Tables Turn As Australian Federal Police Probe Morrison and Staff Over Leak

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In a strange twist, the Greens have asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether the Minister for Immigration or his staff leaked privileged information to a journalist – who then used it to write a story about the Australian Federal Police investigating Save the Children employees for leaking privileged information.

Yes, it’s immigration news-writing’s inception moment.

Fairfax media is reporting this morning that Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has written to the AFP in regards to a story published last week in the Daily Telegraph, which made reference to an intelligence report provided to the Federal Government.

While the AFP are giving no hint at this point in time as to whether or not the information did come from Morrison’s office, they told Fairfax they had received and are evaluating the complaint.

It’s hardly unusual for Ministers or parliamentarians to strategically drop information to buddies in the press gallery, but if Morrison’s office was involved in helping the Telegraph get their hands on the report, there would be a particular irony, aside from the fact they are usually tight-lipped when it comes to helping the press with information.

On top of airing claims about advocates coaching self-harm, the Daily Telegraph story also said the AFP were investigating whether Save the Children workers had breached Section 70 of the Crimes Act.

This section, which prevents Commonwealth officers from publicly revealing documents or information they are not authorised to, is the same one the AFP have now been asked to investigate Morrison and his staff for breaching.

The controversy began with a Daily Telegraph article published in print on October 3.

Labelled an ‘exclusive’ the story claimed that:

“An intelligence report provided to the federal government has revealed that staff from the Save The Children organisation based at Nauru had also been involved in “encouraging and coaching” self-harm to “achieve evacuations to Australia”.”

The piece quoted directly from the report which means – unless the Telegraph’s political editor Simon Benson is a psychic – the paper at the very least saw the document.

The story also said the AFP were investigating Save the Children staff for misuse of information.

The AFP confirmed to New Matilda they were in the process of evaluating a referral on the matter from the Department of Immigration.

This referral came on October 2, just one day before the Daily Telegraph ran its story on the intelligence report and the investigation.

As has been noted by Hanson-Young, the Telegraph story dropped at a convenient time for the Minister.

It ran the same morning that Morrison announced an inquiry would be held examining serious allegations of child sexual abuse in the Nauru detention centre.

At a press conference Morrison said the inquiry would also look at claims Save the Children staff, who work in the centre to provide child support and educational services, had encouraged self-harm.

In August the Daily Telegraph ran another conveniently timed ‘exclusive’, announcing Morrison was to release children from detention centres “under a plan by the federal government to bring an end to child incarceration”.

It was just days before the Minister appeared at the Australian Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into children in detention, which had already heard damning evidence of the Department’s negligence and the long-term harm being done by keeping children in detention centres.

Asylum seeker advocates told New Matilda that the announcement, which was accompanied by an op-ed by Morrison and an editorial, was only relevant to children who were already supposed to be released.

As Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre put it: “The media are presenting it as if there is some new policy. It is not new. This policy existed from the day that Morrison took office.

“What has happened is Morrison has deliberately left families in detention when he had the option of releasing them. And now, because he’s facing the Human Rights Commission on Friday, he’s made the big announcement that 150 are going to be released.”

Like last week’s Save the Children story, the ‘exclusive’ children out of detention yarn was written by the Tele’s political editor Simon Benson.

The AFP told Fairfax’s Sarah Whyte they would investigate the complaint against Morrison as they would any other.

Better hope they don’t find too much, or poor Benson’s well of ‘exclusives’ could just dry up.

In other news, Freya Newman – the 21-year-old UTS student facing two years jail for her alleged role in exposing a secret $60,000 scholarship provided to the Prime Minister’s daughter – will appear in court on October 23 for sentencing.

She is charged not with leaking, but with ‘illegally accessing a computer’ at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, where she worked.

Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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