BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home May news

"In the wake of the second round of negotiations between Australia and East Timor on the Timor Gap Treaty and the disputed seabed boundary, Australia’s big business press are stepping-up its support for Canberra’s push to deny East Timor a fair share of the revenue from oil and gas deposits. ... There has been no indication that the UNTAET is pursuing any goals different to the wishes of the East Timorese leadership. There have been no public criticisms from the National Council or the East Timorese members of the transitional cabinet.  Although the Australian government and its supporters in the capitalist media look set to continue their blackmailing and bullying tactics, and misrepresentation of the views of East Timor’s negotiators, UNTAET and the East Timorese leadership seems determined not to falter." Jon Land, Indonesia - East Timor Campaign Watch

See especially:

Apr 30 ABC Darwin: Denis Burke re: Timor Gas  Interview with comments from BACK DOOR added May 1
" ... frankly I believe Australia has to hold a very hard line in the region. I mean like it or not we have responsibilities in this region.  Like it or not we have taken leadership and should continue to hold a strong leadership position in the region. And in that context we have to demonstrate firmness on issues such as sovereignty." Denis Burke, the Northern Territory (Australia) Government’s Chief Minister

Apr 9-11 APPEA: Galbraith: Timor Sea Petroleum  keynote conference address added May 5
"I am here today with Dr. Mari Alkatiri, East Timor’s Minister for Economic Affairs and therefore my colleague in Cabinet, to bring you a simple message: the period of instability and uncertainty in East Timor is over.  ... East Timor is well on its way to establishing stable democratic institutions and sensible pro-market economic policies. ... On behalf of the East Timor Cabinet and legislature, I am here to underline our intention to develop and implement a transparent, stable fiscal and regulatory regime that will be amongst the most modern in the world, and which will enable both the companies and the East Timorese to profit from our resource. ...
Both East Timor and Australia, and in particular its Northern Territory, have a lot to gain by concluding a Treaty to facilitate the development of the vast oil and gas resources of the Timor Sea.  ... Neither Mari Alkatiri nor I can bring back East Timor a treaty that would give East Timor less economic benefit than that which it is entitled under international law. ...
In summary, we see a great opportunity for East Timor and Australia in the Timor Sea. With East Timor the petroleum industry has a partner that promises a reliable, stable, and exploitation-friendly future. The uncertainty about East Timor’s future is over and we promise a regulatory regime that is transparent, straightforward, and honest."
Ambassador Peter Galbraith, Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea, East Timor Transitional Government


See also: BD: TIMOR OIL - A collection of recent reports, position statements, petitions, articles and news

 

Green Left Weekly - Wednesday May 2, 2001

 

East Timor: Big business press backs Australian oil theft

 

Jon Land


In the wake of the second round of negotiations between Australia and East Timor on the Timor Gap Treaty and the disputed seabed boundary, Australia’s big business press are stepping-up its support for Canberra’s push to deny East Timor a fair share of the revenue from oil and gas deposits.

At the conclusion of the talks, held in Melbourne on April 4-6, representatives of the Australian government, the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and East Timor’s transitional cabinet had made little headway in resolving the boundary dispute or the issue of how oil and gas royalties will be split.

During the opening of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference in Hobart on April 9, federal industry minister Nick Minchin stated in a speech that renegotiating a new treaty for the Timor Sea was the “highest priority” for the Australian government.

While claiming that the government is “taking a very generous position on the issue of revenue sharing”, Minchin also indicated the government’s reluctance to compromise with East Timor. “The existing joint management of the area has worked extremely well and we want to see that continue ... there are important Australian national interests at stake which must be recognised”, he stated.
The speech later in the day at the APPEA conference by UNTAET political affairs officer and cabinet member Peter Galbraith sparked a bout of media hysteria over the “hard-line” position adopted by UNTAET and the East Timorese.

“I am here to underline our intention to develop and implement a transparent, stable fiscal and regulatory regime that will be amongst the most modern in the world, and which will enable both the companies and the East Timorese to profit from our resource”, stated Galbraith.

Referring to the stalemate in negotiations, Galbraith said: “I would like to stand before you and declare the Timor Sea open for business. Unfortunately at the moment I am unable to do this, I cannot say when it will be open for business.”
 

Illegal

Galbraith pointed out the historical and political facts behind the creation of the Timor Gap Treaty and that, “As the product of an illegal occupation, the Timor Gap Treaty is itself illegal.  While the United Nations for practical reasons continued the terms of the treaty for the transitional period, it did so without prejudicing the position of an independent East Timor.”

The history lesson proved too much for representatives of Australia’s and the world’s largest oil and gas exploration companies, some of whom walked out during Galbraith’s speech. The Australian capitalist press responded sympathetically to the corporations’ discomfort with a series of alarmist headlines:
“Timor Sea ‘closed for oil talks’” (Australian Financial Review, April 10); “East Timor demands more gas revenue” (Australian, April 10); “UN takes tough line on Timor Gap negotiations” (Sydney Morning Herald, April 10).

The position of UNTAET and the East Timorese that the treaty be renegotiated according to the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on which rests their claim that the seabed boundary be the median line between East Timor and Australia, is not “new” or “hard line”.

