Latest news on Witness K and B Collaery

The issue of Australia’s relationship with Timor Leste continues, however there is some positive news. Ex-President and Resistance hero, Xanana Gusmao, has recently asserted that the prosecution of whistle-blowers Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery by the Australian Govt is unjust. Their court case, after much secrecy, has now been announced will be held on August 6. However we ask supporters to Call for the Immediate Discontinuance of the Case (see below). Also below is a speech given by Senator Rex Patrick last September on the ethics and legality of pressing these charges.

And we shouldn’t forget that Oz owes Timor more than $5b in stolen revenue from the oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea.

Another Australian, in more serious trouble, is Julian Assange. Action needs to be taken to prevent him being extradited to the U.S. from where he will never return if the extradition takes place. Like Witness K and Bernard Collaery he is a whistle blower for truth and justice.

Postcards are available for anyone who is interested in letting the Attorney-General know that we want the charges against K & BC dropped. Give me a call on 0469 359199 if you would like a postcard or two.

In truth and justice
Bob Hanney                                                                                                                                       Secretary                                                                                                                                          AETFA SA


Background                                                                                                                                      The Australian government spied on its regional neighbour Timor-Leste in 2004 during Treaty negotiations about the sharing of the resources of the Timor Sea. The Foreign Minister at the time was Alexander Downer, and the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was Ashton Calvert. The spy now known as “Witness K” found out that those who ordered the spying were lobbying for Woodside, the oil company involved. He complained to the spy agency and was advised to get a lawyer. He chose Bernard Collaery. When the Timorese government was advised of the spying, they withdrew from the Treaty and began negotiations for an internationally recognised border. The consequent Timor Sea Treaty was signed at the UN in March 2018. Two months later, Witness K and Collaery were charged with making known state secrets. They face two years’ jail.

Call for: An inquiry into the illegal espionage against Timor-Leste in 2004. An inquiry into the relationship between ASIS activities in 2004 in Timor-Leste and the ongoing investigation into the Bali bombings at the same time.
                                                                                                                                              Conduct of the Case                                                                                                                                              The prosecution is using national security legislation in the case without demonstrating how revealing Australian spying on a poor neighbour threatens national security.                               The prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery has not the met the minimum standards required for a fair trial:                                                                                                                      •   They have not been informed completely or promptly of the charges and evidence being used against them.                                                                                                                                    •   Undue secrecy and delay has surrounded the case and the hearings.                                        •   The A-G requires that all proceedings be closed and that no media covers the trial.
Other serious matters:                                                                                                                  •   Those who ordered the illegal spying have not faced charges, yet those who told the truth are being treated as criminals.                                                                                                                •   This prosecution is a warning to intelligence personnel that reporting the abuse of law by government will threaten their reputation and livelihood.                                                                  •   The prosecution exposes Australia to international condemnation.                                              •   It erodes the Australian image as a fair, law-abiding and honest regional power.
Recent Developments                                                                                                                             After comments on 5 July 2019 by the former President of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão that the prosecution was unjust, the Australian Prime Minister indicated that he was not ruling out dropping the charges.                                                                                                                                     Now is the time for all Australians to CALL FOR THE IMMEDIATE DISCONTINUANCE  OF THE CASE
*Contact the Prime Minister Phone: 6277 7700 Email: click here for Contact Form Post: The Hon Scott Morrison MP
 Prime Minister
 Parliament House
*Contact the Attorney-General Phone: 6277 7300 Email: Click here for Contact Form Post: The Hon Christian Porter MP PO Box 6022 Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600

Call for: The immediate discontinuance of the prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery.


