Saturday, September 15, 2012

Premier says mining will sustain the economy - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

 Barnett said "My state has been variously described as a dig it up, ship it out economy. Not true. The scale, the technology and the science that goes into mining is world leading, absolutely world leading.

"Other people think that we're just China's quarry, no, that's not true, and others think we're just bogans and billionaires. Well, if we are, we know what we're doing, just leave us alone."


  1. The scale, the technology and the science that goes into mining is world leading, absolutely world leading.

    "Other people think that we're just China's quarry, no, that's not true, and others think we're just bogans and billionaires. Well, if we are, we know what we're doing, just leave us alone."

    FORTESCUE Metals Group's mounting debt woes have sparked market speculation that it is seeking to raise billions of dollars through the sale of its Pilbara mining equipment and could be forced into an equity raising as early as next week.

    The crisis-hit Fortescue is expected to announce a significant restructuring of its $US10 billion debt pile by early next week, and the move could be accompanied by asset sales or an equity raising in a bid to shore up the company's balance sheet amid a plunge in iron ore prices.

    And on the other side of the paddock :

    THE problems for Queensland's coking coal miners may not be just short term.

    BHP Billiton, Queensland's largest coking coal producer, has substantially wound down its outlook for the steelmaking ingredient, and not just because of the growing cost imposts in the state.

    Who does Barnett think he is kidding?


    Australia's Hidden Empire

    JOHN PILGER reports on Australia's hidden empire - a 'sphere of influence' that stretches from the Aboriginal slums of Sydney to East Timor and Afghanistan. The arrival of new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, offers important continuity.

    That Australia runs its own empire is unmentionable; yet it stretches from the Aboriginal slums of Sydney to the ancient hinterlands of the continent and across the Arafura Sea and the South Pacific. When the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, apologised to the Aboriginal people on 13 February, he was acknowledging this. As for the apology itself, the Sydney Morning Herald accurately described it as a “piece of political wreckage” that “the Rudd government has moved quickly to clear away... in a way that responds to some of its own supporters’ emotional needs, yet changes nothing. It is a shrewd manoeuvre.”

    Like the conquest of the Native Americans, the decimation of Aboriginal Australia laid the foundation of Australia’s empire. The land was taken and many of its people were removed and impoverished or wiped out. For their descendants, untouched by the tsunami of sentimentality that accompanied Rudd’s apology, little has changed. In the Northern Territory’s great expanse known as Utopia, people live without sanitation, running water, rubbish collection, decent housing and decent health. This is typical. In the community of Mulga Bore, the water fountains in the Aboriginal school have run dry and the only water left is contaminated.

    Throughout Aboriginal Australia, epidemics of gastroenteritis and rheumatic fever are as common as they were in the slums of 19th-century England. Aboriginal health, says the World Health Organisation, lags almost a hundred years behind that of white Australia. This is the only developed nation on a United Nations “shame list” of countries that have not eradicated trachoma, an entirely preventable disease that blinds Aboriginal children. Sri Lanka has beaten the disease, but not rich Australia. On 25 February, a coroner’s inquiry into the deaths in outback towns of 22 Aboriginal people, some of whom had hanged themselves, found they were trying to escape their “appalling lives”.

  3. .cont.

    The Northern Territory is where Aboriginal people have had comprehensive land rights longer than anywhere else, granted almost by accident 30 years ago. The Howard government set about clawing them back. The territory contains extraordinary mineral wealth, including huge deposits of uranium on Aboriginal land. The number of companies licensed to explore for uranium has doubled to 80. Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the American giant Halliburton, built the railway from Adelaide to Darwin, which runs adjacent to Olympic Dam, the world’s largest low-grade uranium mine.

    Last year, the Howard government appropriated Aboriginal land near Tennant Creek, where it intends to store the radioactive waste. “The land-grab of Aboriginal tribal land has nothing to do with child sexual abuse,” says the internationally acclaimed Australian scientist and actvist Helen Caldicott, “but all to do with open slather uranium mining and converting the Northern Territory to a global nuclear dump.”

    This “top end” of Australia borders the Arafura and Timor Seas, across from the Indonesian archipelago. One of the world’s great submarine oil and gas deposits lies off East Timor. In 1975, Australia’s then ambassador in Jakarta, Richard Woolcott, who had been tipped off about the coming Indonesian invasion of then Portuguese East Timor, secretly recommended to Canberra that Australia turn a blind eye to it, noting that the seabed riches “could be much more readily negotiated with Indonesia . . . than with [an independent] Timor”.

