Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison appointed former Labor MP and Woodside executive Gary Gray as Ambassador to Ireland to cover up the East Timor bugging scandal

There is a prima facie case to charge former Labor Party MP, and current Ambassador to Ireland, Gary Gray with criminal offences for his role in the bugging of the East Timor (now Timor-Leste) government which started in 2004 and conspiring to have whistleblowers Witness K and Bernard Collaery falsely charged.

Scott Morrison appointed Gary Gray as Ambassador to Ireland in June 2020 to cover up the East Timor bugging scandal to protect Liberal Party cronies such as Alexander Downer and possibly former Prime Minister John Howard.

This is important because anything less than a full and open public inquiry into the scandal means both the Liberal Party and Labor Party are up to their necks in the cover-up.

Gary Gray’s involvement in the scandal has rarely been mentioned especially in recent times with most of the focus being on Alexander Downer who was the Foreign Affairs Minister at the time. But Gary Gray was a key player working for Woodside Energy at the time and he has been paid off with his appointment as Ambassador to Ireland but more on that in a minute

Background of the East Timor scandal

Australia bugged the political offices of East Timor in 2004 for the benefit of oil and gas companies led by Woodside Energy Group Ltd (formerly Woodside Petroleum Ltd). Australia and the oil and gas companies were in negotiations with East Timor in regards to rights to the oil and gas in the East Timor sea. The bugging helped Australia and the oil companies get the deal they wanted to the detriment of East Timor which was and still is one of the poorest countries in the world.

A number of politicians and political staffers benefited financially from the deal. Gary Gray worked for Woodside Energy from 2001 to 2007 and Alexander Downer, who ordered the bugging as Foreign Affairs Minister in 2004, became a consultant for Woodside Energy in 2009 after he left politics.

Ashton Calvert reported directly to Alexander Downer as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from April 1998 to January 2005. Ashton Calvert resigned in January 2005 and “joined the Rio Tinto Board with effect from 1 February 2005. In August 2005 he was appointed to the Woodside Petroleum Board.” which I have no doubt was payback for bugging the East Timor government offices. (Click here to read more)

Other politicians still work for Woodside Energy and as recent as 2020 there were questions being asked about why Woodside received $millions from the government to clean up their own mess. The point is Woodside Energy is used as a money-laundering outfit where the federal government makes sure plenty of taxpayer’s dollars go to Woodside then the politicians get jobs with Woodside after leaving politics and receive some of that money for themselves. But in this case, the Government bugged another country’s political offices to help Woodside make money.

Some key points are:

  1. Gary Gray was a senior Labor Party official for many years and National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party from 1993 to 2000.
  2. Gary Gray worked at Woodside Energy from 2001 to 2007 as Director of Corporate Affairs on the company’s executive board. That is the time frame when Woodside Energy conspired with the then Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer to bug the East Timor government to help Australia negotiate ownership and rights to oil and gas in the Timor Sea of which Woodside Energy was a major beneficiary.
  3. Gary Gray was part of Woodside Energy’s negotiation team in 2004 in East Timor and would have known about the bugging of the East Timor’s government offices because they were bugged to help with the negotiations. (As per the below video)
  4. Gary Gray was elected in 2007, as a Labor Party MP, in the seat of Brand in Western Australia, to replace the retiring MP Kim Beazley.
  5. In 2013 the illegal bugging of East Timor’s government offices by Australia was exposed when the Labor Party was in power, Julia Gillard was Prime Minister, Bob Carr was Foreign Affairs Minister and Mark Dreyfus was Attorney-General. All three would likely know the full details of the bugging as they would have had access to Witness K’s affidavit which blew the whistle on the scandal. In September 2013 Labor lost power.
  6. On Tuesday the 3rd of December 2013 ASIO and federal police raided the house of Bernard Collaery and arrested Witness K to try and stop them from giving evidence in East Timor’s court case against Australia in The Hague regarding the bugging. The raid and arrest were apparently ordered by the newly appointed (Liberal Party) Attorney-General George Brandis. But Brandis always refused to instigate criminal charges against Witness K and Bernard Collaery. They were not charged until June 2018 which was six months after Christian Porter had been appointed the new Attorney-General. (Click here to read more)
  7. In 2016 Gary Gray personally intervened to make sure a federal ICAC was not part of the Labor Party’s policies. (Click here to read more)
  8. On the 26th of June 2020 it was reported: “Some of the trial of Witness K lawyer Bernard Collaery will take place in secret after a ruling in Canberra today.” and “When Mr Collaery’s lawyers subpoenaed documents from oil and gas giant Woodside, lawyers for the Attorney-General demanded the Government see them first to vet the material in case it contained national security information.” That suggests Mr Collaery’s lawyers subpoenaed documents from Woodside in May or June 2020 which is relevant to point 9 below. (Click here to read more)
  9. On the 26th of June 2020, Gary Gray was appointed as Australia’s Ambassador to Ireland by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne which raises more questions than it answers. (Click here to see the media release) Why would a Liberal Party-led government appoint an ex Labor Party MP to a cushy Ambassador’s role? To my knowledge, the Liberal Party under former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has never done it at any other time. This could be the smoking gun which I will discuss further below.
  10. There can be no doubt that as soon as Bernard Collaery’s lawyers subpoenaed documents from Woodside Energy in May or early June 2020 the government made arrangements for Gary Gray to leave the country so he wasn’t here for the court case and appointed him Ambassador to Ireland on the 26th of June 2020.

