Greens’ David Shoebridge targets PwC in parliament over alleged ‘unminuted meeting’ with federal police commissioner

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

The Greens senator, David Shoebridge, in the Senate on Wednesday targeted PwC over documents that give an insight into the process by which it won a contract with the Australian federal police.

This follows revelations in Senate estimates that AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw had a text exchange with his friend PwC partner and former NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller about the referral of the PwC leak to the AFP.

Two text exchanges were produced:

  • 14 July, 2022 (while PwC was bidding for work). Mick Fuller: “Think I’m booked in to see you with Pwc in a few weeks. Will call you before if okay.” To which commissioner Kershaw replied: “Good plan”

  • 24 May 2023, the day of Treasury’s referral to the AFP. Fuller: “Just saw news re referral. Will give you some space so not too complicate your life.” To which the commissioner replied: “Ok thx mate”

Shoebridge was concerned by documents detailing meetings between the pair when PwC was bidding for work.

He told the Senate:

We now know from the documents that have been produced that Commissioner Kershaw actually attended a meeting on 28 July 2022 with his mate Mick Fuller. It was described as: An introductory meeting to outline the identified need to undertake a comprehensive independent review of the AFP’s delivery of policing services to the ACT government— And, get this— This informed PwC’s consideration of whether they had the capability to undertake the work and would submit a formal quote. The meeting, of course, was not minuted. So two mates get together—one the AFP Commissioner, the other a former New South Wales Police Commissioner, now a senior partner in government relations at PwC—in an unminuted meeting to work out how PwC can get money from the AFP, to cobble together the best possible way that PwC can make money off the AFP. There was no tender and no public discussion. It was just two mates, some other partners from PwC and the chief operating officer from the AFP coming together to work out how they can give PwC more money and also, at significant public expense, to try and reshape the future of the Australian Federal Police operations in the ACT.

The reference in the documents to submitting a quote do not necessarily support the allegation that the pair aimed to “work out how PwC can get money from the AFP”, which was made under parliamentary privilege. Guardian Australia does not suggest any wrongdoing in the way the contract was awarded.

Key events

Christopher Knaus

Christopher Knaus

Human rights lawyers get green light to appear in whistleblower case

Human rights lawyers will intervene in the case of Richard Boyle, the tax office whistleblower, as he appeals a landmark decision to deny him whistleblower protections.

The South Australian district court ruled that Boyle was not protected by the Public Interest Disclosure Act for actions he took to collect evidence in preparation for blowing the whistle on his employer’s aggressive pursuit of debts.

The case was considered the first major test of the nation’s whistleblowing laws and experts say it revealed deficiencies in the protections.

Richard Boyle
Richard Boyle’s appeal will be heard in the supreme court. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/AAP

Boyle has appealed to the state’s supreme court. His appeal is due to be heard in August.

The Human rights law centre announced on Thursday that it had been granted leave to involve itself in the appeal as amicus curiae, or a friend of the court. That allows it to make submissions on the critical issues in the appeal.

HRLC senior lawyer Kieran Pender said:

Richard Boyle’s appeal will determine the strength of protections for all Australian whistleblowers, given similar provisions exist in almost all Australian whistleblower protection laws. It is a vitally important test case with significant implications for truth and transparency in this country.

Labor has committed to reforming the PID act to better protect whistleblowers.

Private schools overfunded by $3.2bn, FoI documents show

Caitlin Cassidy

Caitlin Cassidy

More than 1,000 private schools will be overfunded by $3.2bn as inequity in the education system deepens, documents released through freedom of information reveal.

Internal Department of Education figures prepared for witnesses appearing before Senate estimates state over the next six years, 40% of non-government schools will be funded in excess of their entitlement under the schooling resource standard (SRS), to an estimated value of $3.2bn.

The SRS estimates how much total public funding a school needs to meet its students’ educational needs, agreed to by all Australian governments in 2012.

It’s out of reach for the vast majority of government schools, with the documents estimating only those in the ACT, SA and WA will be at or above 75% of the SRS by 2023.

Correna Haythorpe, the president of the Australian Education Union, said Australia couldn’t continue to accept “deep inequity” in school funding.

Private schools are overfunded by billions, and public schools are underfunded by billions. It is public schools that enrol the vast majority of Australian students, and it is public schools that enrol disproportionately higher rates of students with additional needs, students that experience disadvantage and students with disability.

If the commonwealth and state and territory governments can afford to overfund private schools, they can afford to fully fund public schools.

Your Nairu questions answered

Peter Hannam has taken at look at what exactly the Nairu is and why it matters:

‘People power and the Swifties of Australia can unite’

Being the last sitting day before the winter break, MPs are doing all they can to remind people that they are just like them! Just normal humans, doing normal things! They’re Swifties too! They have the friendship bracelets! They’re in their Midnights era!

The latest was Patrick Gorman, who after running through a list of legislation the government passed said:

There’s one thing that this parliament cannot address. And that is the gross injustice of the Taylor Swift Eras world tour schedule, which has dismissed both the great state of Western Australia and the great state of Queensland, represented by so many in this Parliament including my friend on the other side, Andrew Wallace, the member for Fisher.

What this parliament can’t do is determine where international touring artists go.

But people power can change that. People power and the Swifties of Australia can unite.

