The Timor-Leste spying case is a taste of our future under Asio’s new powers

The overblown security concoction being cooked up by George Brandis and our security elite is more about protecting the spy establishment than the nation
Richard Ackland, Wednesday 10 September 2014×276.jpeg

‘Interested citizens are scratching their heads and wondering: kept safe from what?’ Asio boss David Irvine. Photograph: AAP

Already we have a taste of what lies in wait once the new bundle of Asio laws are passed.
Legislation, to be introduced shortly, provides for two new offences relating to unauthorised disclosure of information about “special intelligence operations” – up to five years and then up to 10 years for aggravated offences. Currently the tariff for unauthorised communication of information is two years.
There’s to be no mucking around when it comes to preserving state secrets, including ones that are not particularly worthy of the word “secret”. The penalties will apply even in cases of public interest disclosures about misconduct by security agencies where no risk to national security is involved.
That’s what makes the Timor-Leste spying case so apposite. Of course, it was a bugging and spying operation conducted by Asis, not Asio – though things have become a little blurred. The then head of Asis, David Irvine, who got authorisation for the bugging of the Timor-Leste ministerial office, is now the head of Asio, and ordered the raids on parties engaged in the complaint about the eavesdropping mission.
As a result of the espionage the Timorese are now before the permanent court of arbitration at the Hague, trying to unstitch the treaty with Australia over the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.
Timor-Leste lawyer Bernard Collaery and a former Asis officer, known as Witness K, both had their homes and offices raided by Asio early last December. An overblown task force of 15 Asio and AFP officers took to Collaery’s office seizing files, a computer and an important USB stick, just days before a preliminary hearing at the permanent court.
Witness K was extensively interviewed, had documents relating to the case seized and his passport confiscated. Witness K was one of the Asis officers instructed by Irvine to wire-for-sound the office used by Timor-Leste officials during the negotiations over the gas reserves.
Not only is Collaery acting for Timor-Leste, but he also acted for Witness K in another capacity. Three of the operatives engaged in the offshore bugging operation, including Witness K, were subsequently removed from their jobs at ASIS, with the explanation that management was looking for “generational change”.
The Asis officer was given permission to talk to the lawyer about his employment concerns. Collaery was an “approved lawyer” acting for Asio and Asis officers in their disputes with their respective agencies.
In a letter dated 2 April 2008, the then-inspector general of intelligence and security, Ian Carnell, noted there had been consultations and that Collaery would keep a watching brief on an internal inquiry into Witness K’s employment concerns.
In a ministerial statement on 4 December, Brandis told the senate that the raids on Collaery and Witness K were nothing to do with the pending hearings in the Hague, were not a contempt of court or an interference in lawyer-client privilege.
It was simply a matter of keeping Australia safe, leaving interested citizens scratching their heads and wondering: from what?
However, the attorney general did attack Collaery, saying that because he is a lawyer, “that fact alone does not excuse him from the ordinary law of the land. In particular, no lawyer can involve the principles of lawyer-client privilege to excuse participation, whether as principal or accessory, in offences against the Commonwealth”.
The suggestion seemed to be that Collaery shouldn’t have talked to Witness K about Asis and the espionage in Timor-Leste, the very issues that were related to to the move to shaft him from his employment.
Yet, these were the very matters that the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) had cleared for discussion. A carefully worded denial from IGIS says there were no complaints made “about alleged Australian government activities in East Timor”.
Now Irvine has taken it one step further and got approval from Brandis for the AFP to investigate the possibility of prosecutions of Collaery and Witness K over alleged “unauthorised communication of information”.
There is a strong case that by spying on the ministers and negotiators of Timor-Leste, the Australian government may be in breach of international law.
Both countries are parties to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and article 49 says that if a country is induced to agree to a treaty by the fraudulent conduct of another party, then it may invoke fraud to invalidate its consent. Fraud extends to deceitful behaviour. Spying to obtain secret information is deceitful.
The testing point will be for Timor-Leste to show that that it was induced to enter the Cmats treaty as a result of that deceit. To this end the evidence of Witness K would have been crucial – yet he is without a passport and unlikely to be unable to attend the PCA.
So, we have the police and the security people seeking to establish a case that Collaery and Witness K broke the secrecy provisions of the security law in allegedly communicating about a government spying operation that itself was illegal.
In March the international court of justice ordered Australia to stop any spying operations against Timor-Leste and to seal the documents and data seized in the December Asio raids – all of which came as an embarrassment to Brandis and his swaggering assertions about the raid and our security.
Fifteen of the 16 judges on the ICJ panel concurred with the findings and orders. The only exception was Ian Callinan, the former “capital-C” Conservative judge appointed to the high court by the Howard government.
This overblown concoction by Brandis and the security wallahs has all the hallmarks of being more about the protection of Asis and Asio than anything directly bearing on the safety of the nation. No wonder there is no exemption for public interest disclosures in Brandis’ new Bill.
Why the legal profession should be so quiet about the Commonwealth meddling with the functions of an independent lawyer in court proceedings is a mystery.
One consolation: Brandis doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to his urging the authorities to take legal action against people he regards as enemies of the state.
For some time Brandis was at the forefront of a campaign to get the Commonwealth DPP to bring proceeds of crime proceedings against David Hicks, over the publication of his book Guantanamo: My Journey.
On July 23, 2012 the DPP made a decision to discontinue the proceedings. Apparently, until that point Brandis and the DPP had forgotten about section 84 of the Evidence Act, and the common law, both of which say that an admission of guilt in relation to a crime cannot be put to a court if it was procured by “violent, oppressive, inhumane or degrading conduct”.


