PM deflects Labor accusations on raids

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday Photo: Andrew Meares Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Friday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus (right) and Labor’s communications spokesman Jason Clare after the AFP raids on Labor offices on Thursday night. Photo: Steven Siewert

The AFP raid on a Labor staffer’s house in Brunswick on Thursday night. Photo: Nick Toscano

Australian election: full coverageComment:NBN leaks were of public interestExplainer:Why are the police raiding Labor?

Late-night raids on Labor offices over the alleged leaking of documents by staff members atthe National Broadband Network sparked a day of extraordinary political debate on Friday, with the opposition accusing the Turnbull government of seeking to muzzlewhistleblowers and restrict press freedom.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten effectively accused Malcolm Turnbull of lying by saying it was “inconceivable” the Prime Minister was not aware of the Australian Federal Police investigation before the raids in Melbourne on Thursday.

Mr Turnbull, who denied any prior knowledge of the investigation, in turnsaid Labor should be “ashamed” of itself forquestioningthe integrity of the AFP and trying to politicise its work.

In a remarkable turn of events on Friday afternoon, Labor’s legal representativeswrote to the AFP to complain that an NBN employee participating in the raids had taken photos of seized documents and sent them to his colleagues.

The revelation came to light during a meeting between AFP CommanderPaul Osborne and lawyerPaul Galbally on Friday. The NBN employee – who participated in theraid at the office of former communications minister Stephen Conroyas a “constable assisting” – later deleted all 32 photos fromhis phone and it is believed they cannot be retrieved.

These documents were supposed to be held under seal by the Clerk of the Senate because Senator Conroy is claiming they are protected by parliamentary privilege.

“During our meeting I was advised by you that [the NBN officer] disseminated images of documents obtained in the execution of the warrant to NBN Co Limited in circumstances where a claim of parliamentary privilege had been made to NBN Co Limited,”MrGalballysaid in a letter to Commander Osborne, obtained by Fairfax Media.

“This act was wrong and, amongst other things, clearly had the potential to undermine my clients’ claim for privilege.”

Labor is demanding to know why the NBN employee was allowed to disseminate the photos and under whose authority.

AFP CommissionerAndrew Colvin had earlier said it was normal operational procedure for the NBN officer to be at the raids.

“Those people donot search,” he said.

“What they are there foris to be shown documents we believemight be relevant and provideexpertise as to the authenticityand origin of those documents.

“I know my officersoperate professionally in allcases.”

A spokesperson for the AFP said that the NBN Co staffer was “under the direction of AFP officers at all times during the search warrant” but did not say why the staffer was allowed to send the pictures to colleagues. But Fairfax Media understands theNBN Co has agreed to delete all material it received. Letter (1) by Orietta

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfusinitially questioned the AFP’s decision to launch the raids during an election campaign, saying it should have been “more cautious” giventhe political connotations involved.

Mr Shorten later said he accepted the AFP’s insistence the policehad acted with complete independence from government.

“Theintegrity of the AFP is not theissue here at all,” Mr Shorten said.

“But let us not fall forthe idea that somehow the NBN Co is operating in this marvellousuniverse independent of thegovernment.

“We know thatthese revelations have shownmassive NBN cost blowouts andunacceptable delays for millions ofAustralians.

“This is about theright ofthe public to know thetruth.”

The AFP on Thursday nightexecuted search warrants atthe Treasury Place office of SenatorConroy and the Brunswick home of Labor staffer Andrew Byrne. The search at Mr Byrne’s house lasted until around 5am on Friday.

The warrant states police believe a Commonwealth officer leaked NBNdocumentstoMr Byrne between August and February. The warrant said police were seekingdocuments relatingtoThe Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Australian and technologywebsite Delimiter.

These outlets have published a series of damaging stories, based on internal NBN documents marked “commercial in confidence”, about thethe poor state of the cable TV and broadband networkit purchased from Optus and ofthe copper network purchased from Telstra.

Senator Conroy has claimed the documents are covered byparliamentary privilege, meaning they will be sealed until after the election if the Senate approves their release.

A spokesman for the NBN said:”Our staff have followed and complied with instructions from the AFP at all times.

“NBNhas been assisting the Australian Federal Police with an investigation into the ongoing theft of intellectual property after reporting the matter in December 2015.”

Mr Turnbull, who was campaigning in Launceston, said: “Thefirst I heard of the AFPinvestigation was [on Thursday]when Iwas advised by the Justice Ministershortly after he’d been advised bythe Commissioner.

“We aredealing here with a matter of lawenforcement, we’re dealing herewith a matter of the AustralianFederal Police.

