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A Liberal Candidate Has Quit Over His Past Comments

Another one bites the dust.

AAP

What We Know So Far

  • AFP officers have raided the office of senior Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy, as well as the home of an ALP staffer over the leaking of sensitive information.
  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the AFP acted independently, and the government had no idea the raids were coming.
  • Bill Shorten says the government must explain what it knew about the investigation, and when.
  • Sherry Sufi has quit as the Liberal candidate for the WA seat of Fremantle over past comments regarding marriage equality and Indigenous recognition.

Updates

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The Liberal candidate for the WA seat of Fremantle, Sherry Sufi, has quit following controversy over his past comments regarding marriage equality and constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians.

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Sufi said on Friday afternoon he is quitting so he would no longer be a "distraction" for the federal Liberal campaign.

"I apologise if my words and actions have caused offence to anyone. This was never my intent," he said. "I am disappointed that I will not be seeing this campaign through, but I am putting the interests of the Liberal Party first."

Earlier this year, Sufi told BuzzFeed News that the campaign for constitutional recognition was designed to divide the country by race.

In 2013, he linked marriage equality with polygamy and polyamory.

It's been a rough campaign for Fremantle. Last week, Labor's candidate was also forced to resign after it was revealed he had failed to disclose a conviction for assaulting a police officer.

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Bill Shorten is on the attack over last night's raids.

"It is an extraordinary and unprecedented event that the Turnbull government has called in the Australian Federal Police to investigate the leaking of documents which embarrassed and exposed the Turnbull government," he said on Friday morning.

"We know that these revelations have shown massive NBN cost blowouts and unacceptable delays for millions of Australians. This is about the right for the public to know the truth."

"Mr Turnbull is going to extraordinary long links to stop Australians from finding out the truth about the cost blowouts in NBN. He is going after whistleblowers and he's smearing his political opponents. The public has the right to know the truth and whistleblowers deserve protection."

Shorten says he's not questioning the integrity of the AFP, but says it's "inconceivable" that the NBN would refer something to the AFP without informing the government first.

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This enormous parrot has some questions for the PM.

Swift parrot protester asking PM to save her and if he'd like a cuddle. #ausvotes

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Malcolm Turnbull says Labor "should be ashamed of themselves" for questioning the independence of the AFP.

ABC

Here's what he said:

"That is a shameful thing to do... You know, you can't trust Labor on national security. We know where they stand or don't stand on border security. Now we see them attacking the integrity of the Australian Federal Police. The only thing we should do with the respect to this investigation, is to let the federal police do their work and I'm not going to make any further comments on it."

"As PM, my job is to ensure that the AFP does their work free of political pressure or involvement, a matter has been referred to them, they've made the decision to investigate it, they've made the decision to execute warrants and conduct searches and they should do that in accordance with their own judgement and come to their own conclusions."

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Meanwhile, shadow communications spokesperson, Jason Clare, says the real story this morning is about Malcolm Turnbull's alleged failures as communications minister.

ABC

Here's what he said on Friday morning:

"Malcolm Turnbull basically had one job for the first two years of this government and that's to build the NBN. By any objective analysis he has made a shocking mess of it."

"The cost of the NBN is now almost double what Malcolm Turnbull said it would be. The time it's going to take to build the NBN is more than double what Malcolm Turnbull said it would be. And Australian internet speeds are double what they - we went from 30th in the world to 60th in the world over the last three years."

He reckons the government is only upset about the leaked documents because they show how badly the NBN rollout is going.

"[The documents] show the delays, they show that in the fibre to the node areas where they are rolling out fibre to the node, they are all behind schedule. They show the cost blowouts," he said. "So it's very embarrassing, very damaging for Malcolm Turnbull."

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Shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus says the government has questions to answer over its role in the AFP's investigation into leaked NBN information.

ABC News 24

Dreyfus says he accepts that the decision to execute search warrants on Thursday night was made independently by the AFP, but wants to know if the government, through NBN Co, exerted any influence on the investigation.

"Has the PM or his ministers or their staff had conversations with executives of NBN Co... about the conduct of this investigation and has the PM or his ministers or any of their staff sought updates from NBN Co?" he asked at a press conference on Friday morning.

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AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin has held a press conference in Canberra, again stating that the decision to conduct a raid on Stephen Conroy's office was made independently of the government.

ABC

"In regard to government and political influence that has been commented on this morning, there has been no influence, no influence on the AFP in the conduct of this investigation," he said. "In fact, the government first became aware of this investigation shortly after the commencement of the operational activity yesterday."

Colvin iterated that the complain was lodged by NBN Co, and not anyone within the government, and confirmed that NBN workers were present at the raids, acting as "constable assisting".

Colvin denied choosing to investigate this matter over other matters which involve leaks of sensitive information.

Lastly, the AFP commissioner said he was concerned that news of the raids had been leaked to the media before they took place. He has referred the issue to the integrity commission.

"I will be extremely disappointed if any member of the AFP has alerted the media," he said. "I'm confident we have not alerted the media."

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Foreign minister Julie Bishop has confirmed that one of the passengers on board the missing Egypt Air flight was a dual UK/Australian citizen. Here's the latest on the search for flight MS804.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE
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Labor is coming out all guns blazing this morning, attacking the timing of the raids. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called them "extraordinary", and says the leaked information relates to Malcolm Turnbull's time as communications minister.

Mick Tsikas / AAPIMAGE

To give things some context, Labor is so upset because the complaint to the AFP was made in December last year, but it's taken six months for the raids to take place - smack bang in the middle of an election campaign.

There have been plenty of leaks in the life of the Abbott/Turnbull government, including of some very sensitive national defence information, but this is the first time the AFP has carried out raids like this.

Labor reckons that's a bit dodgy.

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Stay tuned.

Mark Dreyfus and Jason Clare have called a press conference for 10:15am in Sydney #ausvotes

The Australian Federal Police has confirmed it executed search warrants in Melbourne overnight relating to the leaking of sensitive information concerning the National Broadband Network.

Sky News

The leaks concerned delays and cost blowouts for the the implementation of the NBN. The office of former communications minister Stephen Conroy, along with the home of a staffer for current Labor communications spokesperson Jason Clare, are believed to be the target of the raids.

Police executed the warrants shortly before 11pm on Thursday night, and did not leave the premises until just before 6am Friday.

The AFP says the warrants were executed in relation to a referral made by NBN Co on December 9, last year, and strenuously denied any political considerations in the timing of the raids.

"This investigation has been undertaken independent of government, and decisions regarding yesterday's activity were made by the AFP alone," it said in a statement.

"The federal government and opposition were appropriately notified and advised of operational activity regarding this matter after it commenced yesterday."

On the ABC last night, shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus said the raids were "unprecedented" and the government has "a great deal of explaining to do".

"I cannot think of any precedent for this occurring before… It's a concern, of course, because we have a proud record in Australia of a non-politicised security agencies," he told Lateline.

Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne said suggestions the raids were politically motivated are "loopy".

"If you're suggesting the government organised raids by the AFP against Labor party, that's extraordinary," he told Channel 9 on Friday morning.

Contact BuzzFeed News at bfnews@buzzfeed.com.

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