    Gareth Evans, later foreign minister, described a prize worth “zillions of dollars”. He ensured that Australia distinguish itself as one of the few countries to recognise General Suharto’s bloody occupation, in which 200,000 East Timorese lost their lives. When eventually, in 1999, East Timor won its independence, the Howard government set out to manoeuvre the East Timorese out of their proper share of the oil and gas revenue by unilaterally changing the maritime boundary and withdrawing from World Court jurisdiction in maritime disputes. This would have denied desperately needed revenue to the new country, stricken from its years of brutal occupation.

  4. ...........

    From Canberra, Prime Minister Rudd announced the despatch of more Australian “peacemakers”. In the same week, the World Food Programme disclosed that the children of resource-rich East Timor were slowly starving, with more than 42 per cent of under-fives seriously underweight – a statistic which corresponds to that of Aboriginal children in “failed” communities that also occupy an abundant natural resource.

    Australia is engaged in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, where its troops and federal police have dealt with “breakdowns in law and order” that are “depriving Australia of business and investment opportunities”. A former senior Australian intelligence officer calls these “wild societies for which intervention represents a blunt, but necessary instrument”. Australia is also entrenched in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rudd’s electoral promise to withdraw from the “coalition of the willing” does not include almost half of Australia’s troops in Iraq.

    At last year’s conference of the American-Australian Leadership Dialogue – an annual event designed to unite the foreign policies of the two countries, but in reality an opportunity for the Australian elite to express its historic servility to great power – Rudd was in unusually oratorical style. “It is time we sang from the world’s rooftops,” he said, “[that] despite Iraq, America is an overwhelming force for good in the world... I look forward to more than working with the great American democracy, the arsenal of freedom, in bringing about long-term changes to the planet.”

    The new sheriff for Asia had spoken.

  5. Fields of Dreams: The battle for the Timor Sea, home of oil, gas, hot air and hope

    Tony Clifton

    The Monthly | The Monthly Essays | July 2005 |

    Now here’s a puzzle, and it’s right on Australia’s sea-girt northern doorstep. Under the sea between Australia and Timor – but much closer to Timor than Australia – sits a huge geological formation known as Greater Sunrise. It contains perhaps $50 billion or more worth of gas and oil. Not a drop of this oil, or a breath of this gas, has been raised to the surface above because Australia and Timor cannot agree who owns it. This doesn’t bother Australia all that much because it has plenty of gas and oil, plus all the other riches we carol about in the national anthem. But it bothers Timor a lot. Take a half-hour taxi ride from the small airport of the capital, Dili, and you can go to a clinic where you see starving people and lepers, and babies dying from malnutrition, and old people racked by malaria and tuberculosis. You would have to say something seems wrong here. Why aren’t these people driving Mercedes and living in air-conditioned mansions, just like they do in Dubai?

    There are plenty of reasons. One is that only six years ago Indonesian troops were looting, burning and murdering their former subjects because they had the temerity to vote for Timor to become an independent country. Another is that before Indonesia’s 24-year reign the Portuguese, as colonial masters, had neglected them for 400 years – hadn’t educated, hadn’t built roads, hadn’t electrified, hadn’t developed industry. They had barely raised a structure more than ten metres high, apart from some Catholic churches and a small handful of forts set up to scare off the Dutch and British, who really weren’t too interested anyway in a mountainous half-island with virtually no natural resources.

    And the final, and main, reason Timor is in terrible trouble is because Australia has gone to extraordinary lengths to deny Timor access to what should be a solution to its most pressing problems: the wealth stored in the Jurassic strata of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field.

    Greater Sunrise was known, through seismic testing, to be a big oil field as early as 1974, when the Portuguese empire was in its death throes. It is about 175 kilometres off the south coast of Timor, and if you drew a line across the middle of the Timor Sea, Greater Sunrise would be much nearer to Timor than Australia. Under international law Greater Sunrise should belong to Timor, and if it did they would be able to sell gas and oil from it, and they would be living on more than 70 cents a day, which is the average income for 40% of Timor’s 900,000 or so people. Maybe they wouldn’t be driving Mercedes, but they wouldn’t be dying of malnutrition during the island’s dreaded “hungry season”, which lasts from November when the old crops are used up until March when the new ones are harvested.