“NBN Co made a referral of a matterof concern, of illegal leaking ofconfidential commercialinformation.”

Mr Turnbull said Labor had sought to attack the integrity of the AFP.

“Labor should beashamed of themselves,” he said.

Mr Colvin said:”The timing is completely determined by the AFP, it’s determined by the status and progress of the investigation, not by any external factors and not by any government influence.”

He said the AFP believed the leaking thatsparked the investigation had been”ongoing” and that this had influenced the timing of the raids.

Mr Colvin rejected claims the AFP had been selective in taking action on leaks from NBN, rather than leaks from inside the Turnbull government’s national security committee of cabinet.

Mr Turnbull said in March the AFP would investigate the leaking of sections of a draft Defence white paper that formed the basis of a newspaper story in which former prime minister Tony Abbott was quoted.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott said on Friday he had not been interviewed by the AFP, nor approachedregarding that leak investigation.

A spokeswoman for former Defence MinisterKevin Andrewsdeclined to say whether the former minister had been interviewed.

“It is understood from media reports there is an investigation, which is a matter for the AFP,” the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman forCommunications Minister Mitch Fifield did not answer questions aboutwhether he knew about the investigation before Thursday.

Government sources pointed out that the Rudd government made 32 referrals to the AFP over leaks in its first three years in office.

In 2011 Senator Conroy called in police to investigate leaks detailing how an independent tender panel had favoured Sky News over the ABC to run Australia’s international broadcasting service.

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Ending violence cycle

JOINING FORCES: Women’s Health Grampians chief executive officer Marianne Hendron is leading a campaign to end violence against women in the Grampians.

More than 25 Grampians organisations are set to join forces in a landmark campaign aimed at ending violence against women and children.

The new initiative called “Communities of Respect and Equality” is a Grampians prevention strategy aimed at raising awareness about violence against women and its key driver, gender inequality.

Rural and regional communities continued to overrepresented withBallarat’srate of family violence50 per cent higher than the Victorian average.

Women’s Health Grampians chief executive officer Marianne Hendron said all violence against women and children was unacceptable and preventable.

“It has been uplifting to meet with and hear from senior leaders of organisations across the Grampians region who believe by working together we can create communities of respect and equality where everybody has the right to be safe,” Ms Hendron said.

Former Victoria Police assistant commissioner Doctor Leigh Gassner hasbacked the initiative.

DoctorGassner consulted the Australian Human Rights Commission on violence against women and will be a guest speaker at the launch of the project next on later this month.

“Mobilising the community, in building equality and respect is key to preventing violence against women and children,” Doctor Gassner said.

“Violence against women is a community issue and we must all work towards creating safety.”

He leadership from the organisations in developing a holistic prevention plan was a significant step forward.

“Organisations who commit to the strategy will be working in practical ways to prevent violence and address gender inequality.”

But Ms Hendron said the initiative would not be a “one size fits all approach” with each program specially designed each organisation taking part.

“They will consider their size, location, capacity and resources,” Ms Hendon said.

“Importantly, they will be supported by Women’s Health Grampians with expert advice, workplace training, leadership briefings and change management assistance.”

Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford will launch the strategy at Ballarat Specialist School FARM, 800 Norman Street, Invermay on Monday May 30

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NSW leave Hodkinson in a state of suspense

OF all Trent Hodkinson’s attributes, it is not his classy ball-playing, organisational ability or radar-like goalkicking that has earned him six Origin games for NSW.

RELAXED: Knights co-captain Trent Hodkinson is putting no extra pressure on himself to push for an Origin position. Picture: Getty Images

More than anything, it has been his cool head under pressure.

And as the Newcastle co-captain and incumbent Blues halfback prepares for Saturday’s clash with Wests Tigers at Campbelltown –his last chance to state a case for retention –he could hardly appear more relaxed about the subject of Origin I, 2016.

Blues coach Laurie Daley will name his squad on Monday, and if media speculation is accurate, either South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds or the Roosters’ Mitchell Pearce will be allocated the No.7 jersey.

If that is the case, Hodkinson is not losing any sleep over it.

“It always is in the back of your mind, because at this time of year it’s everywhere,’’ Hodkinson said on Friday.

“It’s hard to avoid it.

“But being at a new club and obviously coming off a couple of poor losses, my focus is this weekend and on the Tigers.’’

If Daley intends to pick Hodkinson, he has not been forthcoming with that information.

“There hasn’t been any chat or what-notbetween me and Laurie, but I’ll try and do my talking on the field this week,’’ he said.“Whatever happens, happens.’’