Final Flyer 01.pdf
A fund raiser for two vitally outstanding projects:

Rise up San Vicente
– rebuilding the future for the children of Leyte-Philippines devastated by Typhoon Yolanda 2013.

Towards A Brighter Future – Children of Timor Leste
– supporting projects for children in Timor Leste with a focus on education and health.

Day: Friday
Date: 27th June 2014
Time: 7:00 pm

Venue: Cypriot Community Centre
6 Barrpowell St, Welland

BYO or Delicious Greek BBQ and drinks available at the bar
Tickets $15 per person – support 2 worthy causes
100% of money raised goes directly to the projects

For further information contact
Ana 0409 682 715, Julie 0403 110 308 or Angela 0419 839 780
Supported by: Cypriot Community
Portuguese Radio
Filipino Radio

West Papua Film and Cultural Night 14 June 2014

Showing a film made from footage taken during the journey by land and boat from Lake Eyre to West Papua.
AWPA SA has arranged for a community bus with Melbourne based West Papuan activists to come and show this film; Talk about the impact of this successful and inventive public mass action that had Indonesia asking Australia to stop the boats and mobilizing its Navy and Army to stop them arriving. This action galvanized massive rallies to be held in West Papua in support.
Speakers will talk about more recent events and future campaigns.
Arabunna aboriginal elder, Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, who accompanied the West Papuans the entire way, will be present with Jacob Rumbiak, West Papua Foreign Affairs spokesperson. West Papuan performers from TABURA who have performed at Womadelaide and other international festivals will provide a cultural performance of singing and dancing.

Saturday 14th June from 7pm
Bowden Brompton Community Centre 19 Green St, Brompton

Entry $15/10 to cover cost of bus travel and raise funds for West Papuan Human Rights Campaigns
Please bring a plate for supper and let us know you are coming for seating arrangements.
Email or phone Dave on 83454480

AETFA promotes a lecture on Timor Leste



Environment Matters!
A Research Colloquium and Workshop Series
School of the Environment

Merve Hosgelen (Flinders University):

Population Growth, Forests and Sustainable Livelihoods in Timor-Leste:
The role of traditional governance systems in a fragile state context

All welcome.

Wednesday, 21st May 2014 at 4:00 – 5:15 pm

Teletheatre, Information Science and Technology (IST) Building 47, off
Physical Sciences Road, Car park 15 – parking fees apply
(See campus map) Continue reading

West Papua: My people need Australia’s help before it is too late

Benny Wenda, Monday 28 April 2014

Tony Abbott said that West Papuan activists were not welcome in Australia. With our first office opening in Perth, I hope Australians will disagree

This Anzac Day weekend, we opened the first ever Free West Papua campaign office in Australia.

For more than 50 years, my people have suffered what I considered to be a slow-moving genocide under the repressive military occupation of Indonesia. During the second world war, the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” of West Papua came to the aid of Australian soldiers. Now it is the West Papuans that need Australia’s help in order to end human rights abuses so that my people can be free to live in peace.

Indonesia’s response to West Papua advocacy abroad has been frighteningly vehement. After the opening of our UK office in 2013, Indonesia made a diplomatic complaint to the British government. Foreign minister Natelegawa said he could not understand why the British government was “unwilling to take steps against the Free West Papua office”, and the president even tweeted about it. The British ambassador in Jakarta was summoned and had to remind Indonesia of the protections enjoyed in democracies, pointing out that no steps would be taken against our office, since it “does not require [government] permission to open”.

