stood down two of its employees over alleged involvement in the leaking of documents which resulted in last week’s AFP raids on Labor offices.
A spokesperson for the company confirmed that two employees had been stood aside while the AFP investigation was taking place. NBN Co did not name the employees or wish to comment further.
This news follows a dramatic few days for the government and the NBN, after police raided the offices of Labor senator Stephen Conroy, the homes of Andy Byrne and Ryan Hamilton as well as two staffers of shadow communications minister Jason Clare…..
The Australian Federal Police no longer have access to seized documents after the Labor party claimed parliamentary privilege.
AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin confirmed that the documents seized have now been sealed, and can’t be accessed until the matter goes before the Senate….

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