Showing posts with label AFP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AFP. Show all posts

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Russian Dolls 101: news of historic Australian security breaches discovered nested inside a more recent national security breach

Opps, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) permanently lost 707 Cabinet and National Security Committee documents between 2008 and August 2013.

 The general public find out about these losses approximately four to ten years later in January 2018, when mention was made of the situation in one file document within thousands of other top-secret and highly classified documents obtained by the ABC after yet another security breach involving Cabinet papers and other classified files found in old government locked filing cabinets sold at public auction in Canberra.

Even John le CarrĂ© would have thought this plot line was nigh on unbelievable - but then he didn't know our very own federal bureaucracy.

ABC News, 31 January 2018:

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) lost nearly 400 national security files in five years, according to a secret government stocktake contained in The Cabinet Files.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet regularly audits all government departments and agencies that have access to the classified documents to ensure they are securely stored.

The missing documents are not the same files the ABC has obtained.

The classified documents lost by the AFP are from the powerful National Security Committee (NSC) of the cabinet, which controls the country's security, intelligence and defence agenda.

The secretive committee also deploys Australia's military and approves kill, capture or destroy missions.

Most of its documents are marked "top secret" and "AUSTEO", which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.

An email exchange between the cabinet secretariat and the AFP reveals the documents were lost between 2008 and 2013……

Troop deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, counter-terrorism operations, foreign relations and Australia's border protection were among the top-secret and sensitive issues decided in the five-year period.

The cabinet secretariat's general practice was to give up searching and write off lost documents if they could not be found after consecutive audits, according to another document in The Cabinet Files.

Of course it is only three or four years ago that nearly 5,000 secret, confidential and restricted documents from two major federal departments held in a "B Class" secure container ended up in a recycling yard in Canberra.

There was an internal inquiry at the time but that obviously didn't translate into accounting for the whereabouts of all secure containers/filing cabinets and safes holding sensitive documents.

Given the fact that Australia's public broadcaster actually had possession of documents in the latest security breach, rather belatedly the secutity services began to care about national security.

ABC News, 1 February 2018:

ASIO officers have moved to secure the thousands of top secret and classified Cabinet files obtained by the ABC, in early morning operations in Canberra and Brisbane.

Officers delivered safes to the public broadcaster's Parliament House Bureau and South Bank studios around 1:00am, just hours after the massive national security breach was revealed.

The ABC still has access to the documents, now kept in the safes, and negotiations are still underway between lawyers for the ABC and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

The department launched an urgent investigation on Wednesday, after it was revealed the trove of documents had been discovered in two locked filing cabinets offloaded to a second-hand furniture depot in Canberra.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) launched an urgent investigation into how the massive breach occurred, within an hour of the ABC revealing the trove of documents.

But the ABC understands the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are yet to join the inquiry.

* Russian Doll pic found at Google Images

Sunday, 10 December 2017

"Lucifer" Dutton takes up role as Australian Minister for Home Affairs on Sunday 17 December 2017

The Saturday Paper, 6 December 2017:

Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed immigration minister Peter Dutton will take up the new home affairs “super ministry” on December 17. The home affairs portfolio, announced in July, will give Dutton sweeping powers over Australia’s intelligence, security and border control apparatuses, and has been criticised for centralising too much authority under one figure and stripping the attorney-general position of its ability to hold security agencies accountable. Brandis denied rumours he will retire from politics before the December reshuffle, saying he intended to stay put. Last week a Canberra Times investigation found a web user with an IP address connected to the Australian Taxation Office edited Dutton’s Wikipedia page, briefly changing his middle name to “Lucifer”.

The Home Affairs super portfolio will merge Australia’s immigration, border protection, law enforcement and domestic security agencies in a single portfolio, including spy agency ASIO, the Federal Police, Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission - under the control of millionaire former Queensland police officer and Liberal National Party MP for Dickson Peter Dutton, with allegedly increased oversight by Australian Attorney-General and Liberal Senator for Queensland George Brandis.

