Contributed from Victoria
On 26 June, ACT Supreme Court justice David Mossop ruled for the Morrison government’s intention to keep evidence over the prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, and thereby block their chances of a fair trial.
This is not the first time this year this judge has made a move to the advantage of the prosecution. The other was the Axel Sidaros case.
Justice Mossop’s decision has far reaching implications for the Australian legal system. It means that evidence in a trial can be excluded from the public and scrutiny, if the Attorney General of the day says so, by just saying it is a matter of national security.
Because the person making the call is a politician representing the government of the day, the door has been opened to extend control over the judicial process.
This particular case is about the whistle blower who exposed the illegal and unethical bugging of the offices of the prime minster of Timor Leste, and the listening in, on meetings of that country’s cabinet. The whistleblower who brought this out into the open, was part of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) team responsible and now known as Witness K.
Because he did not believe this was the right thing to do, he decided to expose what had happened, and subsequently became a target of the Australian government, along with his lawyer Bernard Collaery.
The case becomes murkier still, when the spying relates to pressure put on the newly independent nation over oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. The then foreign minister Alexander Downer took a direct interest. He spoke had a relationship with resources company Woodside. Downer is now working for them.
In its the attempt to keep the dirt hidden, the Australian government has resorted to systematically persecuting the two over the years since and began a legal process.
The case has drawn out. It has already cost he government more than $2 million, and it is still in the pretrial stage. Nor will it progress quickly. Further delays are expected, with more twists and turns. This is likely part of a strategy to continue the persecution and keeping the wraps on damaging news getting out.
On the one hand, this is a case about a wrongdoing of the Australian government and its spy agency, against what is supposed to be a friendly neighbour. This is bad enough in itself. It is also about corruption.
Downer’s role in this at least reveals a conflict of interest, and the affair could not have been carried out without other being involved. To suggest keeping this secret is about national security is ridiculous. Timor Leste is not a threat to Australia.
This is about covering up corruption, by a government that is becoming increasingly corrupt in itself, and rapidly sinking into the black hole of increasing secrecy about sensitive and punitive trials, and just everything it does.