Last Thursday, I was sent a very confusing calendar invite from an email account called "Malcolm Turnbull Diary".
The invite was for a strategy meeting to be held in the prime minister's parliamentary office on Monday to discuss a "joint announcement" with the Leader of the House Christopher Pyne.
The meeting was to be with me (Mark), Matt (the prime minister's press secretary) and someone named Gemma.
This was extra confusing because the invite was sent to my PERSONAL email address.
My personal account is not really well known to the public (as opposed to my work email which is email@example.com) and it definitely shouldn't be in the prime minister's email system.
Also, since when was the PM's office organising private, strategy meetings with journalists? Was I about to get a briefing on something minister Pyne was going to announce on Tuesday? Was it about the timing of the election?
But the most curious element to the invite was the sender's address. It was from the email, firstname.lastname@example.org which sounds like the private email server for the prime minister's family.
We already know that Malcolm Turnbull runs a private email server.
It was revealed last year that Turnbull would continue to use his private email account as prime minister and would be diligent with security, ensuring that classified information would be kept safe.
It's in stark contrast to the situation facing presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton who is currently being investigated by the FBI for using a private server while she was secretary of state.
When Turnbull said he was using his private email server, everyone in Australia was kinda just like...¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Monday rolled around and I thought, well, I better go to my private meeting in the PM's office. (This is me walking through the corridors of parliament house, a bit worried about what was going to happen.)
Soon after a security guard approached me and said that the corridors were very private and that selfies were banned.
At the PM's front door, I rang the bell and was invited inside.
A press secretary approached, asking, "hi Mark, what are you doing?"
I replied, "just here for the private strategy meeting with you guys."
She looked very confused, but I was ready and showed her my phone with the email invite. Unprompted, she took my iPhone into the office to show one of her colleagues and ask why I'd been invited to a pre-announcement strategy meeting.
They both came back (with my phone) and said they needed to check how I'd been invited by the diary@turnbull account to the meeting.
At this point it was abundantly clear, I was not supposed to be invited to the meeting and both press secretaries disappeared through another door. I slowly sat down opposite the PM's office secretary.
Soon after, Malcolm Turnbull's "advance man" (and columnist Niki Savva's husband) Vincent Woolcock came in and raided the lolly jar and the minutes continued to tick by.
Half an hour later, both press secretaries emerged and said it was all just an innocent mistake. The private email is used as a "Microsoft Office" client for the PM's event and all the calendar events can be accessed through a Freedom of Information request.
There are still several questions unanswered (that we've put to the PM's office):
- How did the PM's office get my personal email address?
- Is the email@example.com address the only calendar server used to organise the PM's pre-election events?
- Why doesn't the PM's office use the @pm.gov.au server used by their press secretaries, other staff members and former prime ministers?
- What is the Leader of the House announcing at noon tomorrow?
Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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