Friday, January 22, 2021

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

Home Issue 45 Spying on Timor: Government, not whistleblowers should be on trial

Spying on Timor: Government, not whistleblowers should be on trial

By ERWIN CHLANDA

A local group joined in with national protests against the prosecution starting in Canberra of a whistleblower and his lawyer who exposed the Australian Government allegedly spying on the East Timorese Government offices during oil and gas negotiations in 2004, under the guise of implementing an Australian aid program.

Kim McGrath, in the July edition of Foreign Affairs, writes Xanana Gusmão, East Timorese independence leader and its first president would, if necessary, give evidence at the trail against Bernard Collaery and Witness K.

“He saw them as ‘honourable men’ who should have been lauded for their actions,” writes Ms McGrath, “a crime against one of the poorest countries in the world, by one of the richest.

“From his viewpoint, they had revealed a crime,” secreting listening devices in the Palácio do Governo built with Australian foreign aid.

One of the Alice Springs protesters, Jonathan Pilbrow, says they are “greatly concerned that a whistle-blower and his lawyer are the ones who are on trial for exposing Federal Government wrongdoing.

“The reality is that the courageous and conscientious actions of Witness K and Mr Collaery led to a fairer sharing of the resources of the Timor Sea.

“These men acted in good faith when our government failed to do so. They bravely stood up to government wrongdoing.

“The Australian government commenced prosecutions against them in May 2018, without explanation.

“We are therefore calling for the prosecutions against the two men to be dropped.”

Photo at top: Standing at the back are Fred Richardson, Jonathan Pilbrow, Nadine Williams, Blair McFarland and Bob Durnan. Crouched at the front: David Sprigg and Harshini Bartlett.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve just read Bernard Collaery’s book “Oil under Troubled Water”.
    It is a difficult book to read, written in legalese, including Latin judicial maxims unknown to the lay person, but the message is clear.
    Successive Australian Governments of both sides systematically defrauded the Timorese people.
    Witness K should be a national hero.
    The secret trial is an abomination, and has nothing to do with national security, but all to do with covering up government criminality.
    The worst occurred during Alexander Downer’s time as Foreign Minister (with his then offsider Josh Frydenberg).
    They not only defrauded the Timorise, but sold out Australia’s interests to an international oil and gas consortium lead by Woodside, where Downer went to a lucrative sinecure immediately on leaving Parliament.
    The ALP’s Gary Gray also had a job with Woodside for seven years before entering Parliament.

  2. I suppose in a sense the East Timorese got off lightly, considering Australia under the Howard Government was an enthusiastic member of the “Coalition of the Willing” in the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 under the entirely false premise of weapons of mass destruction in that country.
    It was blatantly obvious to me at the time that the war in Iraq was unjustified and illegal, and I was amongst the many that added my voice in protest to this appalling grab for the oil resources of that hapless country.
    When one takes this complete lack of principle into account, it hardly comes as a surprise to learn the same Federal Government was actively engaged in espionage to gain advantage for potential hydrocarbon resources at the expense of our impoverished near neighbour to the north.
    It’s interesting to compare the behaviour of our national government to that of ordinary citizens in 2004.
    On September 6 that year there was an interview on ABC radio of the NT Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries, Kon Vatskalis, about labour shortages in the Top End’s mango industry.
    That same day there was a report on ABC radio about conditions in East Timor.
    At least two individuals hit upon the same idea in response to those stories – what about hiring East Timorese labourers to make up the shortage of fruit-pickers for the Top End’s mango industry?
    The two individuals were Ilana Eldridge of the NT Greens in Darwin, and myself – on September 7, 2004.
    Ms Eldridge issued a press release of her idea, while I posted off a letter of my suggestion.
    A decade later CLP Chief Minister Adam Giles travelled to East Timor to present certificates to the first 20 East Timorese labourers about to travel to the Katherine region to commence harvesting mangoes on a trial basis.
    The trial worked brilliantly and East Timorese fruit-pickers have been a mainstay of the Top End’s mango industry until prevented from coming here this year, courtesy of COVID-19.
    What a contrast between our national governments and ordinary citizens of good will!
    The secret trial underway of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery for revealing the shameful underhandedness of our national government is a travesty, and in complete contradiction of the notion of good government.

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