The government’s handpicked Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Sarah McNaughton (of the trade union royal commission fame), might have to cast her net a little wider in her prosecution of Bernard Collaery and Witness K over revelations that ASIS illegally bugged the Time-Leste cabinet.
Not merely does her prosecution inexplicably — and very conveniently for the government — omit Bernard Collaery’s discussions with News Corp journalist Leo Shanahan and focus exclusively on his interactions with ABC journalists and producers, it seems to ignore that the entire story about our spying on Timor-Leste was revealed even earlier than the Australian story by Bob Carr and Mark Dreyfus on May 3, 2013. In a media release they said:
Timor-Leste notified Australia on April 23 that it has initiated arbitration under the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty of a dispute related to the 2006 Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS). The arbitration relates to the validity of the CMATS treaty. Timor-Leste argues that CMATS is invalid because it alleges Australia did not conduct the CMATS negotiations in 2004 in good faith by engaging in espionage. These allegations are not new and it has been the position of successive Australian Governments not to confirm or deny such allegations.
“The allegations are not new”. So, according to the then-foreign minister and the then-attorney-general, someone was claiming — accurately, as it turned out — that Australia spied on Timor-Leste in 2004 in relation to the CMATS negotiations. Now Collaery and K have been prosecuted — five years after Dreyfus and Carr revealed the spying — with revealing it.
Make sense to you?
Carr and Dreyfus went on to blatantly lie about the negotiations, saying “Australia … conducted the CMATS treaty negotiations in good faith.” Either that or they have a peculiar definition of good faith that involves breaking the law by bugging the other party. Will they be called by the DPP to give evidence in the prosecution of K and Collaery?
Equally concerning is why someone — presumably within government or the DPP — leaked to commentator and former Liberal staffer Niki Savva that Attorney-General Christian Porter had been given “a very strong recommendation to prosecute” by the DPP, which Savva claimed on Insiders in an apparent attempt to justify the prosecution. While it’s sickening to see a member of the media defending this, it also undermines Christian Porter’s insistence that he’s not going to say anything further about the prosecution. You can’t have it both ways, Attorney — insisting that you’re not going to say anything further publicly while leaking information that serves your purpose at the same time. And if you didn’t leak it, who did? An investigation is in order — which is exactly what Andrew Wilkie yesterday called for.
So far, no investigation has been forthcoming. Funny that — K and Collaery are prosecuted more than five years after two government ministers reveal something, but self-serving information leaked to a commentator to defend the charges is apparently OK.