I’ll expand on some of the above points below

As per the below video regarding the Australian spy agency ASIS bugging the East Timor government offices:

There were three visits in May, June and August 2004 to the cabinet offices by agents of ASIS, posing in some fashion as members of that work party to renovate this space. These were visits to install, test, operate and run these bugging devices.

They were finally removed, my sources tell me, in December 2004 at the completion of their mission. Now that mission was to spy on the Timorese, say the Timorese, about their tactics, their strategy, their bargaining situation in the 2004 negotiations with the Australian Government over a very rich field of oil and gas called the Sunrise Field, between Timor and Australia. It’s worth $20 billion.

And very much at the centre of that isn’t just the interests of the Australian Government, but the company that was set to, and still is, set to exploit that field exclusively – Woodside Petroleum. At the time these bugging devices were in these offices, Don Voelte was then the head of Woodside.

The Labor backbencher from WA, Gary Gray, was working for Woodside as senior communications strategist. They were attending meetings in that room, along with Australian government officials – the minister Alexander Downer and the Australian negotiating team. They all held meetings in and out of those offices that the Timorese now say had been bugged by Mr Downer.

Now, the question that many people are wondering today is how does this all connect to an inappropriate use of Australia’s overseas spy agency by Mr Downer. Now, the context is this. Is that it wasn’t a negotiation just about treaties and boundaries. It was about the Australian Government hand in glove, very much a nexus between Woodside and the Australian diplomatic effort to structure a deal that got the best result against East Timor. (The below video has the full report or click here to read it)

The above video is my investigation as well as an episode of The World Today radio show from the 4th of December 2013 which was in real-time when the bugging scandal was breaking and also Alexander Downer digging a hole for himself on the ABC’s QandA show on Thursday the 26th of May 2022.

One of the key points in the above video is that it shows that Gary Gray was not only working for Woodside but in East Timor in the actual bugged offices negotiating on behalf of Woodside in 2004.

Also in the above video, Alexander Downer shows he has a habit of bragging about what he knows. And in February 2022 in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) Downer was accused of bragging about knowing almost everything that East Timor knows in 2000 which implies that the Australian government had East Timor government offices bugged in 2000 which is 4 years before the above bugging scandal. (Click here to read more)

The smoking gun

We know from the above evidence that Gary Gray would be a key witness in the criminal case against Bernard Collaery who was charged in June 2018. He also would have been a key witness in the criminal case against Witness K who eventually pleaded guilty in June 2021 and was given a 3 month suspended sentence. We also know that on the 26th of June Gary Gray was appointed ambassador to Ireland by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne only a month or two after Bernard Collaery’s Lawyers subpoenaed documents from Woodside and the documents and Gary Gray would have been key evidence for Mr Collaery.

And below Crikey reported on the 3rd of September 2020:

Woodside’s role in the bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet in 2004 by the Howard government was also the subject of parliamentary attention last week. In response to Attorney-General Christian Porter’s vexatious prosecution of Witness K and lawyer Bernard Collaery, Collaery has subpoenaed documents from Woodside relating its dealings with the Commonwealth over the crime, and the resulting treaty.

Bizarrely, however, Porter insisted on blocking access to the documents while he vetted them to make sure that no national security information was revealed.

This suggested what would in normal circumstances be an extraordinary possibility — that a private corporation, Woodside, was privy to national security information that would otherwise be classified.

Senator Rex Patrick used question time to demand, “How is it possible that an energy company such as Woodside could be in possession of documents that could contain matters related to national security?” Marise Payne, representing Porter, claimed in response that this was purely a “precautionary approach” and that “the Commonwealth did not seek any protection orders and the documents were provided to the parties”. (Click here to read more)

The fact as per above “Bizarrely, however, Porter insisted on blocking access to the (Woodside) documents while he vetted them to make sure that no national security information was revealed.” shows that the current government knew Alexander Downer and the government in 2004 had shared the intelligence they gained from bugging East Timor’s government offices with Woodside which means that Gary Gray knew of the bugging given he was one of Woodside’s negotiators.

The Crikey article does go on to say the government “claimed in response that this was purely a “precautionary approach” and that “the Commonwealth did not seek any protection orders and the documents were provided to the parties”.” but that was likely because Woodside destroyed of any written evidence. It also shows the government was very worried about any evidence of the bugging scandal becoming public which is further evidence the Government made Gary Gray Ambassador to Ireland to make it harder for him to be subpoenaed to give evidence.