A political pairing from Queensland which may yet turn out to be the stuff of nightmares, given these two gentlmen's attitudes to human rights and civil liberties.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The perception that Turnbull & Co are conducting a political witch hunt is not going to go away anytime soon

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, media release, 27 October 2017:

Timetable set for Federal Court action on unprecedented raids

A court timetable has been set in the AWU’s fight to challenge the validity of this week’s unprecedented police raids launched by the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) on the union’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who are representing the AWU, said today that court orders confirming a timetable for the case had been agreed to by all parties, removing the need for a Federal Court directions hearing that had been scheduled for this morning in Melbourne.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein said critically that the orders were made together with commitments from both the ROC and AFP that no documents seized in this week’s raids by the AFP will be handed over to the ROC until the court has heard the case.

Mr Bornstein said the union's case compromised two key parts, namely: 
That the raid conducted by the AFP was illegal; and
That the investigation by the ROC is illegal because it is politically motivated.

“Prior to these raids, the union had handed over disclosure statements from 10 years ago in relation to Get Up donations to the ROC, but in doing so had pressed the regulator to provide it with information about the political interference by the Turnbull government in this matter.

“Disturbingly, the ROC has refused to hand over all file notes of its communications with Minister Cash and her office and we  will continue to seek all such documents as part of the federal court case,” he said.

Under the agreed timetable evidence must be obtained from all parties next month, with the respondents required to file their defence by 1 December 2017. A substantive hearing will be held in December at a date to be set, following the filing of defences.


In 2015 the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption considered matters relating to seven unions, one of which was the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

AWU activity during the years 2003-2010 were examined by the Royal Commission, including financial records which would have included donations by AWU to outside organisations/groups, including the $100k donation to the activist groupGetUp!

No evidence appears to have been presented during Commission hearings relating to GetUp! or to the 2006 AWU donation to this group and, there were no adverse findings made against Bill Shorten in the Commission's December 2015 Final Report.

As far as I’m aware a reporting unit such as the Australian Workers Union New South Wales Branch or Australian Workers Victorian Branch is only legally obliged to hold records for 7 years and it appears Ms. Cash was ignoring the fact that a) there was no obligation to supply her with this so-called evidence and b) these documents could have been lawfully disposed of anytime after 2013 if the union had so decided.

On 20 October 2017 in response to Senator Cash’s referral ROC began an investigation into the AWU.

Despite that fact ROC applied for search warrants for AWU branch offices in Sydney and Melbourne and these were issued before 10am on 24 October 2017.

The Australian Federal Police scheduled what it thought was an unpublicized search late on the afternoon of 24 October 2017.

Police were greeted outside the union offices by an assorted collection of mainstream print and television media who had been alerted to the time and place of the ‘raid’ by Senator Cash’s office.

An unknown number of union records were removed by the police.

Financial Review, excerpt from Media leaks about AFP AWU raids a disaster for Turnbull, Cash and government, 26 October 2017:

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Australian Federal Police spokesperson careful not to say that investigation had 'cleared' Brough & Ashby

This was The Daily Examiner (News Corp) take on the completion of the Australian Federal Police investigation into the unlawful disclosure of information by Commonwealth officers alleged to have occurred when a member of the Speaker of the House of Representatives’ staff photocopied details of the diary and gave it to a person desirous of unseating Peter Slipper:

However, what the Australian Federal Police (AFP) stated was not a clearing of anyone’s name.

As at the time of writing there is no published media release from the AFP one has to rely on details gleaned from various media articles.

“Following a thorough investigation material was provided to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for certain advice. As a result of the advice provided by the CDPP the matter did not proceed further. The length of this investigation has been influenced by a number of factors, including, but not limited to the availability of individuals to provide statements, the provision of materials from third parties, and the substantial volume of material that needed to be assessed.”
In a statement to the ABC, the AFP said it considered the matter now finalised.
"In September 2014 the AFP received a request to investigate matters relating to the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information from the official diary of former speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper," the statement read.
"Following a thorough investigation material was provided to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) for certain advice.
"As a result of the advice provided by the CDPP the matter did not proceed further."
Mr Slipper said on Tuesday his lawyers has been informed by AFP assistant commissioner Shane Connelly that the investigation had been closed.  In a letter, Mr Connelly said a review found the available evidence was insufficient for any potential prosecution. 

