Slugcatcher: East Timor's royalties have started already - for the advisors

Is Slugcatcher missing the point or is there something awfully sad, not to mention there being a sense of deju vu, about the East Timor mess?
Slugcatcher: East Timor's royalties have started already - for the advisors Slugcatcher: East Timor's royalties have started already - for the advisors Slugcatcher: East Timor's royalties have started already - for the advisors Slugcatcher: East Timor's royalties have started already - for the advisors Slugcatcher: East Timor's royalties have started already - for the advisors

On one hand we have an impoverished little nation, which Australian helped rescue from an illegal occupation by Indonesia.

On the other, we have the same impoverished little nation doing its best to stay impoverished by refusing to recognise international laws, and hoping to embarrass Australia into giving it something to which it is not entitled.

To a casual outside observer, it is hard to not sympathise with East Timor in the dispute over seabed boundaries and oil royalties from projects such as the proposed Sunrise development of Woodside Petroleum.

But that understandable sympathy is no different in principal to the sympathy that all caring people feel for oppressed minorities, such as Australia’s Aborigines.

And here, dear reader, lies Slugcatcher’s central argument. How much of what we see in East Timor is the result of opportunist advisers earning a fee off the government of that country, in precisely the same way as opportunist advisers earn their living off social welfare and other payments made to Aborigines?

There is, unfortunately, no accurate answer to that question though the suspicion is that a lot, and certainly too much, of the blame for the East Timor impasse can be put down to well-paid advisers creaming off their fees, and working hard to keep the dispute going.

Comparing what we see today in East Timor with Australian Aboriginal issues may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but there is ample evidence that once a welfare system is set up, by internal or by international means, an advisory industry grows off it.

Slugcatcher is even prepared to rope in the advisers who destroyed the last attempt at creating a freer world trading system because they believed they could screw a better offer from the rich nations for the poor nations – with the result being that nobody got anything.

History, as it always does, is repeating itself in East Timor, right down to the silly examples of political correctness.

Hands up anyone who has seen recent references to Timor Leste, which is apparently the correct way of referring to East Timor – if you happen to be Spanish or Portuguese. In Australia, which is an English speaking country, it is absolutely correct to use the East Timor name – unless you happen to be a pedantic, pain in the backside. [Sounds like the Slug means me – editor]

The name question is not important, but it is indicative as to the type of person leading the East Timor debate. For proof ask them whether we should in future use the correct Russian spelling of Moscow (Moskva), Italian for Rome (Roma), or German for Germany (Deutschland). [Slugman, where do you stand on Myanmar (nee Burma), Zimbabwe (nee Rhodesia) or even landmarks like our own Uluru (Ayers Rock)? – ed]

Names aside, interesting as they are, it appears increasingly likely that the advisory industry has got the ear of East Timor’s leaders and told them that they can double their money (or some other promise) if they shoot for the stars and force Woodside and Australia to cough up. [Now you’re back on track – ed]

Opportunist Australians, including Federal Labor leader, Mark Latham, have played right into their hands.

The result? Well, Slugcatcher hopes he is wrong but when someone is having sweet billions whispered in his ear, versus sweet hundreds-of-millions on the table, he is likely to hold out for the billions – and just like the world trade talks, and Australia’s Aborigines, the result will be 100% of nothing versus a fair percentage of something.

In a nutshell, greed always wins over commonsense.

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