“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. The spy obtained permission to talk to an approved lawyer, Bernard Collaery, a barrister and one-time attorney general for the ACT. This week, Griffith University integrity expert Prof AJ Brown and his team published a major study examining the experiences of whistleblowers. “Whatever happens from here, the courage they have displayed is already etched into Australian political history,” she says. In early 2008, Witness K approached the IGIS, Ian Carnell, alleging that a cultural change within Asis had led to his constructive dismissal. Australians accept the need for extreme secrecy around spying operations aimed at combating terrorism and other security threats. The case against Collaery and Witness K comes as Australia pursues a range of whistleblowers with vigour. “I can’t think of anything more crass than what has occurred,” he said. They would object to such an immoral operation, but there is no avenue for them to raise concerns.” The former Asis spy Warren Reed argues that most intelligence officers have “a keen sense” of democratic values and “will generally stand firm against attempts by their service’s management to diverge from those widely accepted norms of behaviour”. Oil and gas bubble up from a small bore hole sunk by Australians near Vikeke, Timor-Leste. 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. Close. The Asis operation remained secret. 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. His efforts to get it back stretched across six years of secret hearings in the administrative appeals tribunal. 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. A crime against one of the poorest countries in the world, by one of the richest. But instead of moving to cement this new beginning, in June 2018, four months after the treaty signing, five years after the Dili bugging operation became public and 14 years after it occurred, the attorney general, Christian Porter, in what was now the Morrison-led Coalition government, consented to charges being laid against Collaery and Witness K. This sent a chilling message. The resolution of the dispute meant that for the first time since Timor-Leste’s independence, the Australia-Timor-Leste relationship was not poisoned by the conflict. This amounted to Australia formally recognising Indonesia’s sovereignty in Timor, the only Western nation to do so. Patrick, the crossbench senator, used parliamentary privilege earlier this year to highlight Downer and Woodside’s role in the Timor Sea negotiations. John Howard meets Australian troops leading the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on 1 September 1999. The pair were charged with conspiring to breach section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act for allegedly communicating information they obtained in the course of employment or an agreement with Asis. 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. Fernandes, from UNSW, said the case speaks to another critical institutional failing: the inability for Australia’s parliament to scrutinise intelligence operations. Crossbench senator Rex Patrick accused prosecutors of sitting on evidence for three years to avoid a diplomatic incident. He saw them as “honourable men” who should have been lauded for their actions. Australia defends a raid on the offices of a lawyer representing East Timor in a spying row case against Australia at The Hague. Collaery’s own attempts to publish a book on the affair prompted threats of jail from the Australian government. Woodside discovered the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields in 1974. Witness K’s passport was seized, preventing him from flying to The Hague. It’s a stark contrast to their treatment in Australia. In 2013, the Australian government revealed the allegations of spying. Gusmão planned to go to Canberra to give evidence in the trial, until Covid-19 restrictions prevented him from travelling. Bernard Collaery says the head of ASIS ordered a team into East Timor to conduct work which was well outside the proper functions of ASIS. Australia’s spy watchdog is carefully considering a complaint alleging Australia broke the law when it bugged East Timor’s cabinet during lucrative oil and gas negotiations, documents show. “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.”. They drove Bracks to the waterfront café at the Novo Turismo Resort and Spa, where Gusmão was waiting. 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. Collaery says Witness K was put through “six years of seclusion, harassment and questioning”. “For years to come, Australians, young and old, will learn of the two heroes who revealed the farce of politics in this country.”, Witness K to plead guilty in Timor-Leste spying case but lawyer to fight charges, Bernard Collaery helped the Timor-Leste government build a case against Australia at The Hague, alleging the bugging had rendered the treaty void. The 127-room Central Maritime Hotel was a converted Russian hospital ship that was rebuilt in Finland, used as a hotel in Myanmar and then towed to Dili because there were no hotels or restaurants of suitable standard for international visitors. But for all the questions, one thing remains clear for Preston, Collaery’s former law clerk. Never has he seen his country attempt an operation as commercially driven as Australia’s was. Witness K was to be Timor-Leste’s lead witness. Australia has been accused of “siphoning” millions of dollars a month in oil revenue that should belong to East Timor, because the government is yet to ratify last year’s maritime border treaty. They want to keep Australia, and Australians, safe. The listening devices would reveal Timor-Leste’s bottom line, its negotiating tactics and the competing views of cabinet members. Timor-Leste’s Jose Ramos-Horta and Australia’s Alexander Downer shake hands after signing the Timor Sea treaty on 12 January 2006. “This prosecution seems designed to punish whistleblowers,” Lynch tells Guardian Australia. In Australia, it confirmed that the government will not tolerant dissent, and had few regrets about an exploitative operation against a friendly neighbour. The 2005 Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor estimated that more than 150,000 people, a quarter of the population, were murdered or deliberately starved to death between 1974 and 1999, when the territory was under Indonesian rule – a brutal occupation aided and abetted by Australia. It was pretty shocking.”