Alexander Downer copped a serve yesterday in Crikey over the
Timor Gap treaty negotiations – but good intentions and commercial realities
might be clashing here. Opponents of the Timor treaty in its current form say
Australia is stealing Timorese resources. We, however, have plenty of gas of our
own closer to our shores.

Resources industry sources have their own
interests – but they say it’s time to drop the do-gooding. They claim
Australia’s proposals will actually assist the fledging nation of East Timor by
shutting shonks out of its economic development. Without Australia, they say,
East Timor will be unable to do anything other than market its gas on short-term
discounted contracts, as international consumers will not enter into long term
deals with the new country. They point to that other failed state, or failing
state, just off our coast – Papua New Guinea – and its deteriorating trade.
Tough love?

Weeping and whaling

Australia’s stance against Japanese whaling is making international news today. The Timesreports
today that “Australia is to lead a protest to the Japanese
Government over plans to double the number of whales killed and to
include two new species in its annual Antarctic cull.” But can we do

Australia has been an international leader in the fight against whaling
since the days of the Fraser government. Japan wants to include
humpback whales in its “scientific” whaling program, even though they
are still regarded as a threatened species.

Humpbacks are more than cute and cuddly leviathans that sometimes swim
into Sydney Harbour – to the delight of TV news editors and the photo
desks. They are also the mainstay of multi million dollar tourism
industries along the length of our east coast.

Greens Senator Bob Brown suggested
over the weekend that the Federal government should suspend
talks on a free trade agreement with Japan over the nation’s move to
resume hunting humpback whales.

How about some real hardball? If the government is serious about
stopping whaling, why doesn’t it makes its support for a permanent seat
on the UN Security Council for Japan dependent on the issue?

Vaile welcomes Lamy through gritted teeth

The new World Trade Organisation director general
Pascal Lamy has been one of the greatest opponents of the lifting of
agricultural subisides imposed by Euro countries – effectively taxes on
Australian farm goods. Australian trade minister Mark Vaile dutifully welcomed
the appointment in a press release but some of the farming reps at the Doha
Round weren’t so charitable in private.

Lamy is a brilliant, articulate
and skilled negotiator, but he has cost Australia a lot in the past and could
well do so again from the top of the WTO. Here is an extract from the Vaile

Trade Minister Mark Vaile has welcomed Pascal Lamy as the consensus
candidate for the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and
looks forward to working with him to achieve an ambitious outcome to the Doha
Round of Global Trade talks.

“Over the many years in which we have both
worked together in the WTO I have developed a deep appreciation for Mr Lamy’s
skills and experience, he will make an excellent Director General,” Mr Vaile

“I believe Mr Lamy will play a neutral and balanced role in his
new position. Although Mr Lamy and I did not always see eye-to-eye on issues
when he was European Commissioner for Trade, I have always valued his
professionalism, frankness, knowledge and integrity.”