Hodkinson missed last week’s 62-0 flogging by Cronulla with a knee injury but, after a week of physiotherapy, said he was able to train on Friday without inconvenience.

“I got through really well,’’ he said. “I trained earlier in the week, on Wednesday, as well and it’s pulled up really well.I’ve been back and done everything with the boys …I’ve just got to be a bit smarter and pull back a bit and get the maintenance things right.’’

Hodkinson’s return means 18-year-old Jack Cogger is likely to drop back and skipper Newcastle’s under-20s.

Giant forward Pauli Pauli is also expected to return to Newcastle’s squad, along with either David Bhana or Josh King, to cover for the likely absences of Jacob Saifiti (wrist) and Sam Mataora.

Newcastle are at a low ebb, having conceded 179 points and scored only 10 in their past four games, but will be hoping to repeat their 18-16 win against the Tigers in round five.The Knights have won three straight games against the Tigers and five of their past six.

Knights forward Jack Stockwell said his teammates were not dwelling on the loss to Cronulla.

“The head space is good,’’ Stockwell said. “We haven’t talked too much about what happened on the weekend. We just want to put it in the past.’’

Woman jailed for  stealing Australia Post van in Nowra

The stolen van came to a halt in a paddock at Dunmore.A woman accused of stealing an Australia Postdeliveryvan andleading a hair-raising police chase from Nowra to Dunmore in February has been jailed for at least 12 months.

Keira Griffin evaded four attempts by two separate highway patrol carsto bring her to a halt before a set of road spikes and a tight left hand bend brought her unstuck.

Griffin was arrested in a paddockat Dunmorehaving spurred her stolen ride on to speeds of up to 150km/h.

Police say Griffin was irrational and drug-addled when she chanced upona panel van with keys in the ignition,on Jaycee Avenue at Nowra on the afternoon of February 10.

The driver –an Australia Post contractor –gave chase as shedrove away.

Griffin traveled to a friend’s house at Santuary Point, made an “irrational”request for aset of number plates, collided with a car parked outside and ranover a letter boxbefore decamping.

Highway Patrol officers attempted to stop the van as it travelled north on the Princes Highway at South Nowra before haltingthe pursuit due to Griffin’s erratic driving.

The pursuit was reactivated then abandoneda further three times until road spikes stopped the van for good.

Police said Griffin was “dreamy” and making requests for the drug ice when arrested.

In Wollongong court on Friday, Magistrate Geraldine Beattie said Griffin’s actions had been terribly reckless.

“It’s only because you’re still alive that you are where you are today,” she said, noting Griffin could easily have been killed if she’d been involved in an accident during the pursuits.

“You’re manner of driving was highly dangerous.”

Griffin will be eligible for parole next February.

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Ten year history of local comp

Bodyboardersare hoping the recent run of perfect surfing conditions willcontinuefor the 10thannual Knights Beach Pro in two weeks’ time.

Dylan Beach, Aden Arens

Over the last decade the Knights Beach Pro has become a recognisedsporting eventnot just locally, but nationally, and its success is due in part to stronglocal support.

Victor Harbor’s Dylan Beach has competed in almost every Knights Pro since its inception, and this year he has taken on the role of Australian Bodyboarding Association general manager.

Dylansaid the Knights shore break is one of the most spectacular in the country, making the event a hallmarkstop on the Australian professional bodyboarding tour.

“I think the progressionfrom the very first Knights Beach Pro, when we only had 20 guys competing,to now where we’ve got the world’s best riders and about 60 competitorsis amazing,” Dylan said.

“We’ve got guys coming from Portugal, Brazil, Hawaii andall around Australia. That’s been a pretty big stepping stone in terms of the event.

“It’s been an evolutionover the last 10 years andthrough the South Australian Bodyboard Clubthe local contingency of riders is only getting stronger and it’s only getting more competitive.

“Knights is such a consistent wave in terms of quality, it’s definitely a favourite of all of the travelling riders.”

Local competitorMarshall Watson is the only South Australian to win a Knights Pro, taking it out in 2013. Riding alongside Marshall this year will be 17-year-old Port Elliot bodyboarderAden Arens.Aden said he would be “stoked” to get through a couple of heats in the professional category.

“I’m really looking forward to the event and getting to meet some of the pros,” Aden said. “There’s always a good atmosphere and just about every bodyboarder in SA will be coming down to watch it.”

Dylan said Aden will be one to watch. “His surfing has improved in leaps and bounds, and it’s only going to get better,” Dylan said.“You see him progressing and pushing himself.”