The alleged leak of Malcolm Turnbull’s new memoir by one of Scott Morrison’s senior advisors has been referred to the Australian Federal Police.
On Saturday Turnbull was reportedly contacted by a friend who had been sent a pirated digital copy of the book, days before its official release.
The same day, publishing company Hardie Grant claimed the memoir “was being circulated to government employees” by an address from within Morrison’s office.
Hardie Grant issued the PM’s office with a cease and desist, according to ABC News, before revealing it would refer the issue to the AFP.
One of Morrison’s advisers — Nico Louw — was contacted by the lawyer for Turnbull and his publisher, Nicholas Pullen. In the letter of complaint, Pullen said he had been told Louw had distributed the book “on a massive scale”, which, he argued, would have encouraged others to do the same.
“Such an act is calculated to cause irreparable harm and damage to my clients,” he wrote.
Turnbull told Guardian Australia that Louw had contacted him on Sunday, admitting that he had sent the digital version of the book to 59 people. It is understood he apologised.
Several journalists and ministers have received copies of the book, including Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who received five copies.
Agriculture minister David Littleproud told a press conference on Sunday he had received a copy “from a personal friend” but “deleted it immediately”.
Also on Sunday, foreign minister Marise Payne told ABC’s Insiders she had “received and deleted” a copy of the e-book and encouraged others to do the same. She did not reveal who sent her the illegal ebook, but insisted it had not come from Morrison’s office.
Payne said China should be transparent during the process of a potential global inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic during the same episode.
In response to the interview, Hardie Grant chief executive Sandy Grant said:
“When I watch a senior government minister saying they received stolen goods but can’t help us know where they came from, you despair.”
On Monday Labor leader Anthony Albanese told 2SM the incident was “pretty extraordinary”.
“I’m not shocked by much, but I’m surprised that someone in the prime minister’s office thought that they could do that as well and that no one would notice,” he said.
Turnbull’s memoir, A Bigger Picture, was officially released on Monday.