Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed he knew about a possible Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation into leaks from the NBN Co.
AFP officers on Thursday night searched the office of Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy and the homes of two Labor staffers in Melbourne.
Police are investigating what the NBN Co says is a probe relating to the “ongoing theft of intellectual property” after the leaking of NBN documents last year that suggested it was lagging behind expected timeframes for work to be complete.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on Friday said he accepted the AFP’s assurance that police acted independently of the Government, but suggested the Turnbull Government asked NBN Co to refer the leak to the police.
Senator Fifield said in a statement NBN Co had told him the matter had been referred to the AFP, but he was not involved in making the decision.
“The referral to the AFP was made by the NBN senior management. I did not instruct nor request them to do so,” he said.
“It was quite properly a matter for NBN.
“As an AFP investigation was underway, I did not advise other ministers or the Prime Minister of this matter.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was appropriate Senator Fifield knew of the investigation and did not pass the information on to him.
“That is a matter of judgement for him,” he said.
“The important thing to bear in mind, the critical thing, is that the Australian Federal Police investigation, the decision to investigate, and the decision to take the steps yesterday were decisions taken independently by the Australian Federal Police as the commissioner has confirmed.”
Mr Shorten said the Government could not distance itself from the actions of the NBN Co.
“I have made it clear that this investigation was requested by the NBN Co, the flagship of Malcolm Turnbull’s time in government,” Mr Shorten said.
“It is inconceivable that this government business enterprise is acting like a sort of a rogue gunman unbeknown to government what they’re doing.”
AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin denied the raids were the product of any undue influence, saying it “always acts independently and acts within the law”.