And they can say it is a Cruel Summer when there is Sweet Nothing for Perth in the Taylor Swift Eras world tour.

And if I think about Western Australia – we have proudly hosted the grand final – we can host a concert of this magnitude.

The Gabba has also hosted a grand final; it can host a concert of this magnitude. And it will give both an emotional and economic boost to the great states of Western Australia and Queensland.

I’ve got to say though, for the Queenslanders, I mean they can just drive down the road to Sydney. I’ve done that drive myself and I know that the Swifties of, particularly, south-east Queensland, would just do that for their absolute love of Taylor Swift’s fantastic music. But for those of us in Western Australia: three-day drive.

We need the Eras World Tour to come to Perth.

Bill to expand BasicsCard has backing to pass Senate

The second reading debate of the income management reform bill 2023 is under way in the Senate.

Labor made a pretty big deal about scrapping the mandatory aspects of the cashless debit card, but they didn’t ever do anything about the BasicsCard – another form of income management, which is compulsory, and run by the same company as the cashless debit card – Indue.

This bill expands the compulsory use of income management. The Coalition is in favour, so the bill will pass. The Greens and the crossbench will attempt to amend the bill, so we will see what happens there.

For a bit more on what the eCommissioner is planning to do about hate on Twitter, you can head here:

Paterson says not enough is publicly known about the hack

James Paterson expanded on the government responsibility there:

Unfortunately, we’ve got two problems. One is the home affairs minister said in February that she would appoint, within a month, a cyber security coordinator to handle the fallout of attacks like this. Well, it’s nearly five months later, and we still don’t have that person on the ground responding to this.

Secondly, we’ve received virtually no information out of the government at all about what has happened in this attack, about what government agencies have been affected, about what information has been lost, and that’s been exacerbated by HWL Ebsworth taking out an injunction in the court which has prevented, potentially, the victims of this from finding out what of their private information has already been uploaded to the dark web.

Paterson says HBL Ebsworth hack is a potential national security risk

Liberal senator and security hawk James Paterson spoke to Sky News about that hack Josh mentioned, this morning:

There’s a number of things that are concerning about the HWL Ebsworth attack, some of which are similar to previous attacks and some which are different. The similarity is it again appears that individual Australians’ private information might have been exposed on the web by a ransomware gang, probably operating out of Russia. That’s what’s similar to previous attacks.

What’s different is that HWL Ebsworth is a law firm that acts for a number of government clients. It represents a number of government agencies, including in the national security sphere, and it appears that it held on their behalf, because it represented them in legal proceedings, sensitive information of highly, sometimes classified, nature.

And the risk that that has spilled out into the public is a very serious thing indeed and needs very swift action by the government.

Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor

Law firm hacked by Russian-linked group reviewed digital ID legislation

The law firm at the centre of a major cyber security hack was hired by the government to conduct a privacy assessment for the digital ID legislation last year.

HWL Ebsworth has had around 4TB of information stolen by Russian-linked hacker group ALPHV with over 1TB posted on the dark web. The firm last year conducted a review of the former government’s proposed digital ID legislation to assess the privacy risks associated with the legislation.

The Digital Transformation Agency, which had carriage for the legislation, is now in discussions with the firm over whether any of its own data has been compromised in the hack, Guardian Australia has confirmed.

A spokesperson said:

The DTA is engaging with HWL Ebsworth on whether any data about the PIA held by them has been affected.

The Government continues to actively engage HWL Ebsworth as it investigates the extent of the breach including impacts on Commonwealth information.

Guardian Australia reported this week that the agency in charge of the National Disability Insurance Scheme was also currently discussing with the firm whether any client information had been compromised as HWL Ebsworth represents the agency in coverage appeal cases.

Speaker responds to Tink on parliamentary behaviour

Independent MP Kylea Tink wrote to the speaker Milton Dick this week, asking him to remind MPs of the higher standard they are supposed to set in terms of behaviour, and discourse.

Kylea Tink in parliament
Kylea Tink in parliament. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Tink wrote to Dick asking he “provide the Chamber with a full and complete update on the progress of cultural change, including reiterating the endorsement of the ‘behaviour standards and codes’”:

Standards and codes are only as effective as the people who uphold them. The behaviour and revelations of the past week show we have a long way to go to change the culture of this place. But we must …

We all have a responsibility to display exemplary individual leadership and a role to play to set the standard for an inclusive, respectful, and professional workplace here in Parliament House and across Australia. I call on you to recommit the Parliament to positive change.

Dick responded in a letter of his own:

As you would appreciate, the events of last week are of keen interest to me, adding as they do to my ongoing concerns about unacceptable behaviour in our workplace.

It is my intention to make a statement in the Chamber before the House rises on Thursday, to remind Members of our shared responsibility in relation to developing a safe and respectful culture in Parliament House.

I will refer to some general aspects such as the language and volume of debate, as well as courtesy and respectful behaviours during proceedings.

I will incorporate appropriate references to the resolution of the House endorsing the draft behaviour standards and code for Parliamentarians and reinforce the guidance the standards and code provide to Members.

Dick said he would ask members to consider on what contribution they are making “to achieving this” and to “genuinely reflect on their own behaviour”. By that he means the heckles during debate and question time, but it seems as though Tink was asking more broadly, given what some of the “debates” have covered lately.


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