New top cop calls review after media raids

The front pages of major Australian newspapers show a 'Your right to know" campaign.
The front pages of major Australian newspapers show a 'Your right to know" campaign.

The new head of the Australian Federal Police has ordered a review into the handling of sensitive investigations, following raids on two media organisations.

Reece Kershaw wants to examine AFP processes around unauthorised disclosures, parliamentary privilege, espionage, foreign interference and war crimes.

He has asked John Lawler, the former head of the Australian Crime Commission, to conduct the external review.

"The review will not be an audit into the current matters at hand," Mr Kershaw told a Senate committee in Canberra on Monday.

"But rather a holistic approach to ensure that we have in place investigative policies and guidelines that are fit for purpose."

The review will address:

* What constitutes a sensitive investigation;

* An articulation of the human resources, skills, training, technology and facilities required;

* A reformation of governance and business processes; and

* Organisational structures.

"Police independence and freedom of the press are both fundamental pillars that coexist in our democracy," Mr Kershaw told the committee.

"I strongly believe in these two pillars, and this is the approach I intend to take."

He also confirmed the AFP had finalised an "internal national guideline" on investigations into the leaking of government information by Commonwealth officers.

Recent police raids on the home of a News Corp journalist and Sydney offices of the ABC have triggered a major debate about press freedom.

The raids were part of criminal investigations into stories based on leaked government documents.

Several parliamentary inquiries are now investigating the balance between national security and a free media in Australia.

Mr Kershaw said he hoped the Lawler review would "better inform" how the AFP handled such cases in the future.

"I look forward to working with you and your parliamentary colleagues to ensure the review takes into account the deliberations of other parliamentary inquiries currently under way," he said.

Australian Associated Press