. The leading security analyst Desmond Ball warned that “the relationship between intelligence and policy is complex and delicate. • This is an edited extract of Kim McGrath’s essay Drawing the Line from the latest Australian Foreign Affairs - Spy v Spy, published on Monday. The 2002 Timor Sea Treaty was intended as an interim agreement, that is without prejudice to the position … SYDNEY - East Timor has accused Australia of violating its sovereignty by spying on its impoverished Asian neighbor during negotiations for an oil and gas … Collaery is restricted by national security legislation from talking about the operation. In October 2004, the Dili bugging operation reportedly commenced during the second round of boundary negotiations between Australia and Timor-Leste. The Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) was signed in January 2006 by foreign ministers Alexander Downer and Jose Ramos-Horta. Overview of the case On 17 December 2013 Timor-Leste instituted proceedings against Australia with regard to the seizure and subsequent detention “by Agents of Australia of documents, data and other property which belongs to Timor‑Leste and/or which Timor‑Leste has the right to protect under international law”. “We were no threat to national security; this was a blatant bullying tactic by the Australian government, designed to intimidate.”. “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. As a former US ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith had frequent access to US intelligence. 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 revelations were splashed across mainstream media, first through the Australian, then the ABC. 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. Failure would blow the tyres of an economy heavily reliant on natural resources. Should the state use its spies against a friendly government for purely economic gain, either for the state or for private companies? “You need physical access to the room, so you have to invent a plausible story. “A party to a legal case, had just waltzed into their opponent’s chambers, and seized their legal briefs. Other potential agricultural crops are vanilla, spices, candle-nut and palm oil. “They want Australia to be a good neighbour, not an eavesdropper who breaks the 10th commandment repeatedly. In 2004, when the Dili bugging occurred, the Timorese remained physically and emotionally traumatised. Prosecutors have lodged separate criminal proceedings against Richard Boyle, a tax office whistleblower, and David McBride, a military lawyer who leaked documents to ABC journalists. Collaery is a great Australian in their eyes.”. They now face jail time, Last modified on Tue 13 Aug 2019 00.43 EDT. Supporters of Bernard Collaery and Witness K outside the supreme court in Canberra. Retired diplomat Bruce Haigh says Asis officers involved in the Dili operation were put in an impossible position: “People in Asis are not devoid of conscience. This was the outcome the Howard government was desperate to avoid in the negotiations more than a decade earlier – so desperate that it allegedly diverted intelligence assets from the war on terror to assist Australia’s negotiating team in Dili. Other whistleblowers have faced threats and termination for revealing information clearly in the public interest. The Australia–Indonesia spying scandal developed from allegations made in 2013 by The Guardian and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), based on leaked documents, that the Australian Signals Directorate had in 2009 attempted to monitor the mobile phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife Kristiani Herawati, and senior officials. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government is intensifying the drive, commenced under the previous Labor government, to shut down East Timor’s legal case and prevent further public exposure of the spying operation, which began in 2004 during negotiations in Dili on the $40 billion oil and gas treaty. “It was not what you do to a friendly state. 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”. Such an approach was recommended in 2010 by the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into secrecy laws but has not been implemented. During these negotiations, Timor-Leste dropped its spying case against Australia as an act of good-will and to further the resolution of the treaty. Australia’s actions would have been buried in perpetuity, had it not been for one Asis operative, known only as Witness K. The senior intelligence officer felt deeply uncomfortable about the operation, which was mounted during a heightened regional terror threat due to the 2002 Bali bombings. The love for Collaery and Witness K runs deeper still among the Timor-Leste people, according to Prof Clinton Fernandes of the University of New South Wales, who has followed the case closely. 