Someone suggested as an Ambassador Gary Gray would have diplomatic immunity and not have to give evidence even if subpoenaed but I don’t know if that would apply to Australian court cases. Maybe a reader might know and advise in the comment section below.

Gary Gray makes sure there is no Federal ICAC that could potentially investigate the East Timor bugging scandal

An article about a Federal ICAC was published in 2016 that is interesting and relevant because Gary Gray would have known if a Federal ICAC was introduced he could end up being investigated and jailed so he made sure he stopped it at least from the Labor Party side. The Guardian reported in 2016:

Labor conference rejected push for federal anti-corruption commission

The Labor frontbencher and former ALP national secretary Gary Gray rejected a push for an ICAC-style national integrity commission at the party’s conference because he says existing federal bodies are working.

Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union and a former party vice-president, had included a motion for a federal independent commission against corruption at last weekend’s national ALP conference but it was taken down at the last minute.

It failed to get internal parliamentary party support, including from Gray, Labor’s shadow special minister of state. Asked by Guardian Australia why he did not support the concept of a federal ICAC, Gray said the ALP national conference had never done so. (Click here to read more)

I’ll have more to say on a federal ICAC in another article soon but one of the complaints about the coalition’s federal ICAC proposal was that the politicians who would likely be investigated would decide if they were investigated. And here we have Gary Gray making sure he wasn’t investigated by a Federal ICAC by making sure there was no Federal ICAC.

This article is not about producing all the evidence in the bugging scandal but is about laying a foundation for further investigation into Gary Gray and his role in the East Timor bugging and possible criminal charges against him. Because Gary Gray knows a lot and if his role is ignored it fails to tell the full story that both sides of politics have many questions to answer for the cover-up and persecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery.

Irrespective of anything else the public has a right to know the truth and full story, not some censored version that the government are producing in Bernard Collaery’s court case.

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12 replies »

  1. Absolute tradegy that Senator Rex Patrick was not returned to the Senate, this KCA story in itself gives suspicion that current Government has no intention of introducing any legislation that could retrospectively capture the criminal activities of past and present ALP/LNP members of Federal Parliament.
    The election results shows Australians have had enough of corruption by both ALP and LNP politicians both state and federal, time will tell if the newly elected independents/Greens have the mettle to force Albonese to introduce genuine reforms, won’t hold my breath.
    We genuinely need more reporting of facts as from KCA, certainly won’t be forthcoming from Murdoch Stokes Costello propaganda machines.

    Meanwhile Opposition Leader Dutton is still spreading scare tactics reminiscent of McCarthyism era. McCarthy died after the US population eventually woke up to his life of lies, deceit as a lonely despised low life.

  2. How was Downer’s performance on Q and A ? The most bullying and passive aggressive mongrel ever to grace the stage for that show. Why did that not get the attention of the media? What a pity for Australia that Dutton is the best they’ve got. It speaks volumes about the lack of talent in the LNP.

  3. Amazes me also that Downer seemingly got away with the AWB scandal when it seems more than likely he was complicit.

  4. You can see it now, that the Labor Party will not be investigating this and they will make sure of it. If Albanese decides he will, the factions will go after him and he will be finished, Just watch how they do nothing about this situation. Both parties are as bad as each other, watch how they water down the Federal ICAC toughness.

  5. Whatever happened to the accusation that the Australian federal government shifted the international border between us and Timor Leste so we would have received undeserved additional entitlements? Didn’t that go to The Hague international court, resulting in restoring the original border line?

  6. Have to agree that nothing will become of this scandal, already Albo has failed, on ABC Insiders this morning, Finance Minister was asked if Australia will follow British Government and put tax on super profits oil/ gas companies are making now? Immediate response: NO

    Status quo remains, both ALP/LNP rely on funding from these multi nationals that virtually pay no taxes but rather, we the taxpayers fund them!

  7. KCA, thank you for your detailed research and reporting. Are you able to follow up on the helium (which I understand was/is a by-product of the oil & gas mining in the Greater Sunrise project) windfall of ConocoPhillips, which in effect resulted in a loss to both the Timorese and the Aus. govts.? From Mr Collaery’s fine work, ‘Oil under troubled water’, p.234: “How Timor-Leste’s and Australia’s contractor ConocoPhillips came to ‘own’ the helium potentially worth more than the gas is one of the great commercial coups in Australian history.” Regards, Christine TR

  8. Great work KCA . I think that majority of people wanted an icac. I would think that if the country new that both parties were against an icac than they certainly would have lost more seats in the election. Corruption is rife in politics and people are sick of it , we want honesty and accountability from our politicians

  9. Diplomatic immunity is not something that the individual diplomat can claim, it is an immunity that the sending government can claim on behalf of the diplomat. The sending state, Australia in Gray’s case, can also wave that immunity. That immunity only applies to prosecution in the receiving state, Ireland. The immunity Gray may enjoy in Ireland in no way provides him with any immunity in Australia. In fact if Gray were summoned to appear in an Australian Court, the Government would simply recall him. If he refused to come, the government could them ask the Irish Government to extradite him.

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