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East Timor minister says Telstra is monitoring private call

Australian Associated Press - June 4, 2001

Canberra – An interim East Timorese government minister has accused Telstra of monitoring private telephone conversations within the fledging country. Infrastructure Minister Joao Carrascalao said Telstra did not have a main switch in Dili and the communication was transmitted via Adelaide.

"I have no doubt that all conversations are monitored," he told ABC radio. "It happens quite a lot and I have a lot of experience with that and whenever I have a conversation that's more delicate, then the lines are certainly full without an explanation." Telstra is in East Timor supporting the defence force.

Interim foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta said he had heard rumours phone calls were being monitored. "Obviously if this is the case then it's an invasion of privacy that could result in Telstra being sued in a court of law for invasion of privacy," he told ABC radio.

Telstra told the ABC it could neither confirm or deny the allegations, as it never comments on monitoring and only ever taps phone conversations when directed by a law enforcement agency.

Australian National University defence commentator Michael McKinley said Australia would want to know what was going on among the leadership in East Timor. "It would not surprise me at all if the conversations are monitored A because they want to know and B because it is relatively easy to do so," he told ABC radio.