Prosecutions 2018


In May/ June 2018 charges were laid against Witness K and Bernard Collaery of conspiring to breach section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act in 2012, concerning the Australian espionage against Timor-Leste in 2004. It was alleged that Witness K communicated intelligence secrets to Collaery, who then conveyed the information to some journalists.

A series of hearings in the ACT Magistrate’s Court and later in the ACT Supreme Court have been continually scheduled since charges were laid. The following list is the minimum. Some hearings may have missed being noted here.


  1. Scheduled Hearing  25 July 2018 – held
  2. Scheduled Hearing   12 September 2018 – held
  3. Scheduled Hearing   29 October 2018 – adjourned to 1 November
  4. Scheduled Hearing   1 November 2018 – adjourned to 7 November
  5. Scheduled Hearing   7 November 2018 – held

Media Coverage


Espionage against East Timor and the need for Parliamentary oversight
This article discusses allegations of espionage against the government of East Timor and analyses the weakness of legislative oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies. If suggests a means of rectifying this weakness.
Clinton Fernandes – Alternative Law Journal – 2017  PDF.

March 2018

The Timor-Leste-Australia Maritime Boundary Treaty
La’o Hamutuk – 21 March 2018

June 2018

Andrew Wilkie MP announces the prosecutions of “Witness K” and Bernard Collaery in Parliament
27 June 2018     You Tube Video 5 Minutes  
Read pdf here.

Top lawyers jump to the defence of former Australian spy Witness K
Nick O’Malley – Sydney Morning Herald – 29 June 2018

Lawyer and witness face charges under spy laws raising questions of openness and accountability
Clinton Fernandes – The Conversation – 29 June 2018

Collaery prosecution targets ABC but strangely misses News Corp
Bernard Keane – Crikey – 29 June, 2018
ABC journalists are mentioned regarding the charges, but not a NewsCorp journalist, who also interviewed Collaery. Why would that be?

July 2018

Federal prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer is a disgraceful act of revenge
David Dixon – Sydney Morning Herald – 1 July 2018
“Their real offence was not breaching secrecy, but embarrassing Australia and encouraging East Timor to push for the treaty on maritime boundaries which was signed earlier this year.”

Article includes: No doubt fearing that action against Witness K and Collaery would jeopardise the treaty, the Australian government waited until it was signed, then sought revenge. It did so just as the Parliament passed the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill, which includes “economic relations with another country” within its expansive definition of national security, further restricting public access to information.  Pdf here.

Media Watch Episode
Media Watch – ABC TV – 2 July 2018    Here’s a pdf.
“So it was a Watergate situation. They broke in and they bugged, in a total breach of sovereignty, the cabinet room, the ministerial offices of then prime minister (Mari) Alkitiri (sic) and his government. They placed clandestine listening devices in the ministerial conference room…” (The Australian, 29 May, 2013).

Dreyfus and Carr revealed bugging first — so why have K and Collaery been charged?
The involvement of the Labor Party somewhat explains its reluctance to stand up for the truth.
Bernard Keane – Crikey – 3 July, 2018

The dark politics of the Timor spy case
Mike Seccombe – The Saturday Paper – 7 July 2018

Kangaroos and Crocodies: The Timor Sea Treaty of 2018
David Dixon – 11 July 2018

Plot thickens in East Timor Espionage Scandal
John Menadue – Independent Australia – 12 July 2020

Australia urged to drop Witness K prosecution due to ‘chilling effect’ on democracy
Christopher Knaus – The Guardian – 24 July 2018
Spy and his lawyer should not be prosecuted for exposing ‘wrongful practices by the government’, advocates say.

The shaky case for prosecuting Witness K and his lawyer in the Timor-Leste spying scandal
John Braithwaite – The Conversation – 24 July 2018
Current focus on government hypocrisy has neglected the accountability of the director of public prosecutions, Sarah McNaughton.

August 2018

A spying scandal exposes Australia’s immoral behavior toward East Timor
Ramesh Thakur and Richard Butler  –The Washington Post – 11 August 2018
A brief history of the events, mentioning Andrew Wilkie and Malcolm Turnbull   Here is a pdf.