In a letter to Mr Brough’s lawyers, AFP Assistant Commissioner Shane Connelly said the investigation had been finished and no charges laid.
“I write to advise you of the outcome of the Australian Federal Police ‘AFP’ investigation into the allegation a former staff member of then Speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper had disclosed parliamentary diary entries of Mr Slipper without his authority,’’ the letter says.
“A review of the evidence available to support a potential prosecution has determined the evidence is not sufficient to prove all elements of the relevant ­offence ... as a result, the AFP will be taking no further action in ­relation to the matter.’’

I write to advise you of the outcome of the Australian Federal Police ‘AFP’ investigation into the allegation a former staff member of then speaker of the House of Representatives Peter Slipper had disclosed parliamentary diary entries of Mr Slipper without his authority … A review of the evidence available to support a potential prosecution has determined the evidence is not sufficient to prove all elements of the relevant offence, being the disclosures of information by Commonwealth officers as described in section 70 of the Crime Act 1914 (CTH). As a result, the AFP will be taking no further action in relation to the matter.

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….

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Australian Federal Police and the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in 2016

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are not covering themselves with glory in relation to one Australian union.......

This article in The Guardian on 16 April 2016 appears to indicate that, in subsequent interactions with Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Australian Federal Police did not forget that the union had successfully defended itself in court in 2015:

A complaint from the construction union to the commonwealth ombudsman paints an extraordinary picture of heavy-handed tactics by special police taskforces, including a police officer allegedly warning one unionist he knew his children’s names and what time he dropped them off to school.

The letter, sent by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) on Tuesday, complains that police repeatedly attempted to question witnesses without their lawyers present and, in one case, demanded a junior employee grant access to union headquarters during a raid without first showing her a warrant.

The union’s complaint alleges that when the Australian federal police searched the ACT branch’s headquarters on 25 August, one officer told the branch secretary Dean Hall, “I do know about your family things”, to explain how he knew his wife’s name.

“Like, I know your kids’ names and their ages and where they go to school and when you drop them off,” the officer is said to have told Hall. “What do you expect? I am profiling you.”

The union’s lawyer, Phillip Pasfield, told the ombudsman these alleged statements were intimidatory, unwarranted and designed to threaten Hall, who was “extremely upset” about the incident.

In December the Australian Capital Territory supreme court ruled that the raid was unlawful because police withheld information from the magistrate in order to get the warrant.

The CFMEU complained that the officer in charge of the raid told building industry participants that he would prefer to make workplace agreements with the Master Builders Association, not the CFMEU…..

The union claimed the AFP deliberately misled a Fairfax Media journalist by saying a CFMEU official had been “raided” on 2 December then changed its story to say the raid related to the official but was not a raid on his or her property. This was done to “destroy the reputation of the official involved”, it said.

In another incident, the CFMEU said the union police taskforce provided false information or failed to correct journalist Stephen Drill, who incorrectly reported Victoria police’s union taskforce Heracles had raided the CFMEU’s Victorian headquarters…..

While this report in The Guardian on 9 May 2016 raises serious concerns about the conduct of the federal police:
Union officials have launched an extraordinary attack on the Australian Federal Police, accusing the force of adopting an "unbalanced and aggressive" approach to union activities and executing the Turnbull government's union-busting ambitions.
Sparking a flare-up of simmering tensions this week, a Victorian union safety officer has become the subject of a criminal investigation after he tested the stability of a guard rail during a site visit and it immediately collapsed.
A letter from the AFP, seen by Fairfax Media, details the allegation of property damage against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's Peter Clarke. 
The union said the case was "bizarre" and added to serious concerns that police were responding to political pressure to become more heavily involved in industrial relations matters.
"This is a bizarre use of AFP resources that ought to be used to deal with the serious criminality that goes on in the community," union secretary Dave Noonan said.
"It's clear to us that senior officers of the Australian Federal Police are directing some kind of campaign against the union and its officials."
The case is the latest example of what the CFMEU claims is unjust, heavy-handed treatment of its members and officials in Victoria, the ACT and Queensland by the federal police. Slater & Gordon, the union's legal firm, has filed a formal complaint against the AFP with the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Video footage of the alleged property damage incident shows Mr Clarke – a safety officer with the union's Victorian branch – approaching the guard rail during a safety inspection at a Canberra construction site in February. It appears to show him momentarily shaking the railing before a large section collapses.
Mr Clarke has been called in for interrogation over the incident.
"During the course of the investigation, Mr Clarke was identified as being responsible for damaging a guard rail at that location," AFP acting Commander Robert Wilson said in the letter.
"The allegation against Mr Clarke is property damage ... Police wish to speak to Mr Clarke in relation to the matter in the form of a record of interview."
The union said falls from heights were a leading cause of workplace injury and death, and every safety official was expected to check the stability of guard rails during site inspections. Statistics from Safe Work Australia shows the nation's construction industry accounts for almost 40 per cent of fall-related deaths.
"The fact that this rail was so flimsy it didn't survive a light shake shows it would have been completely ineffective in preventing a fall, and completely fails to comply with the relevant codes of practices," Mr Noonan said.
"Are our priorities saving workers on construction sites from getting killed, or trying to cover up for builders who cut corners on occupational health and safety and put workers' lives at risk?"
The Australian Federal Police said the investigation was ongoing and it would not be appropriate to comment.

