Australia/Timor Leste: Australia’s quest for national security is undermining the courts and could lead to secretive trials

October 2, 2019

Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery. Picture: Jamila Toderas

This is part of a new series looking at the national security challenges facing Australia, how our leaders are responding to them through legislation and how these measures are impacting society. Read other stories in the series here.


In August, the intelligence officer known as Witness K indicated he would plead guilty to a conspiracy charge under section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act. That section prohibits the disclosure of information acquired or prepared by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

His lawyer, Bernard Collaery, will contest the same charge in the ACT Supreme Court.

Concerns have been raised about the use of the National Security Information Act (NSIA) in the Collaery trial. Anthony Whealy, a former judge who presided over several of Australia’s recent terrorism trials, said

This could be one of the most secretive trials in Australian history.

Both cases will be back in court this month. A hearing is also scheduled to consider how national security information will be dealt with in the Collaery trial.

There has been significant media discussion around the ASIS bugging that Witness K and Bernard Collaery exposed, but less about the NSIA.

So what is the National Security Information Act? Why was it introduced and how could it lead to secretive trials?

https://theconversation.com/australias-quest-for-national-security-is-undermining-the-courts-and-could-lead-to-secretive-trials-122638

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6418831/unattractive-orders-on-bugging-case/

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/oct/02/judge-handling-witness-k-case-risks-10-years-jail-if-he-breaches-secrecy-provisions

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6418503/judge-raises-concerns-about-ags-proposed-orders-in-east-timor-spying-case/?cs=14264

https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2019/10/6/witness-k-case-in-court-tomorrow

https://7news.com.au/politics/timor-spying-case-returns-to-act-court-c-492142

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6443314/private-citizens-bid-to-be-heard-in-east-timor-bugging-case-shut-down/

https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/6443452/court-stops-amicus-bid-in-bugging-case/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Collaery

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