The Australians are the underdressed Viceroys of the pacific, a vestige of past power. They are happy to be retained for various tasks – doing the bidding of the US, most of the time, and playing that rather distasteful game of bullying smaller neighbours when required.
In 2013, the East Timorese government found that their cabinet rooms had been bugged by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS). The incident itself had happened nine years previously. Things got rather spicier when the domestic Australian intelligence service, ASIO, raided the office and house of lawyer Bernard Collaery, a lawyer acting for the East Timorese government. The documents seized ostensibly related to spying allegations concerning the $40 billion oil and gas treaty between the countries. The distinguished international lawyer Sir Eli Lauterpacht was beside himself, calling them “unprecedented, improper and inexplicable.” The incident landed Australia before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
These revelations have been getting some coverage, though not enough. They got the East Timorese into a considerable state. East Timor’s foreign minister, Alfredo Pires, was adamant that sovereignty had been breached by the bargy impudence of the Australian services. Moves were then commenced to engage an arbitration process to have the Timor Sea Treaty invalidated. But the goggles of paternalism remain strong – former Australian foreign minister Senator Bob Carr spoke about the fictitious friendship that governs relationships of abuse. The bully thinks of being loved, even as the bullying is being inflicted. The victim is also expected to tag along.