George Brandis defends ASIO raids on lawyer over spy claim

Attorney General George Brandis has defended the ASIO raids on the home of a former ASIS agent and offices of lawyer Bernard Collaery, saying the ASIS officer has broken the law, and suggesting Mr Collaery may have done likewise.

In a statement to the Senate, Senator Brandis also took a swipe at Mr Collaery, saying: "Merely because Mr Collaery is a lawyer, that alone does not excuse him from the ordinary law of the land.

"In particular, no lawyer can invoke the principles of lawyer-client privilege to excuse participation, whether as principal or accessory, in offences against the Commonwealth."

The comments indicate the former ASIS officer could be arrested, and Mr Collaery himself could face legal proceedings.

Mr Collaery is representing East Timor's government, which alleges the Australian government bugged its offices in 2004 to gain an advantage in negotiations over the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

His evidence is based, he says, on the testimony of the ASIS agent, who allegedly headed up the bugging operation.

Mr Collaery is in The Hague, and will bring his case for arbitration on the Treaty governing the reserves on Thursday. East Timor has declared it invalid due to the alleged spying.

Kirsty Sword-Gusmao, the Australian wife of East Timor’s Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, took to Facebook to comment on events that she described as ‘‘unbelievable’’.

‘‘As Fr Frank Brennan of the Law Faculty of the Australian Catholic University rightly says, these are nothing but ‘cowboy tactics’ and a blight on Australia’s reputation in our region and the world. :-(’’

Meanwhile, The Timor Post is reporting that an ex-guerilla fighter, Commander Paulino Gama, known locally as Mauk Moruk, is trying to organise a protest rally to ‘‘fight against the Government of Australia regarding the Certain Maritime Arrangement on the Timor Sea (CMATS)’’.

Mr Moruk said he would fight anybody trying to seize the wealth of East Timor.

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