Australian parliamentary inquiry – Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (DFAT) rejects submission critical of DFAT, ASIS


On 6 February 2023 I made a formal submission to the inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on how Australia can partner with countries in our region to promote democracy and the international rules-based order.

The submission was relevant and compliant, critical of, and embarrassing to, DFAT. In particular, the submission considered to role of ASIS, which is controlled by DFAT, in its bugging of the East Timor parliament and attitudes to West Papua – both negatively impact Australia’s ability to influence and promote democracy in our region. (Submission below).

The Committee rejected my submission in a private meeting, of which I was notified 14 March 2023, without providing any reasons. (JSCFADT correspondence available at the below dropbox link).

JSCFADT Inquiry Submission

6 February 2023

Committee Secretary
Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: +61 2 6277 2313
By email:

RE: Inquiry into supporting democracy in our region

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is a formal submission to the inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade as per terms and references on the Parliament of Australia website below at:

Terms of Reference

How Australia can partner with countries in our region to promote democracy and the international rules-based order, with particular reference to:

  • Australia’s interest in supporting the sovereignty and independence of our immediate
  • the importance of stability, democracy and good governance for the wellbeing of all the
    people of our region;
  • how Australia can partner with our neighbours in promoting our shared democratic values and protecting democratic institutions;
  • the role of civil society organisations in supporting democracy in our region;
  • ways in which Australia can assist our neighbours in these objectives; and
  • any related matters.

My submission addresses each of the above points.

(1) Overview
Australia’s regional and wider reputation has been unnecessarily tarnished by poor decisions made in secret by our intelligence agencies, most notably ASIS and ASIO. Their activities and mission reflect systemic failings and need to be redefined and better oversighted to improve Australia’s position and influence in the region, make us a better partner and strengthen our democracy and democratic credentials.

Examples of our intelligence agency short comings include:
1) the Australian covert bugging of the East Timor parliament by ASIS to gain financial advantage. Even in the widely publicised case of Witness K and Bernard Collaery’s exposure of ASIS’s egregious, illegal bugging of East Timor’s parliament and Australia’s subsequent fraudulent misappropriation of a significant portion of East Timor’s oil and gas revenues, Australian regulators, most notably IGIS, did nothing to remedy the matter.

2) Their role as part of the political and military alliance against West Papuans in subjugating Melanesian traditional owners to Indonesian rule, a matter that is deeply divisive within the wider region. Many of our island neighbours are Melanesian and identify closely with West Papuans and view the annexation as illegal after a rigged plebiscite in 1969 that was conducted under Indonesian military coercion. West Papua was a staunch WWII ally of America and its annexation is widely viewed as a betrayal by American, UK, and Australia and others.

Australia would be better positioned to influence and support democracy and democracies in our region by reining in the egregious conduct of its intelligence agencies and strengthening our own democracy. Oversight of the agencies needs to be reimagined and strengthened. To take regulators word at face value, on blind faith, as is current practice, is the epitome of naivete, especially where there is a pervasive culture of those regulators being “captive” to the bodies they oversight and those agencies acting recklessly, without high regard to the threat they pose to Australia’s long term strategic interests.

There are several things Australia could do to support democracy in our region that entail better governance of our intelligence agencies, such as:

1) Implement a standing royal commission to oversight of the intelligence agencies as was a key recommendation of Justice Hope in his 1970s royal commission into the Australian
intelligence agencies to create a comprehensive oversight system. Without this key
mechanism, the public and parliament are left dependent on blind trust in powerful
government agencies – which is the antithesis of democracy.

2) Redesign Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) of the intelligence agencies to reward conduct that follows and enhances democratic values. Living and operating by these higher values is focuses on the long term, and short term rewards may not always be evident. However, longer term Australia will likely be a stronger and more influential country. Our agencies’ conduct currently undermines this objective.

3) Mandate the “smell” test: Any intelligence agency operation in peacetime should pass the “smell” test – would it withstand media scrutiny, would it meet public acceptance, and could the agencies justify their conduct to a court. Their KPI’s should reflect this test.

4) Review the modus operandi and goals of the intelligence agencies which should be updated to reflect the wider, sometimes competing interests of a more complex, multicultural Australia and region. Vague wording about protecting relationships, financial and business interests should be abolished, and in their place wording that reflects the standards we expect them to abide by, as per points 2 and 3 above, reflecting deeper values.

5) The intelligence agencies have been given great power, but unintentionally cultivated reckless leadership. They operate beyond the normal democratic checks and balances that contain the excesses of others with power, away from media and public scrutiny, out of sight to the judiciary, and indeed, much of their activities are beyond the knowledge of our parliamentarians. These traits are anathema to democracy.

A brief summary of my personal background and experience dealing with Australian intelligence agencies and reason for making this submission is below.

The full submission and declaration is available for download here:


About mininganalystnow

Former Wall Street Analyst (working for SBC Warburg – now part of UBS) targeted by US and Australian intelligence agencies (FBI and ASIO) after publishing report touching on US State Department investigation into allegations US copper/gold mining company Freeport McMoran was involved in the killing of indigenous protestors in West Papua, Indonesia.
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