'More whistleblowers in Timor spy scandal'

Rebecca Le May

There are further whistleblowers who claim Australia spied on East Timor during delicate talks about a multi-billion dollar gas project agreement, Secretary of State for Natural Resources Alfredo Pires has confirmed.

Relations between the neighbouring nations has been rocked by last week's raid on the home of the first whistleblower - reportedly a former senior spy who oversaw the bugging of the Timorese cabinet room in 2004.

The impoverished country has taken the matter to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, after initially raising spying concerns with the Australian government about a year ago, but got an unsatisfactory response.

The office of former ACT attorney-general Bernard Collaery, a lawyer acting for East Timor in The Hague, was also raided - actions that East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao denounced as "unconscionable and unacceptable conduct".

Mr Pires said it was troubling the bugs were planted under the guise of foreign aid.

And there were concerns about the other whistleblowers.

"We think we've identified things going into Timor at a particular date and coming out, and that kind of relates to the stories we've been provided with," Mr Pires told AAP on Monday.

"We've got names that we have been able to deduce. Those names are inside some of our computers and in today's age, no-one with a computer is safe.

"If those names wind up in the wrong hands, if those people may be still active in other parts of the world, maybe working on some aid project, they have to take extra precaution not to be identified.

"There are dangers involved.

"We don't want anyone else to get hurt in this thing."

Mr Pires said East Timorese would "get over" the alleged spying, but trust in Australia had been severely shaken.

"The people in Timor Leste would be feeling a bit upset with the news.

"I know old ladies in Timor going to church now, praying that nothing happens to the witness.

"This has created in the Timorese mind (questions about) who we can trust and who we can't.

"And that's not good, so the sooner we get all this cleared up, the better."

Hanging in the balance is joint development of the Woodside-led Greater Sunrise project, which is estimated to contain tens of billions of dollars worth of gas.

Mr Pires said it was up to the Dutch court to determine whether the CMATS (Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea') treaty covering the project, signed in 2006 by then-foreign minister Alexander Downer and his East Timorese counterpart Jose Ramos-Horta, remained valid.

Under the terms of the treaty, if a development plan is not approved within six years, either party can terminate.

And the project has long been stalled, with Woodside resisting East Timor's bid to have the gas piped to its mainland for processing there.

"Probably not myself but probably the next minister ... may terminate that (agreement), so we want to create an environment that will give us more certainty for the long run."