New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Australia stands by Timor treaties
I refer to recent articles about the Timor Sea arrangements published in The Saturday Paper (“Hamish McDonald, “Australia called to Hague on Timor Gap”, June 13-19; Steve Bracks, “Timor Sea policy a challenge for Labor”, July 11-17). I am concerned that readers of The Saturday Paper will have been left with the impression that Australia’s Timor Sea policies are inconsistent with international law and unfair to Timor-Leste. This is not the case. Australia and Timor-Leste both claim the seabed of the Timor Sea and, in negotiations on the location of a permanent maritime boundary, were unable to reconcile overlapping claims. To resolve this impasse, Australia and Timor-Leste concluded three treaties that provide for the co-operative development of the oil and gas resources of the Timor Sea. In the treaties, we also agreed to defer maritime boundary delimitation for up to 50 years to develop the resources and provide long-term certainty for investors. Far from being inconsistent with international law or undermining sovereignty, this type of provisional arrangement is actively encouraged by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Our ability to put aside competing claims and pursue joint development is cited internationally as a good model. The treaties have allowed Timor-Leste to accumulate almost $US17 billion in its petroleum fund, enabling it to press ahead with much-needed economic development without waiting years for permanent boundaries to be resolved. Much of the current attention is focused on the development of the Greater Sunrise gas fields, where we have agreed to split the upstream revenue 50/50. It is often claimed that a median line would be an equitable solution, and that this would put Greater Sunrise in Timorese waters. Such claims ignore the fact that the application of median line principles would leave no more than 20.1 per cent of Greater Sunrise in Timorese jurisdiction, resulting in substantially less revenue for Timor-Leste than provided for in the current treaties. Australia takes its treaty obligations seriously, and we believe in sticking to our agreements. We negotiated the Timor Sea treaties in good faith and remain committed to them.
– Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra
Ellis’s operatic epistle
Let me set the record straight regarding Gadfly’s Italian ambassadorial informant’s report of the opening scene of the John Adams opera I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (Bob Ellis, “Papaling the house”, October 10-16), which, I should add, included in its international cast two remarkably talented South Australians, Patrick Jeremy and Grant Doyle. As Mike Rann reported, there was no “giant rising penis” on the stage in Rome, nor anything that resembled a “moist vagina”, although later in the show one of the women sang to a colleague exhorting her to use a condom in the interests of safe sex. I suspect that it was this exhortation that may have troubled Cardinal Pell, assuming he was troubled at all. I can agree with the informant in one respect; the show was a triumph.
– Rick Sarre, Adelaide, SA
Darker times ahead
I cannot bring myself to agree with Brigid Delaney’s conclusion on the housing market (“Don’t dream, it’s over”, October 10-16). The notion that we should forget “dreaming” of owning a home and instead settle for “love and belonging and self-esteem” I find a little insidious. It is interesting that Delaney describes one of the best times of her life as like living as “villagers in some mediaeval market town” because if we give up on the idea of home ownership, a mediaeval town, or at least its economic structures, would be exactly what we would be moving towards. Property ownership would increasingly be held by the few while the majority – the peasantry – would be left to scramble for the crumbs. It is worth remembering that not so long ago one could not stand for parliament in Britain without holding land. The ability of the majority to own a home is about more than just an individual’s desire to feel secure; it is about ensuring a more level distribution of the economic resources, and political power, within society.
– Luke Vanni, Aspley, Qld
Pushing to breaking point
Jesuit Father Frank Brennan should understand that what politicians understand is pressure (Sophie Morris, “The next phase of the refugee debate”, October 10-16). If there is enough active public pressure to have the Nauru and Manus camps closed, they will be closed. If there is enough for the policy of turning back boats to be reversed, it will be. They are not “here to stay”. Far from it. What is here to stay is the large and growing demand that this sadism stop, closing this dark chapter in Australia’s history. We will free the refugees. Brennan is older than I am, and surely remembers the acceptance of the illegal occupation of East Timor, and the recognition of East Timor as part of Indonesia, by Labor and the Coalition. We broke that immoral situation, and we will break this one.
– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW
Taken to task
In reference to border security and terrorism, Mike Seccombe (“Changing the failed language of terror”, October 10-16) refers to their conflation as “good politics”. Clever, cunning, racist, vote-earning or just plain gutter politics it may have been, but good politics – no. Seccombe appears to have missed the oxymoron.
– John Garretty, Kelso, NSW
A powerful tale
I loved Simplice Ribouem’s story and the way he put it (Jack Kerr, Sport, October 10-16): how the weight wants to stick to the floor. You are great and a credit to your mum and your dad and I wish you success. Go for it.
– Mark Stokes, Somers, Victoria
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 17, 2015.
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