Federal Labor is demanding Peter Dutton answer questions over the ‘medevac’ leak which benefitted the Federal Government.
The AFP has announced it will not investigate the source of the leak, which Labor’s Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said was “breathtaking” in light of recent police raids on media.
Ms Keneally, flanked by Labor leader Anthony Albanese, on Saturday called on Mr Dutton to explain if he was involved in leaks to The Australian newspaper.
She said the information released during debates over the Medevac Bill had benefitted the Federal Government and involved two departments connected to Mr Dutton.
“All roads lead to Peter Dutton,” said Ms Keneally, calling on him to “stand up today” and make his role clear.
In light of police raids on media this week, Ms Keneally questioned why some leaked documents were being investigated and others were not.
This week the Australian Federal Police (AFP) launched raids on the offices of the ABC and a News Corp journalist’s home over stories that were the result of leaked information.
The Department of Home Affairs did request the AFP investigate the medevac leak, but the AFP said there were limited prospects of identifying a suspect.
The information given to The Australian suggested the medevac legislation would undermine Australia’s regional processing system by making it easier for asylum seekers to be transferred for medical treatment.
“It is right to ask why some leaks, these leaks that embarrass the government, merit investigation and extraordinary raids on media outlets and journalists, and the leak of information that benefits the government some how does not,” Senator Keneally told ABC radio on Saturday.
Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly said the AFP’s decisions were made independently from government.
“This is not the government making decisions or the government directing the AFP,” he told ABC television.
“There is always going to be difficulty of where you draw the line, there will also ways be legitimate debate about where that line should be drawn about what the AFP should investigate, what they shouldn’t investigate. They are the decisions made by the AFP.”
But Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said the government’s response was unacceptable.
“We had Scott Morrison as the prime minister essentially say, ‘nothing to see here. This is business as usual.’ That was his initial response. I don’t think that’s acceptable,” he told reporters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison expects ABC chair Ita Buttrose will personally raise her concerns about Wednesday’s unprecedented raid on the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters when they meet in the near future.
The AFP hasn’t ruled out laying charges following its raid on the ABC and its raid on the Canberra home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst a day earlier.
The ABC was raided over 2017 stories on allegations Australian soldiers may have carried out unlawful killings in Afghanistan, based on leaked Defence papers.
The warrant executed on Ms Smethurst’s home was over the 2018 publication of a leaked plan to allow the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on Australians.
Ms Buttrose has already told Communications Minister Paul Fletcher the search of the ABC and the “sweeping nature” of the information sought was “clearly designed to intimidate”.
Ms Buttrose said she would fight “any attempts to muzzle the national broadcaster or interfere with its obligations to the Australian public”.
“Independence is not exercised by degrees. It is absolute.”
Mr Morrison said the government was committed to press freedom as well as ensuring that no one is above the law.
He said the referrals to the AFP by senior public servants were “not extraordinary”.
“This is the simple out-working of the legal system where a serious matter of complaint has been raised with police.”
A number of parliamentary inquiries are being proposed.