Australia: Collaery Trial Date Set: Federal Government Continues to Prosecute Whistleblowers

The ACT Supreme Court last week set the date for the trial of Canberra barrister Bernard Collaery for 24 October this year.

ACT Justice David Mossop did this despite the wishes of Collaery and his lawyer Philip Boulton SC, who consider it too early to set a date due to ongoing court battles with the federal attorney general regarding the secrecy measures being applied to the case.

Former ACT attorney general Collaery is facing five charges of conspiring to release classified information, contrary to section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (Cth). The offence carried a maximum of 2 years imprisonment at the time that it applies to the lawyer’s case.

Collaery is charged with exposing the Howard government’s 2004 bugging of the Timor Leste cabinet offices. He was made privy to the details, after the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security advised the ASIS officer in charge of the operation, Witness K, to seek his legal advice in 2008.

ASIO raided both men’s Canberra premises in 2013, as K was about to testify at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague about the incident on behalf of Timor Leste, with Collaery providing legal representation. Yet, then attorney general George Brandis chose not to pursue their cases.

Indeed, it wasn’t until after Christian Porter took over the role of the nation’s chief lawmaker, that the prosecution of the pair was greenlighted in mid-2018, with the new AG applying never-before-used secrecy powers to ensure certain parts of the case would remain behind closed doors.

Kafkaesque is mild

The announcement of the trial date comes four years after the charges were laid, and just a week after the ACT Supreme Court refused an application from Collaery to access a number of documents from various government agencies that detail circumstances surrounding the Timor Leste bugging.



Australia: Collaery Trial Date Set: Federal Government Continues to Prosecute Whistleblowers