NSW Labor to oppose “inappropriate” prosecution of spy Witness K and his lawyer
Christopher Knaus – The Guardian – 14 August 2018

September 2018

Timor Sea Justice Forum Media Release – 10 September 2018

Witness K scandal: Case makes first appearance in court
Alexandra Back – Canberra Times – 12 September 2018

As politicians frolic, the Witness K scandal unfolds
Bernard Keane – Crikey – 13 September 2018
It is a denial of justice to make defendants wait over 12 months before even preliminary matters are decided.

As Witness K trial opens, questions over how much of Timor-Leste spying case to keep secret from public
Clinton Fernandes – The Conversation -13 September 2018

As Witness K trial opens, there are questions over secrecy
Clinton Fernandes – The Conversation -13 September 2018

Making Australian politics transparent – and how you can help
Christopher Knaus and Nick Evershed – The Guardian – 17 September 2018
Here are the nine best tools you can use to help us improve the accountability of your elected representatives   Pdf here. 

Labor has serious questions to answer about Witness K
Bernard Keane – Crikey -19 September 2018

Hansard – Senator Rex Patrick –  19 September 2018
Excellent summary of the spying and prosecutions to this date.  Pdf here.

Labor MP Julian Hill criticises Witness K prosecution
Katharine Murphy – The Guardian – 19 September 2018

Senator asks why prosecutors sat on Witness K evidence for three years
Christopher Knaus -The Guardian – 20 September 2018

October 2018

Witness K scandal part of a long history of pandering to resource companies
Bernard Keane –  Crikey – 5 October 2019
The Witness K scandal and attempts to cover it up show how there has been bipartisan agreement to let commercial interests dictate Australia’s foreign policy.

Government sat on Witness K evidence for three years despite advice
Steve Cannane – ABC News –  6 October 2018

The fight to keep the Witness K case secret
“The initial focus of the government’s case against Witness K and Bernard Collaery – resuming hearings this month – is on the fight to keep its potentially embarrassing proceedings confidential.”
Jonathan Pearlman – The Saturday Paper -13 October 2018   Here is a pdf.

Sharma Chameleon
Tips and Rumours – Crikey – 19 October 2018   Here’s a pdf.

Meet the Timor-Leste 12 who could benefit from the Witness K cover-up
Bernard Keane – Crikey – 28 October 2018   Here is a pdf.
Meet them:
Alexander Downer, John Howard, Julia Gillard, Bob Carr, Mark Dreyfus, David Irvine, Nick Warner, Woodside Petroleum, Sarah McNaughton, Christian Porter, George Brandis and Margaret Twomey.

November 2018

Witness K lawyers in fight to head off closed court hearing
Paul Karp – The Guardian – 7 November 2018
Lawyer Bernard Collaery and Witness K are being prosecuted for disclosing that Australia spied on East Timor-Leste.

Government goes all out to hide the trial of K and Collaery from public
Bernard Keane and Clinton Fernandes – Crikey – 8 November, 2018
The government is trying dirty tricks in its efforts to prevent the public from knowing about its persecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery.

The controversial law that will decide the future of the Witness K trial
Madeleine Miller – Crikey – 15 November 2018
The Witness K and Bernard Collaery case could well continue behind closed doors, prompting great concern over their right to a fair trial. But who gets to make the decision?

“Australia’s Watergate” set for trial over East Timor spying claims
Jamie Smyth – Financial Times – 1 November 2018
The trial of a former Australian spy could shed light on allegations that Canberra used its intelligence services to defraud its impoverished neighbour East Timor during talks over gas contracts worth up to $40bn.

December 2018

Witness K and Bernard Collaery have been named Person of the Year by
Crikey – 19 December 2018

Suppression orders and lawyers’ arrogance undermine democracy
Bernard Keane – Crikey – 13 December 2018
The resort to suppression orders by our courts undermines faith in the legal system and is used by the legal industry to avoid scrutiny.