More than 100 people attended a rally in solidarity with former spy Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery outside the Treasury Buildings in Melbourne on July 25. The rally demanded that the current Attorney General, Christian Porter, cease the prosecution of the two.
Both individuals have had criminal charges laid against them by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. They allegedly revealed secret information about the Australian Secret Intelligence Service regarding an alleged Australian spying operation in East Timor, where cabinet rooms were allegedly bugged in an attempt to gain inside information on Timor Sea oil and gas negotiations.
The rally was chaired by Jean Mclean, chair of the Australia East Timor Association and addressed by a number of activists from the East Timorese community and solidarity activists, including former Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks and his deputy John Thwaites.
Bracks, who is now an advisor to the Timor-Leste government, spoke about the weak case that Australia has always had in negotiating for oil in the Timor Sea. He said he thought it was totally hypocritical of the Australian government to continue with the prosecution in the light of its own most recent amendments on espionage and foreign intervention laws. He also argued that perhaps these prosecutions have been rushed through to cover up for the alleged involvement of Howard government minister, Alexander Downer, in the bugging scandal.
Thwaites, who is also an advisor to the Timor-Leste government, abhorred the creeping infringements of our civil liberties by all levels of Australian governments. He said the most appalling part about the criminal prosecution of Collaery and Witness K was that it was not about the protection of the Australian society but about the protection of commercial gain.
Matt Kunkel from the Migrant Workers Centre and on behalf of the Victorian Trades Hall Council also condemned the prosecutions and drew the links between the Turnbull government’s reactionary laws and the Victorian Labor government’s latest anti-association laws. He said all of these laws infringe freedom of speech and will see more attacks on those who speak out against injustice.