This may not surprise you about Governments per se but the Australian Government has been caught out doing something it should not have been doing. Believe me the something they did is not a very good look.
Australian intelligence services inserted listening devices into the wall cavity of an East Timorese Government office under the guise of an aid project.
For those of you who may not know, East Timor is situated to the north of Australia. It is an independent country now but has a very bloody history. Invaded at one point by Indonesia.
Not far from East Timor and close to Australia in the Timor Sea there lies a very lucrative oil and gas field that Australia would very much like to exploit. The reserves are worth $40 billion. Clearly there is a lot at stake here. By now you probably know where this is going.
The Australian Government has no real defense to offer for spying on the East Timorese. It deserves to be condemned and rightly so. But what do you think happened as a result of this disclosure? Departmental heads sacked? An official inquiry into what happened?
Did it mean for example that an organization like the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, which operates the same way as the CIA, was hauled over the coals for breaching another countries sovereignty? You must be joking.
This revelation, of course, came courtesy of a whistleblower and now the Australian Government is only interested in shooting the messenger.
Here is the history. The information first came to light as a result of a television report by an Australian media organization, which received it from a lawyer acting on behalf of an Australian spy. The lawyer was also acting for the East Timorese Government, which wants to nullify the Treaty it has with Australia over the oil and gas reserve on the grounds that it manifestly favors Australia. The Australian spy knew what was done and was to be the star witness at an International Court of Justice hearing on the issue in The Hague.
East Timor says the spying shows that the Treaty was not negotiated in good faith as proscribed by the Vienna Convention and it wants it torn up.
But let’s get back to the main point of the story, which is what the Australian Government is doing in response.
The Australian Federal Police have been asked to investigate if the lawyer and the spy can be charged under the Australian Intelligence Services Act, which carries a two year prison term as penalty. The Federal Police have also asked the media organization that reported the story to hand over all of their material in relation to the report. They want to get their hands on unedited footage of the lawyer’s television interview.
The Federal Police confirmed they began their investigation after receiving a referral but that is all they are prepared to say. Never mind the illegality of what Australia was doing let’s focus on the people who let the world know it was happening.
The lawyer and the media organization both say they intend to fight the matter in court if need be.
Meantime, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization which might have placed the listening devices in the first place raided the lawyer’s home, seized documents as well as electronic data and cancelled his passport.
The Australian Attorney General says the lawyer and the spy appear to have breached Australian security laws. And if you read between the lines of that comment it means the Australian Government is going after both of them.
I have said this before and I will say it again. Being a whistleblower anywhere in the 21st Century is a dangerous game because you risk becoming an endangered species. All Governments everywhere want to wipe them out. And if that happens who are the losers? The answer is all of us.