    The world’s newest country, Timor Leste, or East Timor, celebrated its third birthday on May 20 in a very muted way. What Timor has that it didn’t have three years ago is independence. After that there was not a huge amount to cheer about. This is a country under enormous stress. It is literally a sick country. When you analyse its problems you probably need to start with its health, because a country whose adults are weak and sick and whose children are dying has no more urgent priority than curing these ills.

  6. ...cont...

    In Timor, 44% of children under five suffer from moderate to severe malnutrition. Timor has one of the world’s biggest fertility rates – families average almost eight children – and one of the region’s highest infant mortality rates of 88 per thousand live births. Australia, by comparison, averages less than five per thousand. Only half the people in rural areas have clean water and people are killed by all the usual tropical diseases, like dengue fever and malaria and that reaper of weakened kids, diarrhoea. Timor is riddled with TB and afflicted by both the most ancient and modern of curses: leprosy and HIV-AIDS.

    To start with the worst first, the number one problem in Timor is TB. It’s a legacy of Indonesia’s last days as masters here. They chased half the population out of their homes and herded thousands of them into these huge compounds. Stressed-out, undernourished people were sleeping out on the ground in the rain, crowded in with people who had TB already. Perfect breeding grounds for TB.” He pauses. “And then you’ve got very high malaria rates, dengue, malnutrition, HIV-AIDS and leprosy of course. The highest leprosy rate in Asia and one of the last leprosy hotspots in the world.”

    A ward round in Dr Dan’s clinic would make a western hospital doctor call for a doctor. He does a round every morning, accompanied by half a dozen medical students from Europe, America and Australia. The first “ward” they visit is a smallish room packed with ten beds, containing a mixture of men, women and children. The man closest to the door has a left eye bulging out of his head. “Probably a hydatid swelling,” says Dr Dan. “It will probably need surgery.” I have a mental picture of the tapeworm larvae causing the swelling, bursting out of the surgical cut. It reminds me that Ian Melrose, the Melbourne businessman who is spending millions of his own money on TV advertisements criticising Australia’s grab for Greater Sunrise, decided to become involved after reading about a Timorese girl infested with worms. When the worms felt she was collapsing they all rushed into her throat and choked her as they struggled to leave her dying body.

  7. ...cont...

    But the oil and gas is out there. The seas between Timor and Australia belch and fart oil and gas in gigantic quantities, and they are nowhere near fully explored. Colourfully named fields dot the offshore map of northern Australia: Browse, Blacktip, Gorgon, Angel, Jahal-Kuda Tasi, Stybarrow and, of course, Greater Sunrise. Australia has been making a million dollars a day from the Laminaria field, which Timor claims is entirely theirs, and it also splits revenue with Timor on the Bayu-Undan field, which pumps gas into the Wickham Point terminal in Darwin. And yet Australia and Timor have been wrangling over who owns what ever since the Timorese achieved independence.

    Timor’s case is fairly simple. They contend that under international law, when a body of water separating two countries is less than 400 nautical miles wide – as it is between Timor and Australia – the convention is that a line is drawn across the middle of the strait between the two countries. Had this line been drawn, says Timor, most of the disputed oil and gas fields – Greater Sunrise, Laminaria, Bayu-Undan – would fall on the Timor side of the line.

    Australia immediately disagreed with Timor’s contention. It wanted to stick with a much more favourable agreement drawn up between Indonesia and Australia in the days when Timor was an imprisoned province of Indonesia. This agreement established what is now known as the Joint Petroleum Development Area, which gives Australia shared rights in what is usually described as a coffin-shaped patch of sea on the Timor side of the median line. From the Bayu-Undan field, Timor takes 90% and Australia 10%, which sounds generous until you remember that, as Gusmao once said, “East Timor is giving 10% of what belongs to it to Australia.”

    In retrospect, the agreement with Indonesia over this delineation stands as a real blot on Australia’s recent history. Australia stood aside when Indonesia invaded Timor after the Portuguese freed their former colony in 1975. Australia was the only country to recognise the takeover as legal. Australia allowed Timor to be brutally recolonised, and in return Indonesia gave Australia a favourable configuration in the Timor Sea. This was realpolitik at its nastiest.

