CLlNTON FERNANDES analyses the influence

of Australia's state-centric approach.
vvith Asia
he doctrinal tradition of
Realism has dominated the
discipline of International
Relations and been enormously
influential in Australian foreign
Realism offers four major
propositions about global reality:
Independent soveTei,gn states a?'e the
most impo'rtant cu.:tors 'in gtobal
polUics and must be the basic unit
Qf 'reali,stic' analysis;
The relationship between these
states is best unde?'stood as
ungoverned ana:rchy;
The behaviour of states engaged in
anaTclL'ical cOr/fT:ict can nevertheless
be undeTstood i,n m.f'irmaltenns - a,s
the utiJUa:rian PUTsu'it of self (s{,Q1e)
interest; a:nd
Even when sta,te acto?'.'; appear to
engage in coopemtive activity
and/oT 'when actors other tha:n states
engage in 'integrutive behmriour that
appea,TS to undermjne the power
politics premise, this is a transient
and ephemeral phenomenon and the
structu:ral determinants of
(anarchicat) global existence sl'ill
  p p l y ~
While there are many variations on
this theme, there is general
agreement that these propositions
are central to Realism. Australia's
foreign minister Alexander Downer
has endorsed Realism as 'the
theoretical framework in and
through which Australia approaches
its engagement with Asia'.
According to Downer, 'it is the state,
rather than culture or civilisation,
which continues to be the primary
locus of power and identification. It
is the state that is the primary
source of political power. Despite
the influence of transnational
corporations and international
capital flows, it is the state that
remains the primary economic
In order to give effect to this
state-centric analysis, successive
Australian goverrullents have had to
find ways to neutralise public
opinion. The challenge of public
opinion has been particularly strong
with respect to Indonesia and East
Timor. Yet this challenge was
recognised from the outset. More
than a year before the Indonesian
invasion of December 1975, William
Pritchett, First Assistant Secretary
in the Department of Defence,
38 I O!SSENT SUMMER 200S/2006
warned policymakers that it would
not be possible to conceal
Indonesian brutalities from the
Australian public. Nor would it be
possible to conduct a good working
relationship with Indonesia in the
face of sustained public
condemnation. He argued that
Australia should 'favour the
emergence of the territory (East
Tinlor) through self-detennination,
as an independent state' despite
Indonesian objections.
Pritchett's view was rejected;
instead, the hard-headed Realism of
Richard Woolcott prevailed.
Woolcott, who was Australia's
ambassador to Jakarta, argued
repeatedly that 'we need to make a
pragmatic, practical, hard-headed
assessment of our real long-term
interests'.5 Accordingly, we should
'leave events to take their course;
and if and when Indonesia does
intervene act in a way which would
be designed to mininlise the public
impact in Australia'.
it nlight be easier to negotiate with
Indonesia rather than an
independent East Timor on the
seabed boundary in the 'rimor Sea.
He regarded this as much more
realistic: 'I know I am
recommending a pragmatic rather
than a principled stand but this is
what national interest and foreign
policy is all about'.7
Had the Australian government
taken Pritchett's advice, President
Suharto would have had firmer
grounds on which to resist his
military's desire to invade East
Timor. Instead, as Indonesia's
General Murtopo observed,
'Australian support for the idea of
incorporation had helped Indonesia
crystallise its own thinking'.
As history shows, the Australia-
Indonesia relationship was dogged
by the challenge of public opinion; a
transnational coalition of activists
campaigned against East Timor's
occupation for 24 years. Although
not tmder direct threat themselves,
and for the most part not even of
Timorese origin, foreign activists
took up the cause of East 'rimor.
