Energy Minister Angus Taylor says preliminary investigations by both the NSW and Federal Police into his office’s distribution of a falsified Sydney council document were “pretty thorough” and have “finalised” the matter.
The Australian Federal Police spent around six weeks “considering” whether to launch a formal investigation into the forgery of the document, which massively inflated the City of Sydney’s travel expenses on a page that appeared to be from the council’s annual report.
But last month AFP dropped the matter, saying it was “unlikely” further inquiries would produce enough evidence to substantiate a Commonwealth offence.
“Two police forces have looked at this. It’s been pretty thorough. It went over months, as you know,” Mr Taylor told ABC TV’s 7.30.
The investigation was handed to the AFP in December after first being referred to the NSW Police.
‘Two police forces have looked at this’
The falsified document was used as the basis for a scathing letter from Mr Taylor to Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore, which blasted the council for spending $15 million on international and domestic flights in a single year.
The letter was leaked to the Daily Telegraph.
The real figures were significantly lower, at around $6000.
The AFP has confirmed it did not speak with either Mr Taylor or Ms Moore as it considered whether to proceed with a formal investigation.
While Mr Taylor has apologised publicly to Ms Moore for distributing information that was false, the story of exactly how the falsified document came to exist has not been revealed.
Asked if he stood by previous claims that his office downloaded the incorrect figures from the council’s website on September 9, Mr Taylor said he did.
“My statements on this have been clear from the start,” he said.
Mr Taylor’s office has not released the full version of the document it claims it downloaded on that day.
The City of Sydney has released internal metadata that appears to show there has only ever been a single, correct version of the report on its website.
Asked to explain the inconsistencies, Mr Taylor said the two police forces had “access to all that information” and had both “considered and closed this matter”.
“Two police forces had a look at this. That’s about as independent as you can get,” he said.
‘Matter is finalised. Full stop’
In Senate Estimates on Monday, AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw was asked by a Greens senator why his organisation did not speak with either Mr Taylor or Ms Moore.
Mr Kershaw said the AFP did not “operate like that”.
He also ruled out the investigation being reopened in the future.
“The matter is finalised, full stop,” he said.
The AFP had to take a number of other questions on notice, meaning they will be answered in writing at a later date.
Those questions related to whether the AFP had considered public data from Google Analytics or the City of Sydney metadata.
The agency was also asked if it had interviewed the council’s staff, Daily Telegraph journalists, environment department officials or anyone from Mr Taylor’s office.