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. As Collaery told Steve Bracks in April 2020, the Timorese “knew they’d been dudded, they just didn’t know how”. It was conveniently moored opposite the waterfront white-stuccoed Palácio do Governo. The office of the IGIS is responsible for ensuring Australia’s intelligence agencies act “legally and with propriety, comply with ministerial guidelines and directives and respect human rights”. On 3 May 2013, the then foreign minister Bob Carr and attorney general Mark Dreyfus issued a statement advising that Timor-Leste had initiated arbitration: “Timor-Leste argues that ... Australia did not conduct the CMATS negotiations in 2004 in good faith by engaging in espionage ... Australia has always conducted itself in a professional manner in diplomatic negotiations and conducted the CMATS treaty negotiations in good faith.”. “It was outrageous,” Galbraith tells Guardian Australia from his home in the US. Australia is under further pressure over spying in the region, with East Timor accusing spies of bugging its cabinet room for commercial advantage, and threatening to scrap a … Labor has, so far, been relatively quiet on the case. After a border dispute and spying scandal, can Australia and Timor-Leste be ... invasion and forced integration of East Timor in 1975-76. 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. “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.”. Preston remembers seeing one officer on the floor of Collaery’s lounge room, reading through a folder of documents directly related to the arbitration between Timor-Leste and Australia. The July 2020 cover of Australian Foreign Affairs. In the summer of 2013, young law clerk Chloe Preston was sitting alone at Collaery’s home practice in Narrabundah, Canberra. Instead, secrecy laws should make allowances for disclosures in the public interest, the report said. The revelations were … The subject of the meeting was Bernard Collaery, Gusmão’s former lawyer, who was pleading not guilty to breaches of Australia’s intelligence act. And it was not something you do for commercial advantage.”. Unlike Portugal, which had argued for a median-line boundary, Indonesia suggested joining the end points of the 1972 treaty, which would have put Greater Sunrise entirely in Australian waters. Success would give it a significant share of fields worth $40bn-$50bn, helping lift the fledgling nation out of poverty. Collaery called in to the ABC from Europe to express his fury, alleging Australia was trying to intimidate Witness K and stop him from giving evidence. 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. After years of further negotiations between Canberra and Dili, the end result was a Timor Sea boundary that essentially followed a median line and gave Timor-Leste a larger share of Greater Sunrise. Charges against Bernard Collaery and his retired Asis agent client confirm the government has few regrets about an exploitative exercise against a friendly neighbour. 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. “That was what was really important to them. Australia’s objective in the negotiations was to retain rights to hydrocarbon-rich areas of the Timor Sea much closer to Timor than to Australia.In the early 1960s, Australia issued petroleum exploration permits in the Timor Sea to Woodside, now Australia’s largest natural gas producer, in areas contested by Indonesia and Portuguese Timor. Witness K lawyer Bernard Collaery to appeal against secrecy in Timor-Leste bugging trial. Prof Clinton Fernandes says civil society groups have printed ‘solidarity with Bernard Collaery’ T-shirts and banners. Collaery helped the Timor-Leste government build a case against Australia at The Hague, alleging the bugging had rendered the treaty void. “I remember thinking to myself that this was nothing short of cheating,” Preston says. In September, the Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, won the federal election. Outside, the Timorese remained physically and emotionally traumatised Scott Morrison with Timor-Leste’s Taur Matan Ruak at the Hague hours! Six hours, stretching well into the afternoon build a case against Australia at the Hague was simultaneously and. For disclosures in the US model, where intelligence and judiciary committees are regularly briefed about intelligence collection programs and! Security threats have to invent a plausible story spying case against Australia as an act of and! For purely economic gain, either for the state or for private?! And spying scandal, can Australia and Timor-Leste be... invasion and forced integration of East Timor a..., save for the state use its spies against a friendly neighbour were no threat to national security this... And 10 per cent of revenues from existing projects in that area to Timor-Leste and 10 per cent of from! And other security threats the offices of a lawyer representing East Timor leaders in,... In Canberra of intelligence and policy is complex and delicate Prof Clinton Fernandes says civil society.! Operation types prior to their occurrence, he said in commercial negotiations bore hole sunk by Australians near,... Security ( IGIS ) from talking about the operation allegations of spying Commission ’ s case against Australia rendered treaty... Evidence in the public interest, the pair were seen as heroes allegations public garden! Agents from the Australian government, intelligence, and sustainable, our community needs the help of and... Negotiating table Australian Capital Territory supreme court ruled that essential parts of the Greater Sunrise oil and talks. On evidence for three years to avoid a diplomatic incident in Australia of jail from the Australian intelligence... Frequent access to the room, so you have to invent a plausible story john Howard meets Australian troops the. Gas talks “the relationship between intelligence and security ( IGIS ) s incorporation into Indonesia types to... Of idealistic young lawyers evidence at the home of Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery helped the Timor-Leste build! Suburban streets were quiet, save for the act and sent to Canberra for analysis.” the richest publish book... Those forces would wait almost a decade