Bob Carr revealed in his recent memoir that he had discussed the prospect of us opening an Australian office with Indonesia’s foreign minister at that time, and was told that Indonesia would “prefer [Australia] not to allow an office to open”. During his state visit to Indonesia last year, prime minister Abbott said last year that West Papuan activists were not welcome in Australia, and that Australia would not tolerate West Papuans’ demonstrations against Indonesian control. Continue reading

ASIS Witness to appear for Timor Leste at the Hague

ASIS witness to appear in East Timor legal battle
David Wroe and Tom Allard April 21, 2014
An international panel of jurists has ordered Australia to make available East Timor’s star witness – a former Australian spy – in a high-stakes legal battle between the two countries over $40 billion of disputed oil and gas reserves.
In a major blow to Australia, the panel of jurists has cleared the way for the former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer to testify that he helped bug East Timor’s cabinet room during negotiations over the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields.
East Timor is trying to have the agreement, which was struck in 2006 with Australia over the reserves in the Timor Sea, overturned on the grounds Canberra did not negotiate in good faith.
Australia tried to block the officer from testifying, on the grounds he would be breaching Australian national security laws. His passport has been cancelled and his house was raided in December by security agency ASIO.
ASIO also raided the home of East Timor’s Australian lawyer Bernard Collaery and seized more than a dozen documents including a statement the ASIS officer had given alleging the spying activities. Continue reading

12th anniversary of Australia’s withdrawal from the International Court of Justice on maritime boundary matters

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tomorrow (March 21) marks the 12th anniversary of when Australia quietly withdrew Australia’s recognition of the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

It did this just two months before East Timor became independent and the Timor Sea Justice Campaign’s Tom Clarke said it was no coincidence.

“To put it bluntly, Australia gave the independent umpire the finger. It was a very clear signal that Australia had no intention of playing by the rules when it came to negotiating with East Timor over lucrative oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea,” said Mr Clarke.

By turning its back on the independent umpire, Australia left East Timor with no legal avenue in which to challenge Australia’s refusal to establish permanent maritime boundaries or Australia’s unilateral depletion of the contested oil fields of Laminaria Corallina. Continue reading


Stop Spying On Timor, Court Tells Australia by Tom Clarke
Published on ( 5 March 2014

In a world first, the International Court of Justice has ordered Australia to stop spying on East Timor, writes the Timor Sea Justice Campaign’s Tom Clarke (Ed. See their website at
Yesterday, the ICJ delivered a provisional decision in a case that East Timor brought against Australia, following dramatic ASIO raids that occurred late last year on the Canberra offices of Timor’s lawyers. The lawyers had been preparing for a significant legal proceeding challenging an oil and gas treaty when ASIO seized the legal team’s documents and the passport of a key witness.
Concerned that this would give Australia an unfair advantage in the case, East Timor launched an injunction-like legal action to have the documents handed back or given to the ICJ for safe keeping.
The ICJ has accepted assurances from Australia’s Attorney-General, George Brandis, that he has made undertakings to ensure no one will read the seized files until the court has made a final decision on the legality of the raids and whether the documents will need to be returned.
However, the ICJ also delivered a clear, binding legal order for Australia not to use national security as an alibi for conducting commercial espionage and insisted that Australia cease inferring with East Timor’s communications with its lawyers. Continue reading


AETFA SA comments on Julie Bishop’s statement on Timor-Leste’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague on 22.1.2014

On 22 January 2014, Al Jazeera posted a story, Australia blasts Snowden over ‘treachery’. In the article, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accused Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who leaked information about Australia spying on Timor-Leste during the Timor Sea oil and gas negotiations, of “unprecedented treachery”.
 The full statement can be read at the following website: 

AETFA’s comment is as follows:

Julie Bishop’s over-the-top statement shows just how hypocritical and hysterical she and the members of the government she is part of really are.  If there is any betrayal in this matter, it is overwhelmingly on the part of successive Australian governments who have displayed incredible levels of treachery towards the people of East Timor.

A brief history of the relations between the 2 countries show just where the treachery lies.
During World War 2, Australian invaded then Portuguese East Timor, which made it a target for the Japanese military. Despite this, most Timorese, at great risk to themselves, assisted the Australian commandos who were there.  About 70,000 East Timorese out of a population of 500,000 died during WW2. It is estimated that, as a result of the support given to Australian soldiers by the East Timorese, forty thousand were murdered by the Imperial Japanese Army firing squads because of this courageous support.
One would have thought that this sacrifice would have meant that Australian governments would have shown great appreciation to the people of East Timor. Tragically, this was not the case.

