Who knew about NBN police referral? Labor

Labor says it's inconceivable and implausible that a senior government minister did not tell the prime minister about the NBN Co AFP referral.

Mitch Fifield

Mitch Fifield has confirmed he knew alleged NBN Co leaks had been referred to the AFP. (AAP)

Pressure is mounting on Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to explain why he didn't tell the prime minister NBN Co had asked police to investigate the leaking of documents.

Two days after Australian Federal Police seized secret documents during raids at Labor offices in Melbourne, Senator Fifield admitted he knew about the referral but did not tell Malcolm Turnbull.

It's also been revealed an NBN Co employee took 32 photographs of the secret documents while assisting the AFP during raids of Labor offices in Melbourne on Thursday.

Labor say it's inconceivable and implausible the senior minister would not have advised the prime minister's office of the investigation.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the "explosive revelations" by Senator Fifield showed the government's attempt to run from the matter had "hit the fan".

"It is either gross incompetence or far worse and we are not being told the truth," he told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

Senator Fifield, who knew about the matter for several months, says he did not instigate the investigation nor pass the information on to Mr Turnbull or any other ministers.

"The referral to the AFP was made by the NBN senior management," Senator Fifield said.

"I did not instruct nor request them to do so."

Mr Turnbull on Saturday backed up his senior minister's account, telling journalists it was "entirely appropriate" for Senator Fifield not to advise him of the matter.

"That is a matter of judgment for him," he told reporters on the NSW Central Coast.

Police have been investigating the leaking of confidential documents about the national broadband network after the matter was referred from NBN Co last December.

The documents seized from the office of Labor senator Stephen Conroy and the home of an ALP staffer can't be analysed by police until the Senate decides if parliamentary privilege does apply.

Mr Turnbull questioned the process by which Senator Conroy had claimed privilege, saying documents were normally tabled in parliament.

"I don't want to get into the legalities of Senator Conroy's determination to keep the police away from these documents, which were clearly stolen from the NBN Co," he said.

"So he's trying to keep the police away from those."

Opposition frontbencher Penny Wong accused the prime minister of trying to make light of the claim.

"Parliamentary privilege isn't the plaything of any government or any political party," she told reporters in Melbourne.

"It is a principle that's been around for many centuries."

Labor is also demanding to know who the photos were sent to and who still has copies.

Lawyers for Labor on Friday revealed advice that the photos had been sent out.

The AFP has confirmed the NBN staffer was under the direction of police at all times during the search.

The photographs have since been deleted from the staffer's phone.

Mr Turnbull insists the AFP have acted independently amid allegations from Labor the government may have had a hand in the raids - which occurred two weeks into an election campaign.

3 min read
Published 21 May 2016 at 1:04pm
Source: AAP