They held rallies, disrupted press
conferences, blockaded military
bases, sabotaged nlilitary equipment
and raised awareness wherever they
could. This coalition was leaderless
but llighly organised - leaderless
because no central corrmlittee
directed the rest of the movement;
highly organised because its
members cooperated witllin a
shared framework of understanding
and collective action. A continuum
of activism developed between
campaigners on the outside, armed
freedom fighters in the mountains,
and clandestine networks in the
towns and villages. This movement
of non-state actors grew irl strength
over the years, ultinlately
capitalising on the Sullarto regime's
diplomatic vulnerability during the
Asian financial crisis. The liberation
of East Timor in 1999 represented a
Copyright of Full Text rests With the origmal owner and, except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, copying this copyright materialis prohibited without the permiSSion of the owner or
.:l.ent or by way of a licence from COPYright Agency Limited. For mformatlOn about such licences, contact the Copyright Agency Limited on (02) 93947600 (ph) or (02) 93947601 (fax)
Dr.•·..• · .. .- __
.......'.., ,4'. IIP" ......
Indonesian military responded by
launching a campaign of state-
sponsored terror in order to reverse
the results of the ballot. The
Howard goverml1ent assisted
Indonesia by evacuating foreign
observers, thus ensuring that there
would be no witnesses to the
military's ethnic cleansing campaign.
However, its efforts were
confounded by a tidal wave of
public outrage. It was therefore
forced to reverse its policy and
deploy troops into East TimorJ
The territory's emergence as an
independent state voided the Timor
Gap Treaty. There had been clear
indications all along that the East
Timorese would not accept it; Mari
Alkatiri (today the Prime Minister)
said in November 1999, 'We still
consider the TinlOr Gap Treaty an
illegal treaty This is a point of
principle. We are not going to be a
successor to an illegal treaty'. 12
Alkatiri emphasised that transitional
arrangements to provide certainty to
existing operators would continue,
but East Tinlor could not be
expected to inherit a treaty signed
between its fOffiler occupier and
that occupier's greatest Western ally.
The Australian Labor Party under
then-Shadow Minister for Foreign
Affairs Laurie Brereton realised the
impOl1:ance of resolving the issue
fairly and speedily. At its National
Conference on 3 August 2000,
Brereton stated:
Labor is prepared to SUppOTt tlw
negotiation and conclusion of a
perrnanent mm-il'ime boundn,ry in
tlw Timor Gap based on lines qf
eqU'id'istance bef'lJ.Jeen Austmlia and
East Tim01: Such (J, settlement would
see major gas and pelroleum
TesenJes 'within East Timm's
'lTw:ritime boundwies and would be
ajust outcorne consisten.t with the
Law Qf the Sea.
This view appears to have been
anathema to the hard-headed
policymaking Realists, whose
assessment was that a lawful
boundary settlement with East
Timor would have negative
implications for the existing
boundary with Indonesia. They may
have been thinking of the 1977
statement of Indonesia's then-
Foreign Minister Dr Mochtar
Kusumaatmadja that Australia >
, ' -
, '   ,b,usir.flll;i
am! E.'!.-'>t
to the 1995 Australia-Indonesia
Agreement on Maintaining Security.
Given the degree of public hostility,
this agreement had to be negotiated
in secret. As Keating acknowledged,
'If there'd been a more public
process, there probably wouldn't
have been a treaty'. 10
The Howard government
adhered to the foreign policy of its
predecessors, continuing to extend
diplomatic support to the
Indonesian occupation. After the
resignation of President Suharto, it
worked assiduously alongside
Indonesia to prevent a ballot on
East Tinlor's independence. The
situation soon became untenable,
and Indonesia was forced to hold a
ballot. Australia tried to mininlise
international involvement while
Indonesia tried to engineer a
favourable outcome. Despite these
efforts, the ballot reSUlted in a
victory for independence. The
boundary in the Timor Gap in
February 1979.
The Hawke Labor government
followed the same trajectory,
ultimately signing the Tirnor Gap
Treaty with Indonesia in December
1989. Australia received a
disproportionate share of the
resources in return for recognising
Indonesia's annexation. Under the
prime ministership of Paul Keating,
the Australian Defence Force
engaged in militaty training with
Indonesia's Special Forces.
