AFP boss briefed then-PM Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce about ‘Member for Manila’
AFP boss briefed then-PM Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce about ‘Member for Manila’

AFP boss told leaders about ‘Member for Manila’

THE head of the Australian Federal Police personally briefed former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce on its year-long inquiries into Nationals MP George Christensen's regular travel to the Philippines.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin also confirmed in a Senate estimates hearing that the case, which found no evidence of illegality, began in early 2017 - up to eight months before the government was made aware.

It comes after the Herald Sun revealed Mr Christensen spent 294 days in the Philippines over a four-year period.

In response to questions from Labor Senator Murray Watt, Mr Colvin confirmed he briefed Mr Turnbull, Mr Joyce, current Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton about the matter.

Mr Colvin said he briefed Mr Turnbull on more than one occasion but told him there was nothing he wanted the former PM to do "as it was a police matter".

"The AFP had an evaluation of the information received, we never actually said it was an investigation," Mr Colvin said.

"We found no evidence of wrongdoing and no evidence of criminal behaviour."

Asked about whether the AFP's evaluation involved looking at financial transactions to the Philippines, Mr Colvin said: "As part of our evaluation … we took all measures we needed to satisfy ourselves as to whether any criminal activity had taken place. I don't want to discuss what we did or didn't do."

He said the police evaluation began in early 2017 and lasted for more than a year.

The AFP Commissioner also briefed Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson about the matter in August, 2017.

Mr Colvin said he has never briefed current Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the inquiries.

Mr Christensen made 28 trips between April 2014 and last June, spending 42 weeks in a country which is more than 5000km away from his marginal Queensland seat of Dawson.

The Nationals MP's travel earned him the nickname "The Member for Manila" among colleagues and caused unrest among the senior ranks of the LNP.

He has not been back to the Philippines since June, 2018.

The outspoken MP announced his engagement to his Filipina fiancee, April Asuncion, last September.

anthony.galloway@news.com.au

@Gallo_Ways