Senator Rex Patrick’s Speech to Parliament 19 September 2018                   Senate Hansard pp 98-101.                                                                                                 Senator  PATRICK  (South  Australia)  (18:43):   I  rise  to  respond  to  the  Governor-General’s  opening  speech during this address-in-reply,  and I  do so with a  view  to discussing a situation that  we  have before us  that  should be of  great  concern. As we all  know, Australia’s  national  interests are best  served by  a rules  based international  order. The  2016  Defence  white paper  mentioned a rules  based order  53 times. The  Foreign policy white paper  put  out  by DFAT in 2017 mentioned a rules  based order  15 times.
We need to  practise  what  we preach, otherwise  DFAT will become  a  rather  expensive  department  that  has  no  credibility,  and  that’s  not  in  the  national  interests.
This overriding national  interest  is the context  of  my  following remarks. In  March  2002,  three  months  before  East  Timor  became  an  independent  state,  Australia’s  then  foreign  minister, Mr  Alexander  Downer,  withdrew  Australia  from  the  maritime  boundary  jurisdiction  of  the  International  Court  of Justice  and  the  International  Tribunal  for  the  Law  of  the  Sea.  That  meant  East  Timor  couldn’t  claim  its  right  under international  law  to  a  maritime  boundary  halfway  between  the  two  countries’  coastlines.  How’s  that  for  a  rules based international  order? Meanwhile,  on  20  September  2002,  the  Howard  government  awarded  an  exploration  contract  for  an  area  partly on  East  Timor’s  side  of  the  median  line.  East  Timor  protested  but  couldn’t  go  to  the  independent  umpire.
The government  awarded  similar  contracts  in  April  2003  and  February  2004,  also  protested  by  East  Timor.  Then,  in November  2002,  Mr  Downer  warned  East  Timor’s  Prime  Minister  that  Australia  could  hold  up  the  flow  of  gas from  the  Timor  Sea  for  decades.  He  said,  according  to  a  transcript  of  the  negotiating  records,  ‘We  don’t  have  to exploit  the  resources.  We  can  stay  for  here  20,  40,  50  years.  We  are  very  tough.  We  will  not  care  if  you  give information to the media.  Let  me give  you a  tutorial  in politics—not  a chance.’
In  December  2002,  the  Sunrise  project  partners,  Woodside,  ConocoPhillips,  Shell  and  Osaka  Gas,  announced the  indefinite  delay  of  the  project,  an  obvious  tactic  to  pressure  East  Timor  to  accept  Mr  Downer’s  demands.  The bottom  line  here  is  that  Mr  Downer  and  Woodside  wanted  to  force  East  Timor,  one  of  the  poorest  countries  in
the world,  to  surrender  most  of  the  revenue  from  the  Greater  Sunrise  project—revenue  that  it  could  have  used  to  do much  with,  including  dealing  with  its  infant  mortality  rate.
Currently,  45  out  of  1,000  children  in  East  Timor  don’t live past  the age of one.  Yet  our  plan was  to deprive them  of  oil  revenue. It’s  prudent  at  this  time  to  mention  that  one  of  Mr  Downer’s  senior  advisers  at  the  time  was  a  man  named  Mr Josh  Frydenberg. It’s relevant  to something  I  will  talk about  later. Mr  Downer  then  ordered  the  Australian  Secret  Intelligence Service  to  bug  East  Timor’s  negotiations.  ASIS installed  listening  devices  inside  East  Timor’s  ministerial  rooms  and  cabinet  offices  under  the  cover of  a  foreign aid  program,  piling  cynicism  onto  callousness.  The  espionage operation  occurred  at  the  same  time  the  Jemaah Islamiyah  terror  group  bombed  the  Australian  Embassy  in  Jakarta  on  9  September  2004,  when  Mr  Downer  and Prime  Minister  John  Howard  were  assuring  the  public  that  they  were  taking  every  measure  against  extreme Muslim  terrorism  in  Indonesia.
Introducing  another  character  into  the  story,  Mr  Nick  Warner  was  involved  in  the  spying  operation.  Mr  Warner went  on  to  become  the  head  of  ASIS  and  has  since  been  appointed  as  the  Director-General  of  the  Office  of National  Intelligence.  I  also  note  that  Mr  Frydenberg  was  an adviser  in  the  Prime  Minister’s  office  at  the  time  of the spying. I  will  have more  to say  on that  on another  day. Spied  on,  threatened  and  unable  to  seek  redress  at  the  International  Court  of  Justice,  East  Timor  signed  a  treaty in  January  2006.  This  blatantly  unfair  treaty  denied  them  their  right to  a  maritime  border  on  the  median  line.  It also,  in  effect,  created  a  permanent  regime  over  the  length  of  the  Greater  Sunrise  project’s  commercial  life.  The major  beneficiary  of  this  negotiation  was  Woodside  Petroleum.