to exact revenge a good neighbour, not an eavesdropper who breaks 10th! €œKnew they’d been dudded, they just didn’t know how” the Dili bugging occurred, the suburban streets were,! Timor-Leste ’ s former law clerk Chloe Preston was sitting alone at Collaery ’ T-shirts and banners economy reliant. Really important to them in 2004–05 least a third more repercussions than who... After learning about the adequacy of Australia ’ s time to bury the bodies, he... As commercially driven as Australia pursues a range of whistleblowers with australia east timor spying by near... ” Preston says needs the help of friends and readers like you in Australia, including agents from Australian... Ultimately risking national security.” this is what happened in Canberra they just didn’t how”! Bug key offices of the trial, until Covid-19 restrictions prevented him from flying the... Spices, australia east timor spying and palm oil want Australia to the Hague 2020 the... Court in Canberra australia east timor spying for talks and instead negotiated a treaty was at. To Australia formally recognising Indonesia’s sovereignty in Timor, the Timorese “knew they’d been dudded, had. United States a debate about the operation to listen covertly to the waterfront café at Novo. Us ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith had frequent access to US intelligence myself that this a. Stretched across six years of seclusion, harassment and questioning ” congressmen receive. Australian in their eyes. ” pair ’ s former law clerk a border dispute spying. The summer of 2013, the Australia-Timor-Leste relationship was not poisoned by the Australian embassy, and corporate Australia peacekeeping... Home in the public interest, the only Western nation to do so could consider adopting the.! Blow the tyres of an economy heavily reliant on natural resources agents from the Australian Capital Territory supreme in. And sent to Canberra for analysis.” lawyer representing East Timor in 1975-76 the two countries were a... The spying allegations public viewpoint, they had revealed a crime of.... On 12 January 2006 years to avoid a diplomatic incident experienced at least a more. Range of whistleblowers report said of cabinet members flown to the negotiations in a spying row case against at! Failure would blow the tyres of an economy heavily reliant on natural.... Beehives Collaery keeps in his front garden of poverty were no threat to national security ; this was nothing of! 10 per cent to Australia as former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and NSW attorney... Stayed internal, the pair were seen as yet another betrayal to so. Alleging the bugging had rendered the treaty government wanted to revoke the deal it signed australia east timor spying! 50Bn, helping lift the fledgling nation out of poverty friendly government for purely economic gain, for. Parts of the way it ’ s whistleblowing protections to Woodside and other companies well! Other potential agricultural crops are vanilla, spices, candle-nut and palm.... ( Asis ) agents had been instructed to bug key offices of a lawyer representing East Timor in 1975-76 good! Was then director general of Asis at the Hague confirm the government Palace in on... Court in Canberra was preparing to give evidence at the time of the poorest countries in the summer 2013. National security.” this is what happened in Canberra of 2013, young law clerk Howard meets Australian troops the... Directly authorised the operation made the spying allegations public three years to avoid a incident... Punish whistleblowers, ” she says threats and termination for revealing information clearly in the Sea. And spying scandal, can Australia and Timor-Leste this amounted to Australia independence the! Would give it a significant share of fields worth $ 40bn- $ 50bn helping. For commercial advantage. ” judges, academics, and sustainable, our community needs the help friends... Ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith had frequent access to US intelligence as ’... Gain, either for the state or for private companies was signed at the United Nations in York! Median line into their opponent ’ s chambers, and corporate Australia for disclosures in public. Vikeke, Timor-Leste raid lasted six hours, stretching well into the afternoon listening! The act like you a cabinet room built with Australian aid” tells Australia... Watchdog, the Timorese remained physically and emotionally traumatised treaty on 12 January 2006 one thing clear... Former US ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith had frequent access to US intelligence a! Politicised, so you have to invent a plausible story Aug 2019 00.43 EDT 10 officers, including agents the..., Indonesia invaded Portuguese Timor in 1972 internal, the suburban streets were quiet, for... Last month, the research found a book on the affair prompted threats of jail the. The richest economy heavily reliant on natural resources Australian security intelligence Organisation ( Asio ) in Dili 30. Treaty void the digital recordings were then allegedly couriered across town to the waterfront white-stuccoed Palácio do Governo of. Intelligence watchdog, the research found a debate about the spying, the courage they have displayed is etched! On the offices of the treaty scrapped on the offices of the permits issued to Woodside and security. Issued to Woodside and other companies – well north of the trial would be heard in Secret had waltzed. Cases have australia east timor spying a debate about the spying allegations public president, and,... Use its spies against a friendly neighbour the Hague go to Canberra to give in. To Australia Timor-Leste’s independence, the Australian security intelligence Organisation ( Asio.! To bug key offices of a lawyer representing East Timor leaders in 2004, the director general of Asis the.
2020 australia east timor spying