It was the key demand made by UNTAET and East Timorese leaders in the lead-up to the first round of negotiations held last October, along with the argument that royalties be split 90%-10% in favour of East Timor (since a median-line boundary would place the largest known reserves of gas and oil entirely under East Timor’s sovereignty).

As Galbraith told the APPEA conference, “Like any negotiation, this requires compromises. East Timor recognises that resolving the issue of sovereignty in the Timor Sea—making a seabed delimitation—is difficult for Australia ... East Timor is therefore prepared to enter an interim agreement provided it has the same, or nearly the same, economic benefits as if there were an actual maritime delimitation done in accordance with international law.”
 

Uncompromising

What the big business media in Australia have ignored since negotiations began is that it is the Australian government that is uncompromising and taking a hard line. It has threatened to, if the seabed boundary is redrawn, reduce Australia’s aid commitment to East Timor. Australian negotiators have repeatedly played down the boundary dispute as a substantive issue in the negotiations, despite it being a core demand for East Timor.  Canberra has refused to accept that Australia has a moral obligation, let alone a legal one, to agree to a median-line seabed boundary.

The Australian press has accused Galbraith of pushing his own agenda, rather than what the East Timorese want. The strongest allegations have been made by the Australian Financial Review’s Geoffrey Barker.

In an April 20 article, Barker wrote that corporate observers and Australian government officials are concerned that Galbraith has “captured” East Timor’s negotiating stance and “that a closer analysis of his speech revealed a possibly darker agenda”. Barker quoted the opinion of Northern Territory chief minister Denis Burke (an outspoken opponent of East Timor’s claims): “I’m not convinced ... that [Galbraith] speaks for all the Timorese leadership”.

The AFR editorial that day proposed that “the compromise to the growing dispute between the transitional government and the Australian government should be a generous approach to revenue sharing by Australia within the existing treaty boundaries and taxation regime”.

On April 23, Barker’s attack became more virulent. “A powerful stench of moral zealotry suffuses Peter Galbraith’s outrageous demands for radical changes to seabed boundaries between Australia and East Timor”, Barker wrote. Galbraith is driven by “deep personal hostility to Australia and Indonesia” and has been “parading East Timor’s minister designate for economic affairs, Mari Alkatiri, and claiming his support” for Galbraith’s “obsessive agenda” and “mad moral crusade”.

Not only do Barker’s attacks on Galbraith contain cheap, patronising shots at the East Timorese leaders and people, they are also an attempt to create divisions between UNTAET and the East Timorese leadership over what tactics and goals they should pursue in negotiations with the Australian government.

There has been no indication that the UNTAET is pursuing any goals different to the wishes of the East Timorese leadership.  There have been no public criticisms from the National Council or the East Timorese members of the transitional cabinet.

Although the Australian government and its supporters in the capitalist media look set to continue their blackmailing and bullying tactics, and misrepresentation of the views of East Timor’s negotiators, UNTAET and the East Timorese leadereship seems determined not to falter.


Green Left Weekly  Updated Jan 23
GLW was launched in 1990 by the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), the socialist youth group Resistance and other progressive activists to present the views excluded by the big business media. In these days of growing media concentration GLW is an independent voice committed to human and civil rights, global peace and environmental sustainability, democracy and equality.
Email: glw@greenleft.org.au Homepage: http://www.greenleft.org.au  ET News Webpage:  http://www.greenleft.org.au/current/index.htm#INTERNATIONAL
East Timor info on the GLW site is added at least once a week.

See especially:

Apr 30 ABC Darwin: Denis Burke re: Timor Gas  Interview with comments from BACK DOOR added May 1
" ... frankly I believe Australia has to hold a very hard line in the region. I mean like it or not we have responsibilities in this region.  Like it or not we have taken leadership and should continue to hold a strong leadership position in the region. And in that context we have to demonstrate firmness on issues such as sovereignty." Denis Burke, the Northern Territory (Australia) Government’s Chief Minister

Apr 9-11 APPEA: Galbraith: Timor Sea Petroleum  keynote conference address added May 5
"I am here today with Dr. Mari Alkatiri, East Timor’s Minister for Economic Affairs and therefore my colleague in Cabinet, to bring you a simple message: the period of instability and uncertainty in East Timor is over.  ... East Timor is well on its way to establishing stable democratic institutions and sensible pro-market economic policies. ... On behalf of the East Timor Cabinet and legislature, I am here to underline our intention to develop and implement a transparent, stable fiscal and regulatory regime that will be amongst the most modern in the world, and which will enable both the companies and the East Timorese to profit from our resource. ...
Both East Timor and Australia, and in particular its Northern Territory, have a lot to gain by concluding a Treaty to facilitate the development of the vast oil and gas resources of the Timor Sea.  ... Neither Mari Alkatiri nor I can bring back East Timor a treaty that would give East Timor less economic benefit than that which it is entitled under international law. ...
In summary, we see a great opportunity for East Timor and Australia in the Timor Sea. With East Timor the petroleum industry has a partner that promises a reliable, stable, and exploitation-friendly future. The uncertainty about East Timor’s future is over and we promise a regulatory regime that is transparent, straightforward, and honest."
Ambassador Peter Galbraith, Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea, East Timor Transitional Government


See also:
BD: TIMOR OIL - A collection of recent reports, position statements, petitions, articles and news


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home May news
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