Australian defence cooperation led
'.,..... ,.
The 1972 Seabed Agreement
between Australia and Indonesia
resulted in a boundary much closer
to Indonesia, giving AustTalia the
lion's share of the resources.
Portugal, which then controlled East
Timor, refused to conclude a similar
agreement with Australia, resulting
in the 'TinlOr Gap'. InU11ediately
after the December 1975 Indonesian
invasion, Ambassador Woolcott
advised the press that an
independent East Timor 'would
probably have held out for a less
generous seabed agreement than
Indonesia had given'.
Fraser was Prime Minister as the
death toll mounted during the War
of Pacification (1975-79). He moved
to legitimise the occupation by
extencling de facto recognition of
Indonesia's sovereignty in January
1978, followed by de JUTe
recognition with the opening of
negotiations on the seabed
major crisis in Australia-Indonesia
relations. Austnlian diplomacy,
often criticised on moral grounds,
had failed even by its own standards
of pragmatism, practicality and
hirty years on, a similar
challenge from non-state
actors has arisen - this time
in the form of the Timor Sea Justice
Campaign, which is opposing
Australia's claims to East Tinlor'S oil
resources. The relevant background
is as follows.
D!SSENT SUMMER 2005/2006 I 39
MCNAUGHTAN'S OPTION: Under the Australian proposal, 20% of
the Greater Sunrise field is 'deemed' to belong to East Timor.
Australia could make a simple, unilateral technical alteration,
such that 90% of Greater Sunrise - instead of 20% - would be
'deemed' to belong to East Timor.
had 'taken Indonesia to the
cleaners'.13 According to the legal
academic Gillian Triggs, 'There is no
doubt Indonesia will feel quite
aggrieved if we have unequal
boundaries in certain areas with
Indonesia and we suddenly blow the
boundary out and make a more
equidistant one in relation to East
Timor'.14 Accordingly, in March
2002, just two months before East
Timor became independent,
Australia withdrew unilaterally from
the maritime boundary jurisdiction
of the International Court of Justice
and the Intem.ational Tribunal on
the Law of the Sea. Its withdrawal
was based on the optional clause of
the Statute of the ICJ and Article
298 (1) ofthe United National
Convention of the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS) , and reflected its
assessment of the weakness of its
own legal position. 15
Defending this decision, Foreign
Minister Downer said, 'As I
explained to the East Timorese
some time ago, we are happy to
hear what they have to say but we
don't want to start renegotiating all
of our boundaries, not just with East
Timor, but with Indonesia. It has
enormous implications. As I have
explained to them, our maritime
boundaries with Indonesia cover
several thousand kilometres. That is
a very, very big issue for us and we
are not in the game of renegotiating
them'.16 This is a dangerous
precedent. Neighbouring states may
use similar tactics to Australia's
detriment in future.
Australia has continued to adopt
strong-arm tactics toward the East
Timorese govemment. In November
2003, for example, a year after East
Timor asked Australia to begin
negotiations on a permanent
boundary, the first round of talks
was held in Darwin. East Timor sent
a full team of negotiators with a
40 I D!SSENT SUMMER 2005/2006
mandate to engage in substantive
negotiations. By contrast, Australia
sent a team of three, but asserted
that it did not regard the
proceedings as binding. It described
them as 'talks about talks'. East
Timor requested the convening of
discussions on a monthly basis, but
the Australian government pleaded
that it had only enough resources
for two rounds of discussions per
year. Incredulous, East Timor
offered to fund Australia's expenses,
but the offer was not taken up.
Great secrecy surrounds the
negotiations, so an accurate analysis
of their content cannot be made at
this time. However, the late Dr
Andrew McNaughtan suggested a
feasible way forward more than
three years ago.
