ADELAIDE - Eric Schering has beautifully articulated the classic neo-liberal arguments about the defence of property rights and the necessity of the rule of law.
There is much of merit in these arguments but, in this case, there are major problems as well.
I think James Marape and his negotiators will be saying several things to those sitting opposite.
First, they will say, the present arrangements were unfair and exploitative from the outset, providing the owners of the Porgera mine site with grossly inadequate compensation for the loss of access to their traditional lands, not to mention the large scale pollution involved.
In effect, Papua New Guinea got the equivalent of the "beads and trinkets" that were once offered by the past European invaders who took possession of the New World.
Second, the beneficial owners have made huge profits of which they have not paid a fair and reasonable share, not just to the landowners, but to the government.
They have engaged in tax minimisation schemes (legal or otherwise) whereby the true level of profitability of the mine has been obscured through the use of deliberately opaque company structures and accounting methodologies.
This is the modus operandi of international capitalism in a globalised world, where revenue can almost miraculously vanish from its point of origin to reappear in a tax haven.
Third, the expiration of the lease allows the government the lawful right to renegotiate its terms and, if necessary, to terminate the lease if it is not satisfied with those terms.
Fourth, there is no necessity for the government to purchase additional shares to secure a better return because it would, in effect, be purchasing land and resources that it already owns.
Fifth, while the national court must follow the requirements of the law, it is the government that makes those laws. Thus, if needed, the law can be amended to allow the government to secure control of the mine.
International law, so freely flouted by both the USA and China, has no bearing on this matter.
Sixth, it is possible for the beneficial owners to continue to enjoy a large profit from the mine provided that the landowners and PNG government can enjoy an appropriately proportionate share of that revenue, not the mere "beads and trinkets" now on offer.
Eric Schering is right about the necessity to negotiate but quite wrong to conclude that it is the PNG government that must make concessions: it holds the whip hand and should apply the whip as necessary to achieve a deal that is both legally and morally defensible.
Right now, there is certainly no morally defensible arrangement in place, even if it may be legal.