Election 2016: Why did the Australian Federal Police raid Labor offices?

BY: Matthew Doran

The raids are connected to documents leaked from the National Broadband Network (NBN) company, described as “concerning allegations of the unauthorised disclosure of Commonwealth information”.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the matter was referred to his agency in December 2015 by NBN Co, not the Federal Government.

The ABC has seen a warrant which suggests police are casting a wide net in their investigation.

It names Labor Senator Stephen Conroy, staffers, technology bloggers, and four major media organisations including the ABC.

It required the people subject to the warrant to hand over all documents relating to those people and organisations.

Does the election campaign affect the way the AFP operates?

Commissioner Colvin has stressed his agency’s independence from government.

“The timing of these investigations is determined not by external factors, but by the progress of the investigation,” Commissioner Colvin said.

Commissioner Colvin said the AFP first alerted the Government to the raids shortly after they began, by contacting Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was told shortly after that, as was Senator Conroy.

Just because the Government is in caretaker mode does not mean the AFP’s operations are impacted.

What’s the link between NBN co and the Government?

NBN Co is a Government-owned corporation, charged with constructing the National Broadband Network.

The company’s constitution states “the company’s objects are to roll-out, operate and maintain a national wholesale broadband network while working closely with the Commonwealth during the implementation study in order to facilitate the implementation of Australian Government broadband policy and regulation.”

What does it mean that Labor has claimed parliamentary privilege on the seized documents?

Labor has claimed the documents seized by AFP during the raids are subject to parliamentary privilege.

The AFP has guidelines about how to deal with carrying out search warrants where parliamentary privilege may be involved.

It says “parliamentary privilege applies to any document or other thing which falls within the concept of ‘proceedings of parliament'”.

That includes “documents sent to a senator, which the senator then determined to use”.

The documents are sealed in a bag to be considered by the Senate as to whether privilege does indeed apply.

However, there technically is no Senate to discuss the matter at the moment, which suggests the documents cannot be considered until after the election.

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This post originally appeared on ABC News.

Tags: current-affairs , politics
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