Prosecution Dropped

Bernard Collaery’s Prosecution Dropped by Federal Government

The reality of life in Timor-Leste in the 2020’s is that of an emerging but still impoverished nation. How much worse was the situation twenty years before, when the Timor Sea resources were being negotiated, and when the Australian government was spying on the Timorese leaders for financial gain for Australia and its resource companies.
Klas Lundström’s article War and hunger in Timor-Leste begins:

Timor-Leste was born in the wake of colonialism, war and hunger, with the multi-generational effects of nearly 25 years of Indonesian occupation still visible. Malnutrition and stunting remain widespread as the country’s youth attempt to scratch out a future amidst trauma that lingers in the very soil.

On 7 July 2022 the Attorney-General the Hon. Mark Dreyfus QC MP, discontinued the prosecution of Mr Bernard Collaery under section 71 of the Judiciary Act 1903.


Press conference on Bernard Collaery – Transcript

Gilbert + Tobin Welcomes End to Collaery Proceedings

Crikey’s Bernard Keane wrote “Australia’s intervention in East Timor saw serious misconduct by soldiers and bureaucrats in Australia’s Timor-Leste intervention has a dark history – one perpetrators want to hide. And Keane expands on where the guilt lies.

The Sydney Morning Herald had Bernard Collaery’s leaking charges over East Timor operation dropped on Mark Dreyfus’ orders. ABC News presented ACT Supreme Court formally ends prosecution of Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery. Christopher Knaus in The Guardian wrote Witness K and Bernard Collaery are heroes’: how Australia made two men pay for its dirty secrets.

La’o Hamutuk (Walking Together) has been a comprehensive and dependable commentator on Timor Sea matters, as well as many other issues. La’o Hamutuk Press Release  12 July 2022

Jerome Doraisamy – Lawyers Weekly wrote in G+T’s reflections on representing Bernard Collaery “Following the dropping of charges against former ACT attorney-general Bernard Collaery, Lawyers Weekly spoke with Big Law firm Gilbert + Tobin about its representation of Mr Collaery and why such work is so important”. Amy Fallon in The Saturday Paper interviewed Susan Connelly: Bernard Collaery’s divine intervener.

David Lovejoy wrote Vindictive and bad faith prosecutions? in The Echo on 22 July 2022 “As Bernard Collaery’s friends and supporters celebrate the dropping of the prosecution against him, it is still relevant to as why were Witness K and is lawyer Collaery put on trial in the first place?” And Paul Gregoire wrote in Sydney Criminal Lawyers Collaery Prosecution Dropped, But Politicians Remain Unaccountable for Bugging Timor Cabinet”.

Despite all the hoo-haa about the dropping of the prosecutions against Bernard Collaery in July 2022, the government persisted in keeping key parts of the case secret. (Scroll down for item.)

In October 2022 the President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, conscious of the world’s climate problem but also conscious of his nation’s dire need, said that for a fraction of the price of Australia’s fighter jet budget, he’d be happy to leave Timor’s gas and oil in the ground.

Crikey reported in November 2022 that “The Coalition is obsessed with Bernard Collaery and is now using Parliament to make false allegations against him. Shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser yesterday used parliamentary privilege to make an extraordinary and false attack on Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ decision to end the prosecution of Bernard Collaery, alleging it may have been because ‘Collaery was an attorney-general in the ACT Labor government’.”

Hamish McDonald continued his superb commentary on Timor-Leste’s history and woes when writing of the key unresolved questions in the wake of Labor’s dropping of Collaery’s prosecutions. The article is entitled Timor Gaps.

The year 2023 began with welcome news of some opposition to the secrecy that has characterised the spying on Timor-Leste, e.g. as The Guardian reported:

Labor flags law reforms to stop cases involving national security being cloaked in secrecy”. The positivity didn’t last long as it depends on legislation.

Hugh Selby made a fine plea for the government to extend mercy to a man who has not deserved the treated he has endured – Witness K. The enormous amount of tax-payers’ money that had been spent on prosecuting Bernard Collaery was presented in a timeline by Charlie Lewis in Crikey in February 2023. ABC News also reported on the amounts spent on prosecutions of truth-tellers: “The Commonwealth has racked up more than $7.6 million in legal fees pursuing whistleblowers, with the bulk of that bill relating to a now-dumped prosecution.” 

Again, the government indicated that it would take action on secret trials. Paul Gregoire – Sydney Criminal Lawyers write of the Albanese government’s response to the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM)’s report. However, a secret hearing was held to keep cabinet documents from the Howard era from being released. The documents detail the “tactics for defrauding impoverished Timor-Leste of their oil and gas revenue” as reported by Michael West Media.

In March 2023 the government appointed NSW Court of Appeal Justice Paul Brereton  to head the new National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC)