16 November 2020: Commonwealth Ombudsman statement on his investigation into the Australian Federal Police's (AFP) handling of the NSW Police referral of information relating to the Hon Angus Taylor MP

Today Commonwealth Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe published a statement about his Office’s investigation into the AFP's decision to cease its investigation into allegations made about the Hon Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction.

In early 2020 the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman received around 150 complaints from members of the public regarding the AFP’s decision.

‘Our role is to consider complaints and to seek to influence improvements in public administration. Complaints made about the administrative practices and procedures of the AFP are within our jurisdiction.  As a result of the number of complaints received and the public interest in the issues we conducted an investigation.’ Mr Manthorpe said.   The investigation was based on documents provided to us by the AFP and discussions with them over several months.

‘It is important to note that, consistent with our jurisdiction, we investigated the AFP’s actions.  We did not evaluate or judge the actions of Mr Taylor or his office, nor those of NSW Police, as their actions are outside our jurisdiction. The investigation has now been finalised.’

The Office has concluded that it was a lawful exercise of discretion on the part of the AFP to cease its investigation.

‘We have concluded, however, that it would have been preferable for the AFP to have undertaken at least one more step prior to making a decision to cease its investigation, namely to have made direct inquiries of Mr Taylor or his office.’

‘This may have helped ensure that the AFP’s assessment that further investigation would have been unreasonably resource intensive was soundly based, and provided assurance about the AFP’s assessment that further investigation was unlikely to result in sufficient evidence to substantiate an offence.’

‘The question of whether or not an offence occurred and, if so, by whom remains unresolved.’

The report made two recommendations, going to the public interest factors which the AFP considers in determining whether to investigate a matter;  and to seek a more detailed public statement as to why the AFP ceased the investigation.  The AFP has accepted both recommendations and their response is included with the statement.

The statement about our investigation can be found on our website.