During 1974 and 1975 during the lead up to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, both major parties in Australia colluded with Indonesia despite the fact that the Indonesian military murdered 5 Australian-based media workers and scores of Timorese. No thought was given to the human rights and the freedom of the East Timorese people, who had not only suffered under Japanese brutality, but also had to endure 450 years of Portuguese colonialism – the last 50 years of which was under a very harsh fascist dictatorship. Nor was there any hint of gratitude for the sacrifice made by the Timorese people for Australia in the WW2 struggle against fascism.

During the 24 years of Indonesian military (TNI) illegal occupation, Australian governments aided and abetted the Indonesian dictatorship by arming and training the TN and acting as an apologist internationally for the excesses of the Indonesian leadership. Throughout this time, East Timor lost about a third of its population, many massacres occurred and gross and sickening violations  of human rights (rape, torture, intimidation etc). Instead of speaking out, Australian governments tried to hush up what was happening and colluded with the immoral aspirations of both the Indonesian dictatorship and US policy dictates in the region.

During this time, Australia negotiated with the Indonesian dictatorship to share the resources of the Timor Sea. Of course, Indonesia had no legal right to these resources as it was the aggressor nation. Australia was able to get a better deal because there was little international support for Indonesia’s invasion and occupation. Further, It should be noted that it is against international law for a country to seek to take the resources of another nation that has been illegally occupied.
With the Asian economic meltdown in 1998, the Indonesian economy, toppled like a pack of cards because of the huge levels of corruption. The mass-murdering Suharto was forced out and there was a window of opportunity for the East Timorese people to get their freedom.

The UN organised an independence referendum and the only security put in place for this to occur was to allow unarmed UN police personnel into the country while the mass-murdering TNI was still there. This was mostly thanks to the then Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer. Not only was the TNI was still there, it was organising and arming huge numbers of militias who were harassing and murdering people suspected of wanting independence. Most observers could see there would be huge problems – except the Howard Government. Howard and Downer advised the Timorese to vote to stay with Indonesia!!!

 Why would they. When the Timorese rejected the advice of John Howard and overwhelmingly voted for independence, the TNI and its militias went beserk. It is believed that they murdered up to 2,000 more Timorese and destroyed 80% of the country’s infrastructure.

It was then decided that the UN should send in a peace-keeping force and that Australia would play a highly significant role in this action. Australian politicians became “reluctant saviours”, but the Australian soldiers did an excellent job in forcing out the TNI and dealing with its militias.

Then, when Australia and an independent East Timor decided to sit down and discuss the dividing of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea, the Howard Government withdrew from the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, which meant that all the resources north of the median line between then 2 countries would belong to the newly independent Timor-Leste and all those to the south would belong to Australia. The reason for the withdrawal from the Convention, by Australia was, according to many observers, due to the fact  that more of the resources were in T-L’s half of the Timor Sea.
It was during these negotiations that Australia decided to spy on Timor-Leste to get more of its oil and gas revenues. Timor-Leste is the poorest country in the region and one of the poorest in the world. It needs all the funds it can get  to rebuild the country and give humanitarian support to its people who have suffered 24 years of a Nazi style occupation. But Australia, the richest country in the region decided to cheat Timor-Leste, the poorest!

A person who played a very key role in Australia’s actions was Alexander Downer. Since his retirement from the Australian Parliament, he has been working for Bespoke, a lobbying group that represents the interests of one of the oil companies that has a big interest in the oil and gas in the Timor Sea. This is the main reason why an Australian intelligence officer decided to resign and become a whistle blower. As one of the Australian lawyers representing Timor-Leste stated, this is equivalent to insider trading.

AETFA SA, like most fair-minded  Australians, are appalled and ashamed at the way Australian governments have treated the people of Timor-Leste and are grateful to Edward Snowden for having the courage to expose this treachery.

Then, when Timor-Leste rightly decided that they had a very bad deal and appealed it in the International Court of Justice, Australia’s Attorney General, George Brandis, ordered the Australian Security and Intelligence Agency (ASIO) to raid the offices of one of Timor’s lawyers and confiscate relevant documents and to arrest a key witness, a former Australian intelligence officer, and confiscate his passport. This can only be described as an attempt to pervert the course of justice!

Despite Julie Bishop’s outburst about treachery on this issue, there are large numbers of Australians who are grateful to Edward Snowden for exposing the dirty tricks carried out by Australian leaders against the people of Timor-Leste. They are ashamed at the long history of shabby behaviour towards Timor-Leste and they wish it success  in its appeal at the International Court of Justice.
Andrew (Andy) Alcock
Information Officer
Australia East Timor Friendship Association (SA) Inc
Phone: 61 8 83710480
              0457 827 014
Email: andyalcock@internode.on