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Switkowski wades into NBN leak debate, ALP is furious

'Political rumourtrage' crack raises ire

By Richard Chirgwin

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nbnTMchair Ziggy Switkowski has penned an article for Fairfax saying the “NBN leakers” aren't whistleblowers, but partisan ideologues.

The article, coming as it did during an election campaign, has drawn immediate fire from the ALP's Tony Burke, who accuses Switkowski of breaching the “caretaker conventions”.

With the government in caretaker mode, public servants and employees of government business enterprises (like nbnTM) are required to stay out of politics.

Switkowski's article states: “When dozens of confidential company documents are stolen, this is theft”.

The article then continues with an apparent shot at the ALP's Stephen Conroy, former communications minister, frequent critic of the National Broadband Network in Senate Estimates, and presumptive recipient of leaks against the current model for the National Broadband Network.

“When they are the basis of media headlines and partisan attacks, they wrongly tarnish our reputation, demoralise our workforce, distract the executive, and raise doubts where there is little basis for concern.

“The process is a form of political rumourtrage – the circulation of misinformation to diminish an enterprise for political gain.”

The ALP's Tony Burke has now written to the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Martin Parkinson, stating the article breached the caretaker conventions and the Commonwealth Government Business Enterprise Governance and Oversight Guidelines.

Burke requests Parkinson “immediately undertake inquiries” into the matter.

The NBN leak investigation had already been put on ice after Conroy claimed the seized documents were subject to parliamentary privilege.

That privilege hadn't stopped an nbnTM staffer, named in the AFP warrant as providing support in the raid, from photographing the seizures and disseminating the images.

Two nbnTM staffers have been stood down following the raids. ®

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