[Marxism] Shafting East Timor: Australian and US imperialism

Nicholas Siemensma nsiemensma at yahoo.com.au
Fri Mar 12 01:03:16 MST 2004

US seeks fair oil, gas deal for Timorese
The Age, March 11 2004

US legislators have urged Australia to negotiate its maritime boundary
with East Timor to give the tiny nation a fair share of Timor Sea

The fate of substantial oil and natural gas deposits between Australia
and newly independent East Timor depends on a boundary agreement to be
hammered out between the two countries. 

In a letter to Prime Minister John Howard, 53 members of the US House
of Representatives urged Canberra to establish a "fair, permanent
maritime boundary and an equitable sharing of oil and gas resources".


For all Howard's crowing, the ambitions of Australian subimperialism
and elements of its domestic capital sponsors have been impaired by
"deputy sheriff" state policy and the tightened imperialist chain over
the last five years. The institutionalised plunder of the Timor Gap
Treaty, signed by Gareth Evans in 1989, was replaced in 2002 by the
Timor Sea Treaty, which revised the earlier 50-50 division of revenues.
Within the new "Joint Petroleum Development Area" the spoils were
allocated 90-10 to East Timor. As the article states, however, this
agreement does not include the most significant fields, especially
Greater Sunrise, in which Australia will obtain an 82 per cent share of
production, despite falling within East Timor's Exclusive Economic
Territory under the principle of equidistance (median line) used to
determine maritime boundaries. Australia delivered a "tutorial in
politics" (according to the insufferably arrogant Alex Downer) by
quietly pulling out of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea two
years ago, and then delaying negotiations on the contested territory.

If the US now forms an alliance of convenience with Dili (part of the
dollar bloc), while sanctimoniously singing the praises of
international law and justice, certain fractions of Oz capital could be
dished once again. Under present boundaries, in the contested zone
outside the JPDE, Australian corp Woodside Petroleum operates the
Greater Sunrise field. East Timor's Joint Petroleum Development Area is
dominated by US giant ConocoPhillips, which moved into the Timor Gap
area after 1999. Should an equitable settlement of maritime boundaries
occur, under US pressure, ConocoPhillips will be in the box seat again,
and could possibly re-orient LNG production and trade towards the US
west coast rather than continuing the focus, shared by Woodside and
other Australia corps, on Japan and China. This is surely the
significance behind ConocoPhillips' scarcely believable talk about
producing energy for Northern Territory domestic demand. 

Certain fractions of Australian capital are expressing doubts about the
bilateral US-Australia "trade diversion agreement". The timing of the
otherwise inexplicable leadership tensions amongst the Liberals, and
the rising fortunes of Labor (getting a very soft run in the press),
may have something to do with this: is it time to bump little Johnny in
favour of somebody more "multilateralist", ie Sinocentric?


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