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. He eventually approached the intelligence watchdog, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS). David Irvine, the director general of Asis at the time of the Dili maritime boundary negotiations, was then director general of Asio. In 2004, when the Dili bugging occurred, the Timorese remained physically and emotionally traumatised. 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 cases have opened a debate about the adequacy of Australia’s whistleblowing protections. They now face jail time, Last modified on Tue 13 Aug 2019 00.43 EDT. 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. When the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste came into existence on 20 May 2002, the Howard government considered the possibility of Timor-Leste gaining sovereignty to the median line in the Timor Sea such a threat “to Australia’s national security, foreign relations or economic well-being” that it was apparently necessary to direct Asis (and possibly other intelligence agencies) to support Australia’s negotiating team on the maritime boundary. Witness K and Collaery now face jail time for helping correct what they saw as a gross injustice. Peter Galbraith was chief negotiator for Timor-Leste’s government in the oil and gas talks. • 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. Patrick, the crossbench senator, used parliamentary privilege earlier this year to highlight Downer and Woodside’s role in the Timor Sea negotiations. Success would give it a significant share of fields worth $40bn-$50bn, helping lift the fledgling nation out of poverty. A crime against one of the poorest countries in the world, by one of the richest. In 2013, the Australian government revealed the allegations of spying. But for all the questions, one thing remains clear for Preston, Collaery’s former law clerk. 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. 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 … This week, Griffith University integrity expert Prof AJ Brown and his team published a major study examining the experiences of whistleblowers. The most shocking development came midway through last year. “That was what was really important to them. 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”. 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. The raid lasted six hours, stretching well into the afternoon. 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. It was 2004 and, in the Dili heat, the distinguished US diplomat sat opposite Australian officials, bartering over a nation’s future. 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… 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. The listening devices would reveal Timor-Leste’s bottom line, its negotiating tactics and the competing views of cabinet members. “I remember thinking to myself that this was nothing short of cheating,” Preston says. Those who blew the whistle externally experienced at least a third more repercussions than whistleblowers who stayed internal, the research found. “This prosecution seems designed to punish whistleblowers,” Lynch tells Guardian Australia. 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”. Last month, the Australian Capital Territory supreme court ruled that essential parts of the trial would be heard in secret. The revelations were … Collaery says Witness K was put through “six years of seclusion, harassment and questioning”. According to a statement Collaery made to federal parliament, part of the complaint involved an operation Witness K “had been ordered to execute in Dili, Timor-Leste”. It has fallen on individuals such as former Victorian premier Steve Bracks and NSW shadow attorney general Paul Lynch to take up the cause. “Furthermore, all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees and their key staffers are regularly provided with extended footage of completed operations involving, for example, drone strikes. In Australia, it confirmed that the government will not tolerant dissent, and had few regrets about an exploitative operation against a friendly neighbour. The officers rifled through Collaery’s documents. 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 digital recordings were then allegedly couriered across town to the Australian embassy, and sent to Canberra for analysis.”. “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. A treaty was signed at the United Nations in New York in March 2018. Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery helped correct what they saw as a gross injustice. Three months after the treaty was signed, independent MP Andrew Wilkie revealed the Australian government had approved the prosecution of Witness K and Collaery. “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. 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. Should the state use its spies against a friendly government for purely economic gain, either for the state or for private companies? He said Australia could consider adopting the US model, where intelligence and judiciary committees are regularly briefed about intelligence collection programs. It was pretty shocking.”. 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. It was conveniently moored opposite the waterfront white-stuccoed Palácio do Governo. East Timor is battling Australia in The Hague over Australia's alleged spying and violation of East Timor's sovereignty in a dispute over an oil and gas treaty between the two. Unbeknownst to Galbraith, Australian Secret Intelligence Service (Asis) agents had been instructed to bug key offices of the Timor-Leste government. This amounted to Australia formally recognising Indonesia’s sovereignty in Timor, the only Western nation to do so. “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. “I didn’t see it as a national security issue then and I don’t now,” Preston tells Guardian Australia. She is a researcher and author of Crossing the Line: Australia’s Secret History in the Timor Sea. They want to keep Australia, and Australians, safe. In Timor-Leste, it was seen as yet another betrayal. Unfortunately for Collaery and Witness K, and the 7,000 staff currently working in Australia’s intelligence agencies, it also shows that opportunities for an operative to challenge a direction to perform an immoral or illegal act are limited and likely to be career-ending. A provisional agreement, the Timor Sea Treaty, signed when East Timor became independent on 20 May 2002 defined a Joint Petroleum Development Area – J.P.D.A. 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. In the summer of 2013, young law clerk Chloe Preston was sitting alone at Collaery’s home practice in Narrabundah, Canberra. 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