CFMEU video footage of the alleged property damage:

The Guardian, 5 May 2016:

In separate proceedings, union official and rugby league great John Lomax will appear in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday against the AFP.

Mr Lomax was investigated and prosecuted for blackmail last year, with police alleging he attempted to force a Canberra painting company and its principal to sign a union enterprise bargaining agreement.

The prosecution was dropped in October. 

Now Mr Lomax is considering a malicious prosecution lawsuit. 

He and his lawyers declined to comment ahead of Friday's court appearance.

But CFMEU national construction secretary Dave Noonan, Mr Lomax's employer, said the former Canberra Raiders hardman's lawyers had been forced to seek a court order to access information about the investigation after requests to the federal police failed.

"The solicitors [who act for Mr Lomax] have sought various documents to ascertain whether or not our concern that there was a malicious element to the prosecution can be sustained," Mr Noonan said.

"Those documents have not been supplied.

"As the documents were not produced it's necessary to make an application in court for pre-trial discovery."

Mr Noonan said the contents of the documents would determine whether Mr Lomax would launch a malicious prosecution suit against the federal police.

"[Mr Lomax] was charged on a completely bogus charge, our QC said so at the time, they proceeded with the charge, they failed to provide any evidence to the court and the charges were dropped.

"If the AFP has got nothing to hide, why not provide the documents? If they acted in good faith, why not provide the documents?

"We think the proper thing for the AFP to do is to produce the documents."

ABC News reporting on the ACT arm of the Australian Federal Police on 22 March 2016:

A former staffer at the centre of an investigation into the office of Labor MLA Joy Burch has hit out at ACT police after it was announced the inquiry had been dropped.

Last year, allegations arose that Ms Burch's chief of staff, Maria Hawthorne, leaked sensitive details of conversations between the ACT Government and the chief of police about the conduct of officers on construction sites in Canberra, to the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union (CFMEU).

ACT Policing has announced no criminal charges would be laid but revealed that allegations also involved another former staff member.

Ms Hawthorne dismissed the allegations against her and other staff.

"ACT Policing's last-ditch attempt to implicate a second staff member should be seen for what it is – a desperate act of distraction," she said.

"The truly unprecedented event of the past three months has been an elected minister losing her job because of unfounded allegations by an unelected official."


In this ACT Supreme Court judgment, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union v Commissioner, Australian Federal Police [2015] ACTSC 362 (2 December 2015), the Australian Federal Police are found to have abused process:

140. The fact that a second or subsequent warrant might be an abuse of process does not go to the question of the validity of any such warrant, but only if it is shown that the second warrant is actually issued for an ulterior or improper purpose or otherwise constitutes an abuse of process.

141. In my view, it could not be said, in this case, that the issue of the second warrant was an abuse of process. No prejudice to the plaintiff was identified that was outside the contemplation of the construction of the relevant provisions.


266. As I have found the seizure under the second warrant to be invalid because of the failure to disclose fully the circumstances that were required to be disclosed for the issuing officer, the learned Magistrate, to make a proper decision about whether to issue a warrant that is able to be executed after 9.00 pm, I have not found that any of the other complaints invalidated the search or the warrants.