There is every
indication that his proposal is still
appropriate and agreeable to both
governments. It involves fuding a
middle road between East Timor's
legitimate claims and Australia's
unreserved   of them (see
map, previous page).
East Timor's legitimate
Were East 'l1mor to insist on its full
maritime rights, it would be entitled
to 100%of the oil and gas on its side
of the median line in the Timor Sea.
This includes the single most crucial
resource, namely the Greater
Sunrise field, the bulk of which lies
just outside the lateral boundary of
the Gap, now renamed the Joint
Petroleum Development Area
(JPDA). Greater Sunrise contains
resources estimated at about two
billion barrels of oil equivalent (an
energy unit that covers both oil and
gas deposits). This outcome would
be lawful and ideal from East
Timor's perspective, but it would be
plagued by considerable diplomatic,
political and strategic factors. For
one, a small and militarily weak
East Timor is located between two
huge and militarily powerful
neighbors - Indonesia and Australia.
East '.rimor would not have the
military capacity to defend its
resources from its enemies within
the Indonesian army, which may yet
seek revenge for its 24 years of
defiance. Australia also appears to
be resolutely committed to opposing
and delaying a lawful settlement.
Given these factors, the fledgling
state would face considerable
political and fmancial insecurity.
Australia's rejectionism:
Australia's preferred scenario would
result in only 200!o of the crucial
Greater Sunrise field being 'deemed'
to lie within the JPDA. East Timor
would receive 900!o of this 200!o,
meaning that it would get only 18%
of the overall revenue from Greater
Sunrise. East Timor cannot ratify
the Australian proposal because it
would surrender for all time its right
to the majority (or all) of its most
significant resources.
McNaughtan's option:
Under the Australian proposal, 200!o
of the Greater Sunrise field is
'deemed'to belong to East Timor.
But this percentage is merely the
result of an agreement between the
parties, and is just as easily
replaceable by another figure.
Australia could make a simple,
unilateral technical alteration, such
that 90% of Greater Sunrise -
instead of 20%- would be 'deemed'
to belong to East Timor. East Timor
would receive 900!o of this 900!o, or
81%of the overall revenue from
Greater Sunrise. The Australian
government would resolve its
concerns about the boundary -
particularly the concern about
setting a precedent that Indonesia
might exploit. East Timor would
receive most of the resources it is
. _.
.. .
If anyone sees a terrorist- other than
an emotionally unstable person
expelled from our closed psychiatric
.. hospitals - could ti)ey please let me
know? .
entitled to, and would also get a
powerful security guarantee for
these resources - responsibility for
maritime security would fall to
Australia, whose powerful navy and
air force are already well equipped
for the task. What is more, East
Timor could continue to insist on
jobs and training for downstream
It remains to be seen whether
the Realists take a hard-headed,
recalcitrant stand. If they do,
unpleasant surprises may yet be in
store for them.
Dr Clinton Ferna,ndes is u historian
und uuthor Qf Reluctant Saviour:
Australia, Indonesia and the
Independence of East Timor (Scribe,
2004). He is currently a Visit?:ng
Fellow ut the Austml'ian Nationa,l
University. These are his views.
For more information, visit the Timor Sea
Justice Campaign's website:
1. International Relations here refers to the
academic discipline that deals with the study
of global politics. Realism here refers to the
range of views contained within the
dominant intellectual/policy perSPective in
International Relations.
2. J. George 1996, 'Quo Vadis Australia?
Framing the Defence and Security Debate
Beyond the Cold War'. in Cheeseman G and
Bruce R 1996 (edsJ, Discourses of Danger
and Dread Frontiers: Australian Defence and
Security Thinking after the Cold War, Alien
and Unwin, St Leonards.
3. A. Downer 23 May 1996, Address at the
launch of the Australia in Asia series,
Parliament House, Canberra.
4. W. Way (ed) 2000, Australia and the
Indonesian Incorporation of Portuguese
rimor 1974-1976, Melbourne University
Press, p 84 and p 190.
