While jailed Australian citizen and journalist, Julian Assange, waits for the new Labor government to act on his behalf with US extradition orders from the UK, another whistleblower and his lawyer face court behind closed doors on Australian soil.
After the federal government, under Liberal PM John Howard, allegedly bugged East Timor’s cabinet rooms during the 2004 bilateral negotiations over the Timor Sea gas and oil Treaty, intelligence officer, Witness K, blew the whistle on the secret operation. Yet since 2018, he and his lawyer, well respected ACT barrister, Bernard Collaery, have been persecuted in court, behind closed doors, by the Liberal-Nationals government.
The Echo asked recently re-elected local Labor MP Justine Elliot, ‘whether Labor is prepared to back whistleblowers and transparency now it is in government, and whether it will drop the persecution of Bernard Collaery and Witness K’.
Ms Elliot replied, ‘Before the federal election, Mark Dreyfus, as the Shadow Attorney General, consistently questioned elements of the Collaery prosecution. In opposition, Labor made a commitment that, if elected, we would seek urgent briefings on that matter’.
‘Mark Dreyfus as Attorney General in the Albanese Labor Government has now sought and received those briefings. This case was one of the first issues he raised in his new role, and he is currently considering that information’.
According to federal government transcripts (Hansard), Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, told parliament on June 28, 2018, that, ‘The perpetrator [of the bugging] was the Howard government, although the Rudd, Gillard and Abbott governments are co-conspirators, after the fact’.
Wilkie describes the bugging as ‘illegal and unscrupulous’, and it was done after Australia withdrew from the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Such bodies would have provided transparent negotiations with Timor-Leste for its oil and gas reserves.
Australian fossil fuel company, Woodside, benefited from the closed door deal.
Wilkie said at the time, ‘In effect, Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and by implication Australia, one of the richest countries in the world, forced East Timor, the poorest country in Asia, to sign a treaty which stopped them obtaining their fair share of the oil and gas revenues, and that’s simply unconscionable’.