Kim McGrath, once a Bracks-Brumby government staffer in Victoria and a former long-standing adviser to the East Timor government, has written a booked called Crossing the Line, about Australia, East Timor and the petroleum industry. It was recently launched in Melbourne by Kim’s old boss, former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks. Here is an edited version of the author’s launch speech.
Crossing the Line tells the story of Australia’s secret history in the Timor Sea. A story successive Labor and Liberal/National coalition governments have schemed to keep hidden.
We can mock Donald Trump for his references to “alternative facts”, but the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has been spinning an “alternative history” over the last fifty years. An alternative history, in which the potential oil wealth of the Timor Sea north of the median line between Australia and Timor — and we are talking about an area that contains potentially billions of dollars of oil and gas — supposedly had no influence on Australia’s foreign policy towards our neighbours to the north.
Yet I found hundreds of files in the Australian National Archives that show Australia’s diplomats, senior public servants and politicians invested an enormous amount of time and energy, in securing rights to oil and gas resources north of the median line. I also found hundreds of documents in which those same officials and politicians were downplaying or denying reports of mass starvation on our doorstop. And documents showing that the advice the Australian embassy in Jakarta provided Canberra, in bland bureaucratic language downplaying or denying reports of mass atrocities and…
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