    Greater Sunrise lies largely outside the JPDA, but enough of it lies within to make its exploitation a matter of joint agreement between Australia and Timor. So when Australia said no to a median line, Timor suggested the two countries should submit their case to the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Again Australia said no; they weren’t going to any court, they preferred bilateral negotiations to international arbitration. They emphasised this preference by withdrawing – cynically – from the jurisdiction of the ICJ’s maritime division only two months before Timor became independent in 2002. Various critics have since suggested this was like Hermann Goering saying he didn’t recognise the Nuremberg court and was retiring to his holiday home in Bavaria. Or as Timor’s defender in Melbourne, Ian Melrose, put it: “The only reason you don’t go to court is because you think you’ll lose.”

    Now Australia seems on the point of emerging as victor in the battle over Greater Sunrise. Teams from the two countries have been meeting alternately in Australia and Timor for the past year. In late May they half-announced, half-leaked the news that an agreement had been reached, although it has yet to be ratified by the respective governments. Timor would get half the proceeds from gas and oil production from Greater Sunrise, which Australia says is a generous concession on its part, because under the previous JPDA agreement the split was 82% to Australia and only 18% to Timor. In return, Timor would agree not to talk about boundary issues for the next 50 years. Australia would provide some naval security around Timorese waters. And the vital question of where to base a pipeline carrying gas and oil from Greater Sunrise would be left to the operator, Australia’s Woodside Petroleum.

  8. ...cont...

    But you can speculate that unlike penniless Nauru, Timor will at least survive, because it has survived on very little through centuries of colonial maladministration. In the context of 400 years of misrule, another decade or so won’t matter much – except to the babies and old people who will die of malnutrition, TB, malaria and all the other usual scourges. In fact, Timor should be a middle-class sort of a country in 20 years, because even apart from Bayu-Undan and Greater Sunrise it is surrounded by oil and, in particular, gas. The gas literally seeps out of the ground in Timor; there are small flares of it that the locals call “eternal flames”. As Dave Malone in Darwin points out: “Gas is the energy of the future and the whole region seems surrounded by it. The fact is that the fields we know about have been found by companies that were looking for oil – not gas. Imagine what it will be like when they really start looking for gas.”

    Darwin should flourish too. With gas and oil money pouring in, it could become a major south-east Asian city. It is not incredibly hard to see Darwin as a potential Singapore, swollen to mega-city size by energy wealth and by a population of Asians from unstable south-east Asian countries – such as Indonesia, which is already fraying, and Taiwan and Hong Kong, which are continually under stress from China. That is, of course, if a future Australian government is more friendly to displaced people than the present one.

    You could speculate too that Australia, if it’s not careful, will find itself a rich pariah. The small states won’t forget their treatment at Australia’s hands, and the world’s next superpowers – China, or possibly India – will find a ring of potential allies in Australia’s north. China already has a large embassy in Dili, and the Chinese oil company BGP is conducting seismic surveys onshore and in undisputed Timorese waters. Timor sees China, with its huge energy needs, as an important prospective client.

    Australia is a big country only in its own small pond. Japan recently showed Australia where it stands among the world’s big kids, giving it a taste of what it’s like to be an unimportant little nation – like Timor, perhaps. In early May an Australian patrol boat found Japanese fishing boats poaching protected Patagonian toothfish in the seas off Heard Island, Australia’s World Heritage-listed Antarctic territory. Australia asked permission to board the boats. The Japanese told them, diplomatically, to piss off. A few days later Japan announced that it would apply at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission for the right to hunt humpback whales as part of its “scientific research” into whale numbers (read “sushi”). The meeting was still in progress when this story went to press. But the Japanese seemed likely to get their wish, because they give money to all those little Pacific island countries which Australia doesn’t get along with but which have votes on the IWC.

    High in the hills above Dili, on a winding jungle road leading to a place called Dare, is a memorial pool. It was donated by Australians in recognition of the help the Timorese people gave Australian troops, at the risk of their own lives, during the bitter battles against the Japanese in World War II. The wording on the dedication slab reads: “To all the peoples of East Timor, this memorial and resting place is given to them for their use by the Australian people in grateful recognition of their assistance to Australian soldiers …”

    I was going to end with “how soon we forget”. But that’s a cliche and old-fashioned and that war … well, it was so long ago, before Big Brother, and Australian Idol, and poor Schapelle Corby, and the Bali Nine. (Doesn’t that really put you off Bali? Maybe we should go to Timor for the next holidays, although they say it’s got a terrible bar scene.) And all that other really important stuff.