Australia’s communications minister, Mitch Fifield, has slammed claims by Labor senator, Stephen Conroy, that the latest in a series of Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on Labor Party offices in relation to alleged nbn document leaks are politically motivated.
“Everything that Stephen Conroy said was wrong,” Fifield told ABC radio. “Stephen Conroy said that the nbn is behind schedule and over budget, it’s not.
“nbn's results for the financial year released last week demonstrated that nbn is now available to three 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 six to eight years sooner than would be the case under Labor, $30 billion less cost,” he said.
Fifield’s comments follow earlier claims by Conroy that an AFP raid on Labor Party staffers’ emails, which saw plain-clothes officers reportedly enter Parliament House to search for evidence, is politically motivated and an “absolute abuse of process”.
Conroy, who is shadow special minister of state and former communications minister, told ABC radio that the raids represent an attempt to intimidate whistle blowers.
“Our obligation to the people of Australia is to expose waste and mismanagement by the Turnbull Government and what we're seeing here is an attempt to intimidate people to not actually do their parliamentary duties,” he said.
Conroy also suggested that nbn Co had stepped outside its rights as a private entity by requesting that the AFP investigate whether Commonwealth officers had leaked information on the company.
“The problem is with any reading of this legislation, [is that] nbn Co staff are not Commonwealth officers, so nbn Co are using the police in a way in which the legislation clearly states they should not be,” he said.
Fifield rejected the suggestion that nbn had stepped out of the bounds of its authority to request an investigation.
“Stephen Conroy is essentially saying that the Australian Federal Police don't have integrity, that the Australian Federal Police are not operating independently,” said Fifield.
“The facts are that there were allegedly documents that were commercial-in-confidence that had been stolen from nbn.”
The AFP raided Labor Party offices in Melbourne in May, visiting a property believed to be the home of Labor’s Jason Clare, shadow minister for trade and investment.
Clare is believed to have been targeted after the publication of a Fairfax article outlining “mounting delays and rising costs” of the government’s nbn.