Letters to
the editor

Asserting nation’s rights

Hamish McDonald’s article (“Pipe dream”, November 28-December 4) confusingly conflates the maritime boundary dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia, our south coast Tasi Mane supply base project and our Petroleum Fund’s operations. In doing so he misses the point of each. Timor-Leste firmly believes in its right to define its boundaries. Our pursuit of our maritime boundaries is a matter of principle that is for keeps. There is no “oil ploy”. Each nation has the right – and indeed the obligation – under international law to settle permanent maritime boundaries with their neighbours. Timor-Leste pursues this as a necessary phase of our hard-fought independence. We have been clear that we are ready to accept the boundaries drawn where international law says they should be drawn. We are also prepared to sit down at the negotiating table with our neighbours in good faith. We are not seeking to claim one nautical mile that does not belong to us under these universal rules. But we are seeking what rightfully belongs to us. Mr McDonald’s assessment of Timor-Leste’s legal struggles with Australia – the infamous espionage case – is misguided. As a good neighbour we raised this matter discreetly with the Australian government in an effort to resolve it privately. This did not succeed. Thus our remaining recourse was the legal avenue. I take exception with the author accusing the government of Timor-Leste, including me, of deluding our people about the benefits of pursuing our case. As in any legal case, we tell our people that we may win, lose, or land somewhere in between. However, when a nation has breached decency by shamefully spying on a fragile state during the negotiations of an agreement that is critical to the basic welfare of our future generations we must defend ourselves. It is the act of standing against this kind of conduct, with international law as our only tool, that tells our people that we are equal in the community of nations, entitled to the same rights and privileges.

– Xanana Gusmão, Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment, Timor-Leste

A growing problem

It was great to read an article acknowledging that one of the biggest risks to our ambition to keep global warming under 2 degrees is our species’ rapid population growth (Max Opray, “Carbon admissions”, December 12-18). The issue has not been talked about in Paris because it is culturally sensitive but I worry that adding 80 million people every year (that’s a new United States every four years) will make it impossible to limit emission growth despite the best of intentions.

– Kristofer Spike, Castle Hill, NSW

Ebola response must be evaluated

Mike Seccombe’s article, “The truth about Australia’s Ebola hospital” (December 5-11), was well deserving of the front page. Evidence of negligence and speculation of corruption on the government’s behalf in regards to their delayed and inept response to the West African Ebola outbreak suggests a need for an independent investigation. This will be critical to optimise Australia’s response next time, with international global health experts agreeing future public health emergencies of international concern are inevitable. Almost an entire year of unimaginable suffering and loss occurred before an Australian contingent was treating patients. Australian Medical Assistance Teams are trained and standing by for international health-related disasters. I am an army medic trained for mass casualty incidents involving biohazardous pathogens. Why weren’t these “fit-for-purpose” teams deployed? Far less developed countries such as Cuba, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda contributed far more health workers, resources, and finances in a timely manner. The key concern here is Australia’s lack of willingness to contribute to international aid and development. Action that not only has economic and strategic benefits, but relates to our moral responsibility as a developed nation. This growing tendency is reflected in record international aid cuts (20 per cent and $1 billion in 2015-16) with Australian aid falling to the lowest in its history (0.22 per cent of gross national income). Is this the sort of lucky country we want to call home? Without an independent investigation and a concerted effort to improve processes involved in responding to international public health emergencies, we would be naive to assume future responses will be better, despite who is in charge.

– Patricia Schwerdtle, Edithvale, Vic

New airport Turnbull’s first priority

While I am not generally excited by policies dispensed by conservative governments, we now have in Malcolm Turnbull a leader of vision, rather than of division, and in Lucy Turnbull we have a person of considerable skills and ability (Sophie Morris, “Lucy Turnbull’s innovation push”, December 12-18) who can apply those qualities to her role in the New South Wales government’s new creation, the Greater Sydney Commission. The most singular and critical priority for the commission must be the much overdue planning and implementation for Sydney’s second airport, a vital infrastructure project that has been delayed for 40 years. How she and her organisation wrest control of this project from the tentacles of the Sydney Airport Corporation–Macquarie Bank conglomerate, after the shameful Howard government deal to give those organisations disproportionate influence in government forward planning, will be a space to watch with intense interest.

– Michael Wright, Northbridge, NSW

Nats perhaps?

Re the front-page headline “Forgotten boreholes a climate debacle” (Mike Seccombe, December 12-18): I assumed the story would be about the LNP backbench.

– David Fittell, Bulimba, Qld

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 19, 2015. Subscribe here.