267. In relation to the material obtained under that warrant, the material must be returned or destroyed.

268. In relation to the breaches that I have found, I have been asked to make declarations of non-compliance with the relevant sections.
269. The question of whether I had power to make declarations was not subject to any challenge by the first defendant, other than as to discretion. This is not a case such as Kennedy v Baker where such an issue arose. There is, in this Court, plenary power to make such declarations and I do not need to consider the jurisdiction further.

270. As to discretion, the only basis on which it was urged that I should not make any declaration is that a failure to do so would still leave a court, which was required to deal with any criminal proceedings on which any seized material is sought to be admitted, and which retained jurisdiction under s 138 of the Evidence Act, to deal with any impropriety or illegality then.

271. I accept that a court will be appropriately able to protect an accused’s interests in any such criminal proceeding by such means; see Phong v Attorney-General for the Commonwealth [2001] FCA 1241; (2001) 114 FCR 75. It seems to me, however, inappropriate to deprive such a court of my findings following what was a detailed hearing with not only affidavit evidence but cross-examination and oral submissions.

272. In the circumstances, I am prepared to make the declarations.

273. It seems to me that the plaintiff has had sufficient success to justify an order for costs. I shall permit the parties to seek another order but otherwise so order.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: bolting to the ballot box before arrests are made?

It is looking more and more as if Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to go to the polls early has less to do with so-called Senate obstruction and a lot more to do with a number of allegedly criminal skeletons in Liberal and National Party closets……..

ABC News 29 April 2016:

Australian Federal Police (AFP) have ramped up their investigation into the copying of former speaker Peter Slipper's diary.

The ABC has been told the AFP has made an application to the Federal Court, which, if granted, would allow police to use evidence from an earlier civil case in a criminal prosecution.

That evidence includes text and picture messages exchanged between Mr Slipper's former staffer, James Ashby, and Liberal National Party MP Mal Brough.

Now the AFP has asked the Federal Court to grant it permission to use the material harvested from Mr Ashby's phone, including excerpts from Mr Slipper's diary sent by Mr Ashby to Mr Brough.

In its application, the AFP has said the messages will be used in the current investigation, and any subsequent prosecution.

Permission is necessary because the exhibits were originally only to be used in the civil case.

Mr Ashby's sexual harassment suit was rejected by a Federal Court judge, who said Mr Ashby had been part of a "combination" including Mr Brough, which had used the legal action as a political weapon against Mr Slipper.

Mr Ashby then appealed and the original judgement was set aside, but Mr Ashby later dropped the case.

However, it subsequently emerged the AFP is investigating whether Mr Brough committed a crime by encouraging Mr Ashby to copy pages of Mr Slipper's diary.

Mr Brough stood down from his role of Special Minister of State in December, saying he would not contest the upcoming federal election.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Brough's small target strategy at work?

The Guvmin Gazette on 6 December 2015 attempted to put the best spin possible on what MP for Fisher Mal Brough was required by precedent to do:

Special Minister of State Mal Brough has asked for a $108,000 pay cut and to move from a ministerial suite to a backbench office as he stands aside from his post while the Australian Federal Police ­investigate him for any wrong­doing in the Peter Slipper affair.
Malcolm Turnbull announced last week, on the same day as junior minister Jamie Briggs’s resignation, that Mr Brough would step aside from his ministerial ­duties pending police inquiries into the alleged 2012 illegal copying of the official diaries of the then Speaker Mr Slipper.
Mr Brough wrote to Speaker Tony Smith on the day of the ­announcement requesting the ministerial component of his ­salary not be paid from that day and for the 
allocation of an office in the House of Representatives wing.
“Mr Brough’s requests were communicated to the Department of House of Representatives on the same day, and appropriate action is being taken to action them,” a spokesman for Mr Smith said.
Mr Brough’s ministerial salary of $307,329 will drop to a backbench salary of $199,040.
The Australian has also been told Mr Brough has relinquished ministerial entitlements, including a mobile phone…..

One has to wonder if the interview, media release or phone call to journalist which is the likely trigger to this newspaper article is part of Brough’s strategy to make himself the smallest target he can manage ahead of the start of the 2016 parliamentary year, when more questions about his past conduct are bound to be raised with the Prime Minister by the Opposition.


