Subject: AFP raids; Malcolm Turnbull’s mismanagement of the NBN.
SYLVIA JEFFREYS: The election campaign took a dramatic turn overnight, with the Australian Federal Police raiding a Labor Party office in Melbourne and a campaign worker’s home. It is all part of an investigation into the illegal leaking of secret documents relating to the NBN. The AFP has just released a statement. They say they work independently of government; this investigation is driven by them alone. It is good morning now to Anthony Albanese and Christopher Pyne. Anthony, I want to go first to you. One of the staffers used to work for you. You know them. You’ve been in contact with them. What is the very latest on the raids overnight?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is quite extraordinary that the Australian Federal Police left this staff member’s home just half an hour ago. What that means is that it has been quite an extraordinary raid, over an extensive period of time, in extraordinary circumstances during an election campaign. Now, the AFP have made that statement, but we know that Malcolm Turnbull is very precious and we also know that Malcolm Turnbull has doubled the costs of the NBN, and halved the speed. And we know that he was desperate to stop it getting out that the roll-out is way behind time.
JEFFREYS: Stephen Conroy and two staffers have been targeted here. Do they have anything to hide?
ALBANESE: Not at all. And what’s extraordinary here, there were Budget leaks with Laurie Oakes the night before the Budget. Where are the AFP raids there? People were talking, Government Ministers were talking about the leak of Cabinet documents. That’s a serious breach of the law. You had Government Ministers out there talking about these leaked documents that were in the Cabinet, one after the other being rolled out on Budget day. The timing of this is unprecedented, and extraordinary. Malcolm Turnbull has to state exactly what his involvement in this is, given particularly that it relates to, frankly, facts that the public have a right to know about the National Broadband Network, and the fact that he has turned it into fraud band.
JEFFREYS: Anthony, you mentioned the timing of this, and it is curious at the very least and plenty of people are saying at the worst it is ‘sus’. Christopher, how do you explain the timing? Why is this happening now?
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Well, Sylvia, I think the Labor Party have chosen the wrong take on this issue. The Australian Federal Police have made it absolutely clear that they act independently of the Government. The facts are that the Government knew these raids were occurring after they began. There was a complaint from the National Broadband Network to the Australian Federal Police. We found out moments before Bill Shorten found out, and rather than the Labor Party playing a straight bat, they have chosen to politicise the Australian Federal Police. Now, that is the extraordinary decision that Mark Dreyfus and the Labor Party have chosen to take. Rather than simply cooperating with the police and doing the right thing, they have tried to politicise an Australian Federal Police investigation into the leaks from the National Broadband Network and I think they will be marked down for that.
JEFFREYS: Christopher, let’s talk specifically about the timing though. This has come in the midst of a Federal election campaign. It has come at the end of a very busy week for both leaders. It has come directly in the hours after a fairly positive announcement from Bill Shorten regarding Medicare and a big boost for that. How can you not accept that the voters, the electorate, will be drawing conclusions here about the timing?
PYNE: Sylvia, I think the Australian public have a lot of faith in the Australian Federal Police, as they do in the police forces generally around the country. I think the idea that the Australian Federal Police would time this raid on Steve Conroy’s office and staffers from the Labor Party because of a Medicare announcement by Bill Shorten yesterday is nothing short of loopy. The truth is the Australian Federal Police make their own decisions about when they launch investigations and how they operate. You have to take that on the chin, and rather than the Labor Party recognising the seriousness of the involvement that they may have had – obviously that’s the allegation because their offices are being leaked – they are choosing to attack the Australian Federal Police.
JEFFREYS: Are you at least curious as to why no Government leaks – and they come from the National Security Committee down – have been investigated by the AFP?
PYNE: There are investigations going on into leaks from the Cabinet, etcetera.
JEFFREYS: Which investigations? Which leaks are being investigated?
PYNE: Sylvia, the AFP have had matters referred to them over the years, under both Liberal and Labor Governments, which are investigated by the Australian Federal Police. But once they are referred to the AFP, they are a matter for the AFP.
JEFFREYS: Are any of your Budget leaks being investigated by AFP?
PYNE: Sylvia, I wouldn’t know because the Australian Federal Police have matters referred to them and decisions are made –
ALBANESE: I tell you what, Laurie Oakes’ home hasn’t been raided. Nor have any Ministers’ homes been raided.
PYNE: Sylvia if you are suggesting that the Government has organised the raids by the AFP against the Labor Party, that is an extraordinary allegation.
JEFFREYS: Of course I’m not suggesting that, Christopher –
PYNE: What are you suggesting?
JEFFREYS: I’m suggesting that there are question marks around why this is happening now and you have to understand that people are drawing conclusions –
PYNE: No, I don’t think that’s true.
JEFFREYS: Read any newspaper this morning, Christopher, you will see people drawing conclusions –
PYNE: The truth is the Government had nothing to do with it –
ALBANESE: With these raids, what we saw was the media notified in advance, in advance of the people themselves being notified. I found out during the footy last night that these raids were occurring. For Christopher to talk about this being politicised by us, the raiding of Senator Conroy and staff –
JEFFREYS: We will have to leave that there, that is a matter for the AFP. We will leave that there for now and we will wait to hear more from the AFP on that. I want to know from both of you: when a Government is decided, when the election has been won by one or the other, will you both happily work with Donald Trump if he is President?
PYNE: Well, Bill Shorten’s remarks yesterday really exposed the fact that he just doesn’t have the experience to be the Prime Minister, Sylvia, because he hasn’t been in Parliament long; got into Parliament in 2007. The United States’ alliance with Australia is our most important international relationship – economically, politically, militarily. And for Bill Shorten to try and play politics with that yesterday is just another example of why he isn’t ready to be the Prime Minister of Australia, and he needs more time.
ALBANESE: That’s not correct. We will work with whoever that the President of the day is but that doesn’t mean that people don’t have a view about Donald Trump. I’ve got a strong one about Donald Trump based upon his comments, as would most Australians regard his comments as being on the fringe to say the least.
JEFFREYS: We have to leave it there, gentlemen. Thank you for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: One conclusion – tonight, Townsville Stadium will be packed. We should fund Townsville Stadium.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.