5. W. Way (ed) 2000, p 309.
6. W. Way (ed) 2000, p 314.
7. W. Way (ed) 2000, p 314.
8. W. Way (ed) 2000, p 136.
9. H. McDonald 15-20 September 1975,
Australia supports Indonesia takeover of
East rimor, The National Times.
10. 19 December 1995, The Austraiian, p 1.
11. See my Reluctant Saviour: Australia,
Indonesia and the independence of East
rimor, Scribe, 2004.
12. K. Polglaze 30 November 1999, Future of
rimor Gap Treay thrown into doubt, Sydney
Morning Heraid.
13. R. King 2002, The Timor Gap, 1972·2002,
r/subs/sub43.pdf, p 5.
14. R. King 2002, pp 32-3.
15. N. Bugalski 2004, Beneath the Sea:
Determining a maritime boundary between
Australia and East Timor, Alternative Law
Journal, voi 29, no 6.
16. D. Greenlees 25 May 2002, Downer: No
change to Timor borders, The Australian.
17. A. McNaughtan March 2002, A Middle
Road in Timor's Oil and Gas Options,
1'1 ,'. I", ,",
've looking for
but I haven't seen any.
On the weekend my boys
and I were in the garden and we
looked everywhere for terrorists
but we didn't see any. There were
a pair of Eastern Rosellas and
we're pretty sure they were
because we looked them up in the
bird book and although they could
be confused for juvenUe Crimson
Rosellas or perhaps a lorikeet or
two, we were pretty sure they
were Eastern Rosellas. But no
I know there must be terrorists
in Australia because Prime Minister
John Howard says he's seen them.
And he's shown them to the State
Premiers and Territory Chief
Ministers. But I haven't seen them.
We looked at Caulfield Park,
Canlegie Velodrome, Princess Park
and Queen's Park and we didn't
see any there, either. And I didn't
see any at the MCG for the Grand
Final, which is good1;Jecause then
the whole stadium would have had
t<;> be evacuated and you can
imagine how alert and alarmed
90,000 football fans would be if
there Auskick bag left near ..
a seat while someone went to get a
pie or a beer.
I've seen some men and women
with guns and very surly men and
women with badges and
notebooks at Flagstaff Station but
I don't think terrorists wear
uniforrriS inAustralia, do they? I
know our police wouldn't shoot a .
Braziliarielectrician eight times,
because even the police know how:
hard itis to get a qualified
electrician these days,
I saw some people from the
Middle East at TullamarineAirport
the, including young
males, but I don't think they were·
terrorists because they were with a
little old lady in a wheelchair and
they were crying a lot. She was
being deported. There were some··
men with guns and others with·
uniforms but that was as close to·
terrorists as I could see.. Perhaps
the young MUslim men crying over
their grandmother's forced
deportation might grow up to be
I did see terrorists when I was
a Middle East reporter. They had
gunS. Some of the Palestinian ones
had black Mercedes sedans with
dark glass windows and their
drivers and guards had guns. All
the Israeli ones had guns. The Irish
terrorists had their own CCTV- so
if the IRA can use CCTV; I suppose
we should, too. The one Welsh
terrorist I met blew up an
electricity pylon. Come to think of
it, I've actually seen quite a few
terrOIists. It was my job. ThE:W told
me who they were and what they
But I haven't seen any terrorists
in Australia. Perhaps they are the
sort of terrorists you can't see; a·
bit like the tooth fairy and Santa
Claus and the Bogeyman.
If anyone sees a terrorist -
otherthan an emotionally unstable
person expelled from our closed ....
psychiatric hospitals - could they .
please let me know?
Drivid Langsamreported on the
Israeli-Pulestinian conj1.ict 1985-
1997jor BBC WorldService, ..
The Guardian, the 5MB; the New·
Statesman und ABCRadio.
D!SSENT SUMMER 200512006 I 41

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful