Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday. Photo: Andrew Meares AFP raid a Labor staffer’s house in Brunswick on Thursday night. Photo: Nick Toscano
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Opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus on Friday. Photo: Steven Siewert

Comment: Leaks were of public interest, so why the late night raids?Comment:High drama, high politics but beware, overreach can be fatalMalcolm Turnbull returns fire – ‘Labor should be ashamed of themselves’

On Thursday night, the Australian Federal Police raided the Melbourne office of former communications minister Senator Stephen Conroyand the home of a Labor staffer, setting off an unexpectedly heated end to the second week of the election campaign.

Why are the AFP investigating Labor?

The raidswere part of an investigation, started in December, into damaging media leaks about the rollout of the National Broadband Network, following a referral from the company administering the infrastructure project, NBN Co.

The leaks resulted in a report byFairfax Media outlining the poor state of the cable TV and broadband infrastructure NBN Co purchased from Optusin November, byThe Australian on the poor state of of the copper network purchasedfrom Telstrain Decemberand more recently, by Fairfax Media detailing adamning internal reportthat cited mounting delays and rising costs.

Who is being targeted?

The search warrants include the opposition’s offices in Melbourne and two Labor staffers – one who works for Senator Conroy and another who usually works for communications spokesman Jason Clare but is currently seconded as the campaign’s media director. As well as seizing documents, theAFP have conducted interviews with staff at NBN Co.

What is the relationship between NBN Co and the government?

NBN Co is a government-owned company whose board is appointed by the communications minister. The current board and executive were appointed in late 2013 after the Coalition came to power.Finance Minister Mathias Cormannand Communications Minister Mitch Fifield represent the company as shareholder ministers.

Who is Labor pointing the finger at?

After dialling down their questioning of the AFP’s role,the opposition says they accept their statement that they are acting independently andwith integrity. Labor are scrutinising, however, the role of government ministers – including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – and the government-owned NBN Co. They also point to the “extraordinary”timing of the raids, two weeks into an election campaign.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says it’s “inconceivable” that Mr Turnbull and other government figures were not aware of the investigation requested by NBN Co. The government says the AFP acts independently of government and “free of political pressure or involvement”.

What has the AFP said about accusations of political and external influence?

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin flat-out rejected that their activities were influenced by external factors such aspolitical influence. He says the decision to execute a search warrant was based purely on the progress of the investigation, including their beliefthat the offending was “ongoing”.

The AFP says the government was first informed of the raids on the day when Commissioner Colvincontacted Justice Minister Michael Keenan. The Commissioner also spoke to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

How common are AFP investigations into political leaks?

Very. Between 2005 and 2011, there were 48 investigations into political leaks, 32 of which were instigated by the Rudd government. More recently, an investigationinto leaks of sensitive national securitymaterial was requestedby the Department of Defence.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been dismissive of these investigations in the past, saying they “tend to come up with very little”. Inside the AFP, they are understood to be considered “of little importance” and politically motivated.

Raids from such an investigationduring an election campaign are unheard of.Labor says the timing is “unprecedented” while the AFP has rejected suggestions that they were “selective” in their actions.

What happens to the seized documents now they have been claimed under parliamentary privilege?

Labor has claimed the documents seized in the raids fall under parliamentary privilege, meaning they are sealed until the Parliament can assess whether to release them or not. This will not happen until after the election.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.