Questions beg – why did the Australian Federal Police raid the Seven West Media’s head office? What led the AFP to prematurely determine whether there had been any payment made to Schapelle Corby or her family? But more importantly, why did the AFP consider that such a transaction would constitute a criminal matter? The AFP does not lightly seek warrants nor does it engage in raids with such prematurity. Years labour by in regards to actual serious trespasses with individuals entrusted with high office before the AFP finds the grounds to justify a warrant. Therefore why pursue a search on Seven Media in connection to a non-crime, in connection to a person who is neither corrupt nor a threat to society?
The Attorney-General logically should insist on a full explanation from the AFP and demand the public release of the AFP’s grounds for the warrant. The Australian Federal Police have refused at this time to reveal the grounds with which they secured the court order that allowed them to raid Seven’s head office.
It was an unprecedented action for Australia. Why would what Schapelle Corby does in Indonesia be of any importance to the Australian Federal Police? For far too long both the AFP and the Australian Government have argued that their involvement in any matters regarding Schapelle Corby are limited because of ‘jurisdiction’. What is it about what happened to Schapelle Corby that stirs overreactions, knee-jerk reactions and outrageous responses from our Government and its institutions? In some ways the raid on Seven Media reminds me of what happened to Allan Kessing – the customs officer who was prosecuted for allegedly whistleblowing (passing information) into the media of his own reviews of Sydney Airport security (2002 and 2003). Mr Kessing, who served 15 years with Customs and was the senior investigator commissioned to produce two reports on airport security, found rife corruption among airport services and that corrupt baggage handlers were using passengers as drug mules. He spoke out after the arrest of Schapelle Corby because no-one else was prepared to.
He said his reports had been suppressed. He was prosecuted for whistleblowing – for Australia an unprecedented step.
What is it that has everyone so jumpy about Schapelle Corby? If there was ever a need for a national inquiry into the Australian Government and its institutions in reference to Schapelle Corby now is the time.
Even if Schapelle Corby had signed a six figure deal with Seven Media, couldn’t the AFP have waited? How is the prospect of such an agreement between Ms Corby and Seven Media a criminal offence? Hence why should the AFP care? Was a potential payment that would have been dealt with subsequently under the law as a civil matter an AFP priority?
No agreement existed between Seven Media and Schapelle Corby. Every reasonably minded person knew that, and even if an agreement had been crafted because an interview was being sought, every reasonably minded person would realise once the Bali Parole Board and the Indonesian Justice Minister had stepped in with their instruction that no interview was to occur, that any agreement would be voided. The AFP needs to explain itself – in entirety – they should not be above accountability.
The Corby family have endured much from a cannibalistic media but to have an institution such as the Australian Federal Police storm the offices of Seven Media looking for an agreement that possibly could have stirred ‘restlessness’ in Indonesia and land Schapelle Corby back in jail smacks of the unbelievable.
Thirty Australian Federal Police Officers stormed the Seven Media offices.
The AFP’s Commissioner Tony Negus and the Deputy Commissioner, Michael Phelan fronted a Senate committee inquiry to explain the AFP’s actions.
Senator Helen Kroger said that it is not an offence for any news media to seek an interview with a convicted person.
“That is absolutely correct,” responded Commissioner Negus.
Senator Kroger said that neither is it an offence to offer payment for the interview.
“That is correct,” responded Commissioner Negus.
So then, why did the AFP raid the Seven Media offices?
More disturbing is that the week prior the raid Seven Media was cooperating with the AFP about requests it had made to them about the potential interview. Why?
Then there is the surprising statement by Deputy Commissioner Phelan to the Senate committee to justify the search warrant was because of “the view that we, like most other Australians, formed on the day Schapelle Corby was released on bail.”
“She left the prison in the company of security guards and went to the luxury villa via limousine, etc., with Channel Seven employees there.”
“It was reasonable for us to assume that an exclusive deal had been done with Channel Seven.”
Is the Deputy Commissioner kidding us? Is that the AFP’s evidence to secure grounds for a search warrant?
The story here should not be about cheque book journalism, it should be about why was it so important for the AFP to involve itself in a non-criminal matter.
Interesting events may unfold from the Seven Media’s decision to sue the AFP – this may unfold more than is expected and lead once and for all to a national inquiry into why the debacle that has been the ten year incarceration of Schapelle Corby, whom many in the Indonesian and Australian Governments know to be innocent.
The Seven Media’s commercial director Bruce McWilliam said that since the AFP “retracted the allegation that our solicitor was suspected of a criminal offence, then please show us the real reasons you relied on.”
“Our request was refused. So we are going to Court.”
More important than to know the grounds and whether the grounds were justified, is to know why the AFP should instruct 30 officers to raid an enterprise in a never-before-seen-spectacle over a non-criminal matter.