“Witness K, as the secret agent became known, and Collaery, are brave Australians,” former Timor-Leste president José Ramos-Horta wrote last month while calling for the pair to be awarded his nation’s highest honour. Despite the Asis budget expansion, officers with the technical skills to install listening devices in the cabinet room of a foreign country were in short supply. “As a law clerk, a week out from being admitted as a solicitor, and as an Australian citizen, who believed that I lived in a fair democratic country, I lost a lot of confidence in the government, and the law, that day.”. He eventually approached the intelligence watchdog, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS). The Asis operation remained secret. These provisions should be adopted in Australia.”. The officers produced a warrant, most of which had been blacked out, and offered a simple explanation for their presence: “national security”. The raids were just the start. The raid lasted six hours, stretching well into the afternoon. From his viewpoint, they had revealed a crime. Bracks says Gusmão wanted to know what he could do to support Collaery, who had been his lawyer following Timor’s independence from Indonesia in 1999. It was a good deal for the Australian government, and a boon for the joint venture of multinationals, led by Woodside, seeking to exploit the Timor Sea. A treaty was signed at the United Nations in New York in March 2018. It focused attention on Australia’s hypocritical criticism of China’s South China Sea claims and made a mockery of Australia’s backing of the “international rules-based order”. Other whistleblowers have faced threats and termination for revealing information clearly in the public interest. After a border dispute and spying scandal, can Australia and Timor-Leste be ... invasion and forced integration of East Timor in 1975-76. As Timor-Leste’s minister of state, Ágio Pereira, told a reception after the signing ceremony, the treaty marked a “new chapter in the bilateral relationship”. The former Victorian premier Steve Bracks emerged into the monsoonal heat and was greeted by staff from the office of Xanana Gusmão, Timor-Leste’s chief maritime boundary negotiator. Collaery will fight on, facing a partially secret trial in the ACT supreme court, the court where he has spent much of his life practicing. They drove Bracks to the waterfront café at the Novo Turismo Resort and Spa, where Gusmão was waiting. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP, Witness K and the 'outrageous' spy scandal that failed to shame Australia. Collaery helped the Timor-Leste government build a case against Australia at The Hague, alleging the bugging had rendered the treaty void. The report also identified a separate need to reform blanket criminal prohibitions on the unauthorised release of information, similar to those used to prosecute Witness K and Collaery case. Five years later, in June 2018, the attorney general, Christian Porter, consented to charges being laid against Collaery and his client, a retired Asis agent known only as Witness K, for “conspiring to reveal classified information”. Never has he seen his country attempt an operation as commercially driven as Australia’s was. ... As Australia and Timor-Leste prepare to … That East Timor has succeeded as far as it has is remarkable, and comes thanks to the courage of the East Timorese, and enormous sympathy for East Timor and its people within the Australian community. As a former US ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith had frequent access to US intelligence. The officers rifled through Collaery’s documents. They want to keep Australia, and Australians, safe. In 3 of those 5 (including the current Timor Leste case), Australia has appointed a former High Court judge as its ad hoc judge. SYDNEY - East Timor has accused Australia of violating its sovereignty by spying on its impoverished Asian neighbor during negotiations for an oil and gas … He said Australia could consider adopting the US model, where intelligence and judiciary committees are regularly briefed about intelligence collection programs. The prosecution of Collaery and Witness K throws a spotlight on the nexus between politics and intelligence, and the unfettered power of ministers in Australia’s intelligence regime. “With the diplomacy out of the way it’s time to bury the bodies,” Wilkie said under parliamentary privilege. In September, the Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, won the federal election. Australia’s Scott Morrison with Timor-Leste’s Taur Matan Ruak at the Government Palace in Dili on 30 August 2019. “The challenge was, and remains, how to ensure the general law protects all persons who might need to justifiably breach confidentiality, by enabling any person to call on and argue a public interest defence in such circumstances – such as traditionally existed under common law principles,” Prof Brown’s report found. Collaery is a great Australian in their eyes.”. To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you. ABC Fact Check finds Mr … In the summer of 2013, young law clerk Chloe Preston was sitting alone at Collaery’s home practice in Narrabundah, Canberra. including agents from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act, David McBride, a military lawyer who leaked documents, Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into secrecy laws, used parliamentary privilege earlier this year, Australian security and counter-terrorism. Australia’s intelligence services were revealed to be illegally bugging a foreign government, when the substantial benefits would flow to private corporations – all at a time when our intelligence services should have focused on terrorist threats.”. Timor-Leste had by then dropped its case against Australia, paving the way for the signing of a new treaty on the Timor Sea maritime boundary in March 2018. The revelations were splashed across mainstream media, first through the Australian, then the ABC. Australia gave de jure recognition to East Timor’s incorporation into Indonesia. “Individuals with a conscience and courage, representing the very best of Australians as I know them – instinctively sympathetic to the underdog, the weak and vulnerable.”