Questions by Mark Dreyfus MP Labor Oct 2012 - Dec 2015

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Prime Minister Abbott's plan still permits an outrageous attack on Australian press freedom

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union and industry advocate for Australia’s journalists, cannot support the Prime Minister’s proposal for government “agencies to obtain a warrant in order to access a journalist’s metadata for the purpose of identifying a source”.
The Prime Minister’s plan still permits an outrageous attack on press freedom and would have a chilling effect on journalism in Australia leading to whistleblowers being fearful that they risk exposure if they seek to reveal instances of wrongdoing, corruption, waste, illegal activity and dishonesty.
MEAA believes the lack of understanding of what is at stake requires the proposed Parliamentary Inquiry into press freedom concerns to go ahead in order the concerns of journalists and media organisations are heard and acknowledged by MPs.

MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said: “What needs to be understood is that no journalist, anywhere, can ever allow the identity of a confidential source to become known – that is a guiding principle of journalism the world over. It is a principle acknowledged by every Australian journalist in clause 3 of MEAA’s 
Journalist Code of Ethics: ‘Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances’.”

Murphy added: “Accessing metadata to hunt down journalists’ sources, regardless of the procedures used, threatens press freedom and democracy. It means important stories in the public interest can be silenced before they ever become known, and whistleblowers can be persecuted and prosecuted. It means journalists can be jailed for simply doing their job.

“The so-called ‘safeguards’ recommended by the Parliamentary Committee were no safeguards at all because they still allowed government agencies to hunt down journalists’ sources. Similarly, the Prime Minister’s proposal also allows those agencies to trawl through a journalist’s metadata in order to expose a confidential source. Putting a hurdle like a warrant in the way will not change the outcome: using a journalists’ metadata to pursue a whistleblower. Why does the Government not understand that no journalist can breach their fundamental ethical obligation to never allow the identity of a confidential source to be revealed?”

MEAA has consistently explained this principle of press freedom in every submission to Parliament on the national security laws. MEAA also repeated those concerns on Thursday last week when it was visited by representatives from the Prime Minister’s, Attorney-General’s and Communications Minister’s offices and the AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin. During that meeting, the AFP confirmed it has been repeatedly asked to hunt down journalists’ sources by accessing journalists’ metadata and he confirmed that it is doing so. The 
Data Retention Bill will simply formalise these activities with no regard to the press freedom implications and presumably encourage at least 20 government agencies to go trawling through journalists’ metadata.

Murphy said: “Journalists cannot allow the relationship they have with a confidential source to be breached, under any circumstance – that is their ethical responsibility. If the surveillance continues and is formally adopted in the 
Data Retention Bill 
with or without a warrant, then journalists will be forced to use the tools of counter-surveillance such as anonymisation and encryption to protect their sources. It remains our fundamental position that this Bill should not be proceed at all and that the press freedom concerns of the previous two tranches of national security laws must be addressed.”

In an interesting twist, the Australian Federal Police issued a media release in which it admitted that police already request access to journalists’ metadata:
Fact check: Use of metadata in relation to journalists
Release Date: Tuesday, March 17 2015, 02:34 PM

In a statement released yesterday, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) claimed that AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin confirmed the AFP had “been repeatedly asked to hunt down journalists’ sources by accessing journalists’ metadata and he confirmed that it is doing so. The Data Retention Bill will simply formalise these activities with no regard to the press freedom implications and presumably encourage at least 20 government agencies to go trawling through journalists’ metadata.”

This is inaccurate and a distortion of the comments made.

Commissioner Colvin said that over the past 18 months, the AFP has received 13 referrals relating to the alleged unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information in breach of section 70 of the Crimes Act.

This offence specifically criminalises the activity of Commonwealth officials who have released Commonwealth information in contravention of their obligations, not journalists.

In the overwhelming majority of these investigations, no need was identified to conduct a metadata telecommunications inquiry on a journalist. AFP requests for accessing a journalist’s metadata are rare.
[my red bolding]

On  19 March 2015 the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 was passed by the House of Representative. Only three MPs voted against it - The Greens'Adam Bandt and Independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan.

 Image from The Guardian 19 March 2015