The  then  Secretary  of  the  Department  of  Foreign Affairs  and  Trade,  Dr  Ashton  Calvert,  had  already  resigned  and  joined  the  board  of  directors  of  Woodside Petroleum.  Mr  Downer  took  a  lucrative  consultancy  with  Woodside  after  leaving  parliament  in  2008.  There  are also  credible  rumours  of  disquiet  within  ASIS  over  the  diversion  of  scarce  intelligence  assets  away  from  the  war on  terror  and towards  East  Timor. Aware  of  Mr Downer’s  consultancy  work  for  Woodside,  Witness  K  complained  to  the  Inspector-General  of Intelligence  and  Security  about  the  East  Timor  operation.  ASIS  took  steps  to  effectively  terminate  his employment—an  outcome  that  is  not  unusual  for  whistleblowers  in  this  country.  In  response,  Witness  K  obtained permission  from  the  IGIS  to  speak  to  an  ASIS-approved  lawyer,  Bernard  Collaery,  a  former  ACT  AttorneyGeneral.  After  2½  years  of  research,  Mr  Collaery  determined  that  the  espionage  operation  in  East  Timor  was unlawful  and may  also have  been an  offence  under  section 334 of  the Criminal  Code  of  the ACT.
Going  to  the  specifics,  the  case  rested  on  the  fact  that  the  then  director of  ASIS,  David  Irvine,  ordered  Witness K, the head of  all  technical  operations for  ASIS, to place  covert  listening devices  in the East  Timorese government buildings.  Those  instructions  enlivened  the  section  334  offence  in  that  it  constituted  a  conspiracy  to  defraud Australia’s  joint  venture  partner,  East  Timor,  by  gaining  advantage  through  improper  methods  when  the Commonwealth was  under  a legal  obligation to conduct  good-faith negotiations.
The  events  that  followed  are  well  known.  The  East  Timorese  took  Australia  to  the  Permanent  Court  of Arbitration,  which  saw  Australia  eventually  agree  to  renegotiate  the  treaty.  That  was  an  acknowledgement that  the operation  had  occurred.  As  part  of  those  proceedings,  Witness  K was  to  give  evidence  in  a  confidential  hearing. David  Irvine—that’s  the  name  I  introduced  a  moment  ago—in  his  subsequent  role  as  DirectorGeneral  of  ASIO, organised  raids  on  the  homes  and  offices  of  Bernard  Collaery  and  Witness  K  on  3  December  2013.  At  the  same time  the  raids  occurred,  the  Australian  government  revoked  Witness  K’s  passport.
We  know  from  inquiries  made at  estimates  last  year  by  then  Senator  Xenophon  that  the  competent  authority  in  law  advising  the  foreign  minister on  Witness  K  was  not  the  AFP  or  ASIO,  as  you  would  normally expect.  Rather,  it  was  ASIS,  headed  by  a somewhat  conflicted Nicholas  Warner,  noting his involvement  in the original  illegal  bugging  operation. The  day  after  the  raids,  former  Attorney-General  George Brandis  came  into  this  Senate  chamber  and  threatened criminal  prosecutions  for  ‘participation,  whether  as  principal  or  accessory,  in  offences  against  the Commonwealth’.  I’ve  recently  found  out  through  Senate  estimates  that  the  AFP  received  a  referral  from  ASIO about  this  matter  on  13  December  2013.  The  AFP  began  its  investigation  on  10  February  2014,  a  few  months later.  One  year  later,  on  18  February  2015,  the  AFP  gave  a  brief  of  evidence  to  the  Commonwealth  Director  of Public  Prosecutions. The  result?  Nothing. Zip.  Nada—until  now. In  May  2018,  three  years  later,  and  just  after  the  Joint  Standing  Committee  on  Treaties  finally  held public hearings  on  the  Timor  Sea  Treaty,  the  CDPP  filed  charges.  Sarah  Naughton  SC  from  the  CDPP  really  has  to explain  this  interesting  timing.  Did  she  and  her  predecessor  hold  off  until  diplomacy  was  out  of  the  way?  And that’s  not  all  she  has  to  explain.
Amongst  the  charges  before  the  ACT  court—this  is  public  domain  information— are  conversations  Collaery  is  alleged  to  have  had  with  a  number  of  ABC  journalists  and  producers:  Emma Alberici,  Peter  Lloyd,  Connor  Duffy,  Marian  Wilkinson  and  Peter  Cronau.  In  fact,  the  first  time  this  was  reported in  the  press,  the  journalist  responsible  was  Leo  Shanahan  on  29  May  2013  in  The  Australian.  Shanahan  quoted Collaery  directly  as  saying: Australia clandestinely  monitored  the negotiation  rooms