. The pair’s actions embarrassed powerful forces within government, intelligence, and corporate Australia. East Timor’s government will not be deterred in pressing its case to scrap an oil treaty worth billions of dollars over claims of spying by Australia, an international negotiator says. His efforts to get it back stretched across six years of secret hearings in the administrative appeals tribunal. Timor-Leste then took Australia through a compulsory conciliation process under United Nations rules, which against Australia's initial objections, resulted in a new Timor Sea Treaty in 2018. The revised deal was far more favourable to the smaller nation, and it is now expected to reap between 70% and 80% of total revenue. Supporters of Bernard Collaery and Witness K outside the supreme court in Canberra. Then you have to map the geometry of the office, check the acoustics, work out where to place the listening devices, and because it’s going to go on for several weeks or months, you need a power source.” And in this case, where the cover story involved renovating the government offices under the guise of an Australian aid program, Asis needed skilled tradespeople to carry out the renovations. He saw them as “honourable men” who should have been lauded for their actions. Witness K lawyer Bernard Collaery to appeal against secrecy in Timor-Leste bugging trial. “There’s another aspect to this affair that most Australians haven’t appreciated – the moral injury felt by the people of Timor-Leste,” Fernandes said. Witness K was to be Timor-Leste’s lead witness. Many questions remain about the Witness K and Collaery affair, not least about Alexander Downer, the former foreign affairs minister who went on to work for Woodside as a consultant after leaving office. Select groups of congressmen also receive briefings on specific operation types prior to their occurrence, he said. “This prosecution seems designed to punish whistleblowers,” Lynch tells Guardian Australia. Australia's bugging of East Timor ahead of gas negotiations may be illegal under Australian law according to experts, meaning some cabinet ministers may face prosecution. Gusmão led the Timorese resistance against the Indonesian occupation in the mountains of East Timor and, after his capture in 1992, from his jail cell in Jakarta. In Timor-Leste, it was seen as yet another betrayal. In his 2018 book Island off the Coast of Asia, Fernandes writes that the listening devices installed in the Palácio do Governo “were turned on and off by a covert agent inside the building. Australia is accused of spying on East Timor leaders in 2004 when the two countries were negotiating a gas treaty. Preston remembers her shock at opening the door to 10 officers, including agents from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio). It was 2004 and, in the Dili heat, the distinguished US diplomat sat opposite Australian officials, bartering over a nation’s future. It has fallen on individuals such as former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and NSW shadow attorney general Paul Lynch to take up the cause. In early 2008, Witness K approached the IGIS, Ian Carnell, alleging that a cultural change within Asis had led to his constructive dismissal. Australia refused Portugal’s requests for talks and instead negotiated a treaty with Indonesia in 1972. Tensions rose last week when the Australia Security Intelligence Office raided the Canberra office of the lawyer who is representing East Timor in the spying … In 2013–2014, Timor-Leste ranked as Australia's 118th largest goods trading partner, with total merchandise trade valued at $24 Million Australia and Timor-Leste had been on an international cooperation in agriculture with Timor-Leste's largest agriculture export is Coffee. While CMATS was publicly applauded as a win by both nations, it was in fact another major victory for Australia, given international law clearly favoured a median-line boundary. Despite UN resolutions calling on Indonesia to withdraw, Australia commenced negotiations with Indonesia in 1979 to agree on a boundary between Australia and occupied East Timor… Gareth Evans, foreign minister under the Hawke Labor government, finalised the deal; he and Suharto’s foreign minister Ali Alatas flew over the Timor Sea to sign the deal and … The leading security analyst Desmond Ball warned that “the relationship between intelligence and policy is complex and delicate. Success would give it a significant share of fields worth $40bn-$50bn, helping lift the fledgling nation out of poverty. Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery helped correct what they saw as a gross injustice. In December, Asio and the Australian federal police executed a search warrant on Collaery’s home and chambers, issued by the then attorney general George Brandis under powers given after September 11, 2001 to combat terrorism. It was conveniently moored opposite the waterfront white-stuccoed Palácio do Governo. In 2004, when the Dili bugging occurred, the Timorese remained physically and emotionally traumatised. “It was not what you do to a friendly state. This was a damning indictment of Australia’s negotiators, some of the best and brightest lawyers in government, backed by the resources of multiple departments. David Irvine, the director general of Asis at the time of the Dili maritime boundary negotiations, was then director general of Asio. Timor-Leste’s team was led by former US ambassador Peter Galbraith, supported by a handful of idealistic young lawyers. East Timor now wants the treaty scrapped on the grounds that the alleged spying gave Australia an unfair advantage in commercial negotiations. Witness K’s passport was seized, preventing him from flying to The Hague. “That is not something that goes on in the United States. The revelations were … “The bottom line here is that Downer (and Woodside) wanted to force East Timor, one of the poorest countries in the world, to surrender most of the revenues from Greater Sunrise, revenue it could have used to deal with its infant mortality rate – currently 45 out of 1,000 children in East Timor don’t live past the age of one,” Patrick told parliament. This week, Griffith University integrity expert Prof AJ Brown and his team published a major study examining the experiences of whistleblowers. They did this in the Nuclear Test case (Sir Ninian Stephen) and also in the East Timor Case (Sir Garfield Barwick). The case against Collaery and Witness K comes as Australia pursues a range of whistleblowers with vigour. “I didn’t see it as a national security issue then and I don’t now,” Preston tells Guardian Australia. After learning about the spying, the East Timor government wanted to revoke the deal it signed with Australia. Close. 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