The Commission instead opted for the easiest way out, which is a shame as in my perception it reveals a lack of impartiality on your behalf!
— Xanana Gusmão, Chief East Timorese negotiator, February 28, 2018
In the scheme of things, Australia has deputised as regional bully for imperial powers since it became an outpost of the British empire. Neighbouring states have been ridiculed, mocked and derided as sub-human and incapable. The term “failed state” is still used in Canberra’s circles of presupposing power over desperate basket cases. Little wonder that China smells a wounded reputation.
It is in that spirit that signing of an agreement between Australia and East Timor to demarcate maritime borders took place. Officially, there were smiles, even a sense of back slapping. The March 7 press release from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop conveys the moment of false elevation:
The treaty is a historic agreement that opens a new chapter in our bilateral relationship. It establishes permanent maritime boundaries between our countries and provides for the joint development and management of the Great Sunrise gas fields.
The story behind the rubbing and flesh pressing was more questioning. The countries had, after all, reached this point after allegations of espionage threatened to scupper talks. Those allegations pertained to efforts on the part of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service to spy on East Timorese delegates during negotiations of…