occupied  by  the other  party  … … …  … They  broke  in  and  they  bugged,  in  a  total  breach  of  sovereignty,  the  cabinet  room,  the  ministerial  offices  of  then  prime minister  …  and  his  government. But  Leo  Shanahan  wasn’t  mentioned  on  the  charge  sheet.  Only  the  ABC  journalists  were.  Is  she  trying  to  protect him  because  she’s  hoping  to  get  friendly  coverage  of  a  case  from  his  employer,  The  Australian?  Is  she  going  after the  government’s  perceived  enemies  at  the  ABC?
The  prosecution  requires  the  consent  of  the  Attorney-General, Mr  Christian  Porter.  Mr  Porter  consented,  claiming  on  28  June  this  year  that all  he  did  was  agree  to  an independent  decision by  the  CDPP,  but  as  the  Attorney-General  he is no cipher.  He is well  aware he has  the power to  decline  prosecution,  for  example,  by  questioning  the  general  deterrent  value  of  such  court  action.  What  is  the utilitarian  value  of  such  a  prosecution  this  former  lecturer  at  the  University  of  Western  Australia  could  have asked? Relevant  to  this,  on  1  July,  three  days  after  the  Attorney’s  press  release  acknowledging  his  consent,  Niki  Savva, former  senior  adviser  to  Prime  Minister  John  Howard  and  Treasurer  Peter  Costello  and  now  journalist  and commentator, said on ABC’s  Insider: I  just  think  it’s  very  fraught,  the  whole  thing,  because  from  my  understanding,  George  Brandis  had  asked  for  an  additional piece  of  information  from  the CDPP  on  this  issue  which  fortuitously  or  not  landed  on  Christian  Porter’s desk  when  he  took over  with  a  very  strong  recommendation  to  prosecute.  So  I  think  if  Porter  had  ignored  that  and  it  had  subsequently  come  out, then  he  would  have  faced  a  lot  of  grief  so  I  don’t  think  he  had  any  choice  but  to  proceed.
So  everything  hinges  now  on  the court  case. This  extraordinary  statement  cries  out  for  an  explanation.  How  would  Niki  Savva  know  what  Brandis  had  asked the  CDPP  for  and  whether  it  had  been  provided  to  Porter  and  when  or  what  the  CDPP’s  brief  contained?  Is  there  a leak?  Did  Attorney-General  Christian  Porter  leak  the  contents  of  the  brief  to  Niki  Savva  either  directly  or  through an  intermediary  or  did  the  CDPP  leak  it? One  thing  we  do  know  is  that  Ms  Savva  made  the  remarks  and  we  know she’s not  a fantasist. My colleague  in  the  other  place  Andrew  Wilkie  referred  Niki  Savva’s  statement  to  the  AFP  the  next  day,  on  2 July.  They  wrote  to  him  on  18  July  and  said  they  couldn’t  accept  the  matter  but  would  reassess  if  he  provided more  information.  Of  course,  this  is  something  that’s  very  difficult  to  do.
I  asked  some  questions  on  notice  to  the Attorney-General  last  month  and got  a  rather  uninformative  response,  which  I’ve  subsequently  written  to  him about.  I’m  curious  to  know  why  the  AFP  did  not,  at  the  very  least,  make  a  few  calls  to  the  A-G’s  department. Surely  the  A-G  would  respond  properly  to  a  preliminary  investigation  by  the  AFP.  It’s  a  question  I  will  ask  the AFP  at  our  next  estimates. Moving  along,  I,  along  with  Mr  Wilkie  and  my  Senate  colleagues  Senator  McKim  and  Senator
Storer,  also asked  the  AFP  to  investigate  the  original  conspiracy  to  defraud  the  government  of  East  Timor  under  section  334 of  the Criminal  Code of  the  Australian  Capital  Territory.  The AFP  advised us that, should further  material  become available  indicating  Commonwealth  offences  were  being  committed,  the  AFP  will  reassess  the  matter.  This  is  a catch-22  situation  if  I  ever  saw  one.  Clearly,  the  details  of  Mr  Downer’s  alleged  conspiracy  to  defraud  the government  of  East  Timor  are  unavailable  to  people  outside  the  principal  alleged  conspirators.  How  are  we  meant to  get  those  details?
There’s  a  prima  facie  case  of  a  section  334  violation,  patently  so  because  Witness  K  is  an amenable witness.  It’s up to the AFP  to request  an interview  with Witness  K  himself. Intelligence  officers  are  not  above  the law.  We  know  this  from  a  number  of  cases,  including  the  High  Court case  of  A  v  Hayden,  also  known  as  the  ASIS  case.  The  AFP  advised  me  on  3  August  this  year  that  they  have  no jurisdictional  issues  investigating  crimes  committed  by  intelligence  agencies,  so  why  haven’t  they?  Perhaps  the relations  with  Minister  Frydenberg  and  the  government  are  more  important.
