I’ll state up front, I’ve never been a fan of the ideology that dictates for some reason it is poor form to ever question the integrity of security institutions, Police, Armed Forces etc. I do believe we should respect them, I admire the jobs they do in difficult circumstances, though I also appreciate the fact that these organisations are staffed by Humans. Unless you can point me in the direction of an special pill that can be administered to people that removes all adverse human traits so that you are left with a person who’s nature can only include positive traits such as integrity, honesty, perfect judgement, ethics etc. I will always disagree with secretive organisations being given extraordinary powers making them unaccountable to the public.
This recent extraordinary furore involving the AFP and NBN co is a perfect storm of all that is wrong in our current system – and I’m not just speaking politically.
I’m sure this craptacular mistakathon still has a long way to run and all media commentators seem to have a ‘view’ as to the ramifications of what has occurred, for mine, I just have questions, many many questions...
Questions to the AFP:
- How do the AFP choose what referrals to action and is there is a criteria for prioritisation?
- The AFP are obviously aware of political implications should they raid a political parties office during an election campaign. What judgement value was used when there was no National Security implication with these leaks?
- If the AFP have built enough of a case to gain a warrant to raid on premises, why do they need to have a representative of the complainant to tag along to advise?
- How - and this is a humungous ‘HOW’ – could the AFP think it was in any way appropriate for the complainants’ representative onsite to TAKE PHOTOS of documents on the premises and DISSEMINATE them?
- As it appeared the media were already on the scene of the Staffers house when the AFP arrived, how did the media know to be there?
- The AFP press conference implied that the leaking was on-going, hence the move to raid during an election. Doesn't this then mean that you were aware the information leaked was of electoral value, therefore the fact that there was an election campaign on DID factor into your desicion to raid these premises at this time?
- Surely, Officers as experienced as AFP Officers are in the workings of Government would know that there was an extremely high chance that Parliamentary Privilege would be invoked regarding any seized documents, therefore why would these officers allow a 3rd party to view, photograph or disseminate them?
- The nbn has been subject to a long running Senate Inquiry of which Senator Conroy has featured heavily. Regardless of Parliament being dissolved, this would not negate the good faith that a whistleblower would have had in submitting information (leaked docs or just testimony) to Senator Conroy, which the AFP would be aware of. So yet another reason that brings into the question the judgement of the AFP in allowing an nbn staffer to view documents in this particular Senators office?
- Did the AFP record every single item that the nbn staffer viewed, photographed and disseminated?
- Did the AFP record the electronic destinations of where this nbn staffer sent documents?
- Was metadata used to build a case for a warrant, even though there was no National Security implication here?
- Was journalists metadata accessed?
- Will the journalists who published the leaked nbn co information also be subject to police action (as it appears this is also a crime)?
- Can the AFP assure us that no policy or political campaign documents were seized? Can they also confirm that no documents of this nature were viewed by the nbn co staffer in attendance?
Questions to the Government:
- Who in Government knew that nbn co had referred a particular leak to the AFP?
- I would not be so silly to think that the PM would personally direct nbn co to strike down a leaker that was embarrassing him as it would go against the whole ideal politicians love so much of plausible deniability, though, was there any ‘suggestions’ from the PM’s office (as in staff) to nbn co that these leaks had to stop?
- Who in Government is on the board of nbn co who should have been aware of what was happening?
- Who in Government is ultimately responsible for the actions of nbn co?
- Why has Senator Fifield not made a statement as yet and what exactly did he know about this leaking situation and referral to AFP?
- IF it is to be believed that no-one in Government at all knew nbn co had referred particular leaks to the AFP – which if you believe that I have a great bridge in Brisbane to sell you, it has a good story too ;-) – why didn’t they?
- Assuming again that no-one in Government connected to nbn co was aware of this referral to the AFP, will they be having an inquiry as to why they were not informed and changing procedures in future to ensure this does not occur again?
- Why were recent – and many others in the past two years – Defence paper leaks to media not referred to the AFP?
- If we are to believe that absolutely no-one at all in Government was aware of nbn co referring leaks to AFP? What action will be taken by Government against nbn co management who failed to inform them of their actions? Will whoever made the decision to refer the leaks to the AFP without informing the Government be sacked? Will the Board be replaced? Will the CEO be sacked?
Questions to nbn co:
- Why have these ‘particular’ leaks been referred to the AFP?
- Why were leaks ‘favourable’ to the Government from nbn co in the past NOT referred to the AFP?
- IF nbn co thinks they are a ‘business’ why didn’t they go to ASIC with their complaints instead of AFP?
- Who at nbn co actually referred these leaks initially to the AFP?
- Did any management at nbn co direct their employees onsite with the AFP to photograph and disseminate documents sited during the raid?
- Who at nbn co ‘received’ the documents disseminated?
