Bernard Joseph Edward Collaery (born 12 October 1944) is an Australian barrister, lawyer and former politician. Collaery was a member of the Australian Capital Territory's first Legislative Assembly for the Residents Rally party, from 1989 to 1992. He served as Deputy Chief Minister and Attorney-General from 1989 to 1991 in the Kaine Alliance Government.
Collaery was born in Caversham, England, four months after his father, Flying Officer Edward Collaery (RAAF) was killed in action. Colleary arrived in Australia in 1945 and was educated at the Christian Brothers College in Wollongong, New South Wales and at the Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws.
Prior to entering politics, Collaery was a First Secretary in Australia's Embassy in France.
Collaery was elected to the Assembly at its first general election, held in 1989 and was leader of the Residents Rally Party, "a community-based urban green party". The life of the first Assembly, a multi-member single electorate unicameral body, was characterised by a hung parliament and significant political instability. Confidence was waning in the minority Follett Labor government. On 5 December 1989, Collaery moved a motion in the Assembly:
That this Assembly no longer has confidence in the Chief Minister of the ACT and the minority Labor Government and has confidence in the ability of Mr Kaine to form a government.— Bernard Collaery, 5 December 1989.
The vote was resolved in the affirmative (10 votes to 7 votes), and Trevor Kaine was elected as Chief Minister as leader of an Alliance Government, comprising members of the Liberal Party and the Residents Rally. Collaery was subsequently appointed Deputy Chief Minister and Attorney-General in the Kaine Liberal government with responsibility for welfare and community services; housing; sport and recreation; and youth. On 29 May 1991, Kaine announced to the Assembly that members of Residents Rally had met the previous evening and had decided to advise the Chief Minister that wanted a review of some planning decisions relating to school sites that had been taken without the involvement of Collaery as the Deputy Chief Minister and Leader of the Rally. These concerns were delivered to the Chief Minister in a letter delivered on 28 May 1991. The letter had indicated that if the Chief Minister tabled these variations to the plan they would be forced to vote against the variations. This account of events at the time is supported by the comments from Rally Member Dr Hector Kinloch and the Chief Minister in his opening remarks to the Assembly the next day. The Debate that followed clearly showed that Collaery had been removed from his position as Deputy Chief Minister and Attorney General because he and the remaining two Rally members in the Assembly (Norm Jensen and Dr Hector Kinloch) could not support planning decisions that affected ACT Government school sites. Comments by Mr Duby, one of the three Government Ministers involved in these planning decisions in the absence of Collaery, also support this account of the reasons behind the fall of the Alliance Government. On 6 June 1991, a motion of no confidence in Kaine, as Chief Minister, was passed with Collaery voting in favour of the motion, despite him previously being a senior figure in the Kaine Alliance government. The Follett Labor government resumed power, and Collaery sat on the backbenches. He was unsuccessful in seeking re-election to the Assembly at the 1992 general election.
In the 1993 federal election, Collaery was an independent candidate for election to the Australian Senate, representing the Australian Capital Territory; he was unsuccessful.
Collaery is the principal of Collaery Lawyers, a Canberra-based law firm with an international law division embracing international maritime and treaty law, refugee and civil rights law. The civil division embraces catastrophe law, principally catastrophic personal injury cases and high level dependency claims arising from catastrophic multi-victim cases, and medical negligence. The criminal division embraces all forms of trial work including coronial law. Collaery has appeared as counsel in various jurisdictions.
As a barrister, Collaery has represented plaintiffs in a number of high-profile cases, including:
- 1997 Thredbo landslide – Coronial inquiry – representing the families of the deceased
- 2003 Canberra bushfires – ACT Supreme Court compensation – representing various landholders
- Royal Canberra Hospital implosion – damages claim on behalf of the family of the deceased
- Compensation case where a man suffering a psychotic episode was shot by police who was left a quadraplegic by the incident. The ACT Supreme Court awarded negligence damages against the police officer, the Australian Federal Police and ACT Mental Health
Collaery has a long association, representing the interests of the people of Timor-Leste. Collaery advocated on behalf of Timor-Leste and was legal advisor to the National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) in the critical period up until formal independence in 2002. In 2013 Colleary alleged that two agents from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation raided his Canberra office and seized electronic and paper files. Colleary was representing a witness in a case brought by the Timor Leste government against the Australian Government over the bugging of the Timor-Leste cabinet offices during the negotiations for a petroleum and gas treaty in 2004. The case is before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the Netherlands. The Australian Attorney General, George Brandis, confirmed that he authorised a request by ASIO for a search warrant on Collaery's office, to protect Australia’s national security.