The hearing in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday, 30 September 2020 found the Attorney general’s lawyers claiming they should not have to provide certain documents, including briefings for the prime minister, because it is not in “the public interest”. Outside the court, demonstrators applauded speeches which recognised that such documents were very decidedly the right of the public to know about.
The influence of powerful business interests over governments in Australia is well-known. Lobbying provides full-time and lucrative employment for some, including ex-politicians e.g. Alexander Downer.
Tim Hollo, of the Green Institute, aptly referred to government “of the fossil fuel industry, by the fossil fuel industry, for the fossil fuel industry”.
Above, Ebony Bennett, Bernard Collaery and Richard Browning addressing the crowd.
Fr Richard Browning’s speech here as a pdf.
Click here for the speeches made on 30 September 2020
Here’s a clip of the crowd singing “Falsely, Australia” led by Susan Connelly. The words are included below.
Once a jolly Downer hatched a secret money plan,
So that Australia would rake in more dough:
It was government lying, spying on the Timorese,
Now it’s exploded, and everyone knows.
They won’t confirm it! They won’t deny it!
But we all know that they swindled the poor.
Now they’ve charged honest men, claiming “national security”,
Taking revenge in the guise of the law.
Once a jolly Woodside (fine “Australian” company)
Found friends to help in the rich Timor Sea;
From a bevy of recent escapees from Parliament
Woodside got info that brought it great glee.
Once the lying started many more were sucked right in,
(Some, though, were up to their necks from the start),
Whether Liberal or Labor, Canberra made a mess of it,
Who now will step in and end this mad farce?
Once the spying surfaced, Timor got a border,
But then our government scored an own goal,
Porter charged the wrong people, prosecuting patriots,
Secrecy hides politicians’ true roles.
Once or twice (or often, as we know ad tedium),
Governments cheat––and then cannot lie straight;
There’s a smell that surrounds what they did about the helium:
None for the people and all for their mates.
Once Australians see how we tried to con the Timorese
Most feel ashamed that we stooped down so low.
We demand that the government drop the prosecutions––
Parliament act! and stop selling our soul.
A report from Ian Cunliffe:
Government lawyers have invoked cabinet confidence in an attempt to stop Bernard Collaery and his team from viewing a briefing to the prime minister relevant to the Timor-Leste spying case.
Collaery, a barrister and former ACT attorney general, has been charged over his role in exposing details of a 2004 Australian intelligence operation to bug the Timor-Leste government during commercial negotiations to carve up oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.
It is alleged that Collaery, while representing intelligence whistleblower Witness K, illegally shared protected information about the operation.
Collaery faces jail time if found guilty. The case, still in its pre-trial stages, continues to wind its way through the ACT supreme court.
Protesters gathered outside the court on Wednesday in support of Collaery and Witness K. They were singing and brandishing placards praising the pair as whistleblowers and heroes.
Inside, an argument was heard over Collaery’s attempt to obtain five documents – all briefings to departmental secretaries and ministers – from the Australian government. Little detail was given in open court about the nature of the internal government briefings Collaery is seeking including when they were written.