“It was not what you do to a friendly state. “The challenge was, and remains, how to ensure the general law protects all persons who might need to justifiably breach confidentiality, by enabling any person to call on and argue a public interest defence in such circumstances – such as traditionally existed under common law principles,” Prof Brown’s report found. Fernandes, from UNSW, said the case speaks to another critical institutional failing: the inability for Australia’s parliament to scrutinise intelligence operations. 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. He eventually approached the intelligence watchdog, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS). and awarded 90 per cent of revenues from existing projects in that area to Timor-Leste and 10 per cent to Australia. In early 2008, Witness K approached the IGIS, Ian Carnell, alleging that a cultural change within Asis had led to his constructive dismissal. “Whatever happens from here, the courage they have displayed is already etched into Australian political history,” she says. Australia is accused of spying on East Timor leaders in 2004 when the two countries were negotiating a gas treaty. The raids were just the start. Woodside discovered the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields in 1974. “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.”. 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. 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. The case against Collaery and Witness K comes as Australia pursues a range of whistleblowers with vigour. 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. 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. “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.”. The July 2020 cover of Australian Foreign Affairs. “I can’t think of anything more crass than what has occurred,” he said. This week, Griffith University integrity expert Prof AJ Brown and his team published a major study examining the experiences of whistleblowers. The leading security analyst Desmond Ball warned that “the relationship between intelligence and policy is complex and delicate. But for all the questions, one thing remains clear for Preston, Collaery’s former law clerk. The Dili spying operation shamed Australia to the negotiating table. 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. The Asis operation remained secret. “I’d taken protective measures against Australian espionage, which I thought would be based on cell phones and internet, but I thought it was pretty crude to be bugging the prime minister’s offices. Australia secured a 50-50 split of the Greater Sunrise fields, positioned 450km north-west of Darwin and 150km south of Timor-Leste. Collaery’s charges related to an Australian Secret Intelligence Service operation in Dili in 2004, in which Canberra is believed to have recorded Timor-Leste officials’ private discussions about maritime boundary negotiations with Australia. 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. 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. In the first week of January 2019, a private jet landed at Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. Australia gave de jure recognition to East Timor’s incorporation into Indonesia. “That was what was really important to them. Australians accept the need for extreme secrecy around spying operations aimed at combating terrorism and other security threats. But does that social licence extend to using espionage for illegal, immoral or corrupt acts? The revelations were splashed across mainstream media, first through the Australian, then the ABC. 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 … A second raid was taking place at the home of Witness K, who was preparing to give evidence at The Hague. “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. In 2013–2014, Timor-Leste ranked as Australia's 118th largest goods trading partner, with total merchandise trade valued at $24 Million Australia and Timor-Leste had been on an international cooperation in agriculture with Timor-Leste's largest agriculture export is Coffee. 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. The digital recordings were then allegedly couriered across town to the Australian embassy, and sent to Canberra for analysis.”. 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. Timor-Leste’s government, with Galbraith as its chief negotiator, was desperate to get a fair deal from the bountiful underwater oil and gas reserves that lay between it and Australia, a trusted ally and regional powerhouse. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP, Witness K and the 'outrageous' spy scandal that failed to shame Australia. In Timor-Leste, it was seen as yet another betrayal. The agreed boundary skirted the edges of the permits issued to Woodside and other companies – well north of the median line.