- How can we trust that the information now obtained by nbn co during this raid will not be passed on to anyone in Government to be used in this election campaign?
- Why will nbn co not release detailed information to their ultimate shareholders – the Australian public –in an open and transparent manner, therefore negating the need for whistleblowers in your organisation to inform us?
- Why do nbn co dislike complying with Freedom of Information requests?
- We can only assume the nbn co staffer onsite most likely is aware of the source of the leaker now after viewing documents seized during the raid and has most likely passed this information on to nbn co management? Can nbn co assure us that until they can LEGALLY use that information that the source of leaks – AKA Whistleblower – is safe from ramifications within the organisation?
- Why are nbn co more interested in tracking down a source of leaks than actually rectifying the problems raised by the whistleblower?
- Why is the following information not publicly available to taxpayers: The true cost of the billions of dollars in blowout; the true speeds available; the true number of connections to businesses and homes which are being utilised currently; the true delays; the reasons for these delays; and why are so many not even on projected time frames as yet to when they can even expect to have a connection?
- This whole drama has raised the wider issue of how Government entities operate. It appears that modern Governments love to set up Businesses or outsource their responsibilities to put them at arms length, normally under the guise of ‘expertise’ or ‘business cases’, BUT does this mean there is no onus on them to have any responsibility for what is being done in their name, one step removed?
- Should any vital public infrastructure, which is an essential service – like internet access now is – be put into the hands of an entity who feel they are not responsible or accountable to both their Government masters or the taxpayer funding them?
- Does not the use of data retention in this leaking of information that is patently in the PUBLIC INTEREST illustrate how the new laws which were intended for National Security and serious crime purposes can be misused?
- What are the hard and fast rules in relation to leaking Government information to the media? Should there be guidelines so that it is not possible for Government to pick and choose what they ‘drop’ (favourable news) to media as opposed to ‘leaks’ (no favourable news)?
- Should ALL leaks to media and other third parties by Government, Government staff and Government owned entities be investigated by the AFP so that there can never be any accusations of bias or double standards?
- Are our Whistleblower laws strong enough?
- Why do we punters accept politicians passing the buck and NOT taking responsability for decisions made by their departments, staff or projects under their authority?
If I have another coffee I’m sure I will come up with even more questions and I know there are probably many I’ve missed, feel free to add your questions in the comments below.
Unlike many, I don’t actually have a problem with the AFP continuing with business as usual during an election campaign, in fact, I would prefer to think that as an INDEPENDENT of Government organisation they would of course do that. However, being a child of the “Moonlight State”, I’m also very aware that Police have a budget, they are answerable to political masters, who quite frankly, are not appointed because they are people of exceptional character but normally because they are populist, politically savvy, or have influential mates, the list goes on.
Governments come and go, the political flavour of these Governments changes over time, so regardless of your particular preferred flavour of politics you should be asking at least some of these questions above (and more of your own). It could be ‘your’ team in the hot seat next time, it could be ‘your’ data being accessed, it could be ‘your’ pet project being secretly decimated, it could be ‘your’ loved one who is the whistleblower?
I would like to have faith in the independence and integrity of the Australian Federal Police. Unfortunately until the majority of the above questions are answered, for mine, ‘assuming’ everything the AFP do is above board without question, is a bridge too far for me :(
Let's hope we get some answers?
Not all over this issue, the below are some very good references to get you up to date:
20 May - Election 2016: Why did the Australian Federal Police raid Labor offices?
20 May - NBN leaks were of public interest, so why the late night police raids?
20 May - Epic overreach: NBN police raids
21 May - NBN to destroy photos of documents subject to parliamentary privilege following AFP raids
Funny - 20 May 2016 - The Independent NBNco AFP Police Officer
21 May 2016 - Mitch Fifield knew about NBN police probe but did not tell Malcolm Turnbull
21 May 2016 - Labor Claims NBN Staffer Took Photos Of Unreleased NBN Policy
21 May 2016 - High-profile police raids raise troubling questions
21 May 2016 - NBN Co document leak AFP referral decision was made by management,
22 May 2016 - NBN leak pits minister against AFP commissioner
23 May 2016 - Two NBN staff stood down in AFP leak investigation
24 May 2016 - MARK GREGORY: Leaks from NBN were in the public interest. The response was designed to hide the NBN mess.
27 May - Forget the hunt for NBN leaker. Ask why desperate staff are leaking
28 May 2016 - Labor accuses NBN boss Ziggy Switkowski of breaking election rules
30 May 2016 - Election FactCheck Q&A: has the NBN been delayed?
Personal Fave LOL! 20 May - Slow Internet Forces AFP To Collect NBN Documents In Person
From 29 Jan 2015 & interesting to keep in mind in regard to this debate over hidden speeds: The FCC has changed the definition of broadband
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