Where does a police state start?

In 2004 the Australian government illegally bugged the offices of the fledgling East Timorese government to swindle the impoverished nation out of its natural resources. An Australian intelligence officer will now be tried for blowing the whistle.

By GetUp!

Would you risk prison time for doing the right thing? The answer is, nobody should ever have to.

In 2004 Australia's Howard Government illegally bugged the offices of the fledgling East Timorese government. Why? To swindle the impoverished nation out of its valuable natural resources during critical negotiations.1

An Australian intelligence officer, known as 'Witness K' for legal reasons, refused to stay silent while our government broke its own laws.

Now, in a rank affront to our democratic ideals, Attorney General Christian Porter has authorised criminal prosecution of Witness K and their lawyer, former ACT Deputy Chief Minister Bernard Collaery.2

Human rights and legal experts are lining up to condemn the move. But if we're to stop Witness K and Collaery spending time behind bars for exposing the crimes of our government, we need to demonstrate there is also massive public outrage with a huge petition.

Professor David Dixon, former Dean of UNSW Law School, described Porter's decision to prosecute Witness K and their lawyer as a "crude act of political revenge against a whistleblower". And today, a former New South Wales Supreme Court Justice condemned the push to hold the trial in a closed courtroom saying "this is Australia … not Russia".3,4

The scandal just gets worse the closer you look.

Australia's spying unquestionably skewed the deal against the impoverished people of East Timor. The then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, went on to take a lucrative job at Woodside Petroleum – one of the biggest corporate beneficiaries of the deal.5

Some resources have since been returned to East Timor, but only because of the international shaming and court case caused by the revelations of Witness K and their lawyer. Now unless we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them against their unjust prosecution, they face years in jail for standing up for what's right.

Make no mistake, the prosecution of Witness K is about much more than revenge for a 15-year-old diplomatic humiliation. Porter's decision to authorise this prosecution is a cowardly act of intimidation against all future whistleblowers, and their lawyers, who would hold our government to account.

The Turnbull Government is testing the waters, to see if they can get away with using the Attorney General's powers to attack those who speak out against them.

If we let this this case go unchallenged, there is little doubt it will mean future whistleblowers dare not risk speaking out against government crimes and wrongdoing in the years to come.

You can sign a petition here.

In solidarity,

Paul – for the GetUp team

PS – The explosive revelations about Witness K came within 24 hours of the Turnbull Government – supported by Labor – ramming new police state laws through Parliament.6

The hard new laws threaten journalists, whistleblowers and fellow activists with heavy prison sentences. Had they been in place when Witness K and Collaery revealed the truth, they'd both be facing seven years behind bars instead of two.7,8

This is a defining moment in the fight to protect our civil liberties. We simply cannot afford to let the Government slam Witness K and Collaery behind bars as a warning to future dissenters.

References

[1] Government looks to jail lawyer and former agent in staggering attack on free speech, Crikey, 28 June 2018
[2] 'Witness K' and lawyer Bernard Collaery charged with breaching intelligence act over East Timor spying revelations, ABC News, 31 June 2018
[3] Prosecution of Witness K and his lawyer is a disgraceful act of revenge, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 2018
[4] Witness K: ex-judge condemns prosecution of Timor-Leste bugging whistleblower, The Guardian, 5 July 2018
[5] Government looks to jail lawyer and former agent in staggering attack on free speech, Crikey, 28 June 2018
[6] Andrew Wilkie uses parliamentary privilege to reveal intelligence charges against 'Witness K' and lawyer Bernard Collaery, ABC News, 28 June 2018
[7] National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017
[8] Labor and Coalition agree on espionage laws that critics fear would 'criminalise' journalism, The Guardian, 5 June 2018


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations.
Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders - past, present and future - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.
Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

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