Perhaps  the  fact  that  the AFP  are  now technically  part  of  the  intelligence  community  that  Mr  Nick  Warner  happens  to  head  has  created  resistance  to investigate. I  did  ask  the  Attorney-General  to  confirm  if  the  current  head  of  ASIS,  Mr  Paul  Symon,  was  informed  of  the prosecution  of  Witness  K  and  Mr  Collaery.  I  asked  the  same  about  Minister  Frydenberg and  Mr  Nick  Warner—no response.  There  are  many  more  questions.  Ms  McNaughton  is  handling  the  case  through  her  organised  crime  and counterterrorism  unit  as  though  Witness  K  and  Bernard  Collaery  are  potential  terrorists.  The  avenue  of  attack  sees the  use  of  the  National  Security  Information  Act  2004,  which  was  enacted  during  the  war  on  terror  in  response  to terrorist  threats.  It  gave enormous power  to the prosecution to seek orders from  the court  to classify  information as confidential  based on decisions by  the executive as  to what  information is confidential. Of  course  some  secrecy  is  needed. ASIS  officers’  identities  must  be  kept  secret,  because  if  foreign  governments know  who  our  spies are  then  they  can  identify  the  agents  in  their  countries  and  take  countermeasures  against them.  If  foreign  governments  were  to  learn  Witness  K’s  real  name,  they  might  be  able  to  identify  his  agents  in their  countries  and  take  countermeasures  against  them.  People  who  betray  their  country  would  no  longer  dare  risk their  safety  by  dealing with Australian spies.
But  Witness  K  and  Mr  Collaery  appear  fully  committed  to  this  kind  of  secrecy.  Indeed,  Witness  K  can  give evidence  whilst  having  his  identity  concealed.  That  is  precisely  what  happened  in  the  British  inquest  into  the downing  of  an  RAF  Hercules  aircraft  in  2005.  Among  those  killed  was  an  Australian  airman,  Flight  Lieutenant Pau  Pardoel.  All  the  special  forces
witnesses  who  testified  had  their  identities  protected.  The  same  method  could easily  be handled by  the ACT Magistrates  Court. But  in  this  case  a  fundamental  unfairness  occurs  because  the  prosecution  is  proposing  orders  that  the  entire matter  be  heard  in  secrecy.
This  is  from  a  government  which  repeatedly  makes  national  security  public  interest claims  in  this  place  in  respect  of  orders  for  production  and has  been  found  to  be  wrong  consistently.  This government  has  lost  all  credibility  in  this  space.  The  approach  is  blatantly  aimed  at  giving  the  executive  the  power to  classify  lawful  behaviour  as  secret  and  to  prevent  that  behaviour  from  being  disclosed.  In  plain  English,  the government  is trying to  prosecute people for  revealing its  crimes.
The  people  of  East  Timor  have  traditionally  been  good  allies  and  loyal  friends  of  Australia.  Their  support  of our  soldiers  fighting  the  Japanese  in 1942  was  vital.  The  East  Timorese  suffered  40,000  deaths  due  to  aerial bombings  and  the  destruction  of  villages  suspected  of  sheltering  Australian  troops  by  the  Japanese.  Australian troops  were  protected  at  the  expense  of  and  the  lives  of  many,  many  East  Timorese  people,  Senator  Neville Bonner  said  in  a  statement  to  the  Senate  in  1977.  And  yet  the  government  ordered  an  espionage  operation  against East  Timor’s  negotiators  to  gain  significant  advantage  in  those  negotiations.  The  operation  has  caused considerable  disruption,  ending  only  recently  when  we  renegotiated  the  treaty—hopefully,  this  time  without spying. In  the  period  between  the  spying  and  now,  East  Timor’s  sentiment  towards  Australia  has  deteriorated substantially  and  China  has  managed  to  increase  its  influence  through  the  use  of  soft  power.
The  government sanctimoniously  calls  for  a  rules  based  international  order,  and  that  just  looks  like  sheer  humbug.  It’s  time  for  this farce  to  end;  it’s  time  to  bury  this  issue.  We  did  the  wrong  thing  to  East  Timor.  It  was  called  out  by  honourable people  and  now  we  seek  to  prosecute  them.  Australia  committed  a  crime;  the  government  committed  a  crime.  Noone  is  above  the  law  and  we  need  to  investigate  that  properly.  All  of  this  stuff  to  do  with  Witness  K  and  Mr Collaery  in  the  courts  is  just  ripping  the  scar  off  a  wound  in  East  Timor,  and  I  urge  the  government  to  rethink  the process they’re going through. Thank you.