The precision killing of Oulaine Papaite
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Daru - just the place to create a little mischief - Redux

Daru boat harbour
Daru boat harbour

CHIPS MACKELLAR

WARWICK QLD – Here is more than an interesting fact. This is a concrete reality of potential international importance.

There is no single border in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Instead there are four separate and overlapping boundaries: the seabed boundary; the land boundary; the fishing boundary; and the cultural boundary.

The seabed boundary runs more or less through the middle of the Strait from east to west and defines who gets what from the seabed or below it – should oil or other minerals, be discovered.

The land boundary extends right across the Torres Strait from mainland Australia so that every island in the Strait is part of Australia except for Daru, capital of PNG’s Western Province, and neighbouring Bristow Island.

The fishing boundary includes all the Australian islands but excludes Daru and Bristow.

And the cultural boundary excludes the Thursday Island group (Australian) but otherwise extends right across the Strait to include all other islands including Daru and Bristow and also the adjacent coast of PNG.

The cultural boundary protects the traditional visiting rights of Papua New Guineans and Torres Strait Islanders who inhabit this zone.

These people, with a shared heritage embracing thousands of years, have free access to this entire territory without immigration, customs, quarantine or health controls.

These details – especially those relating to people’s movements within the cultural boundary – can be of great significance to both PNG and Australia.

Map-of-the-torres-strait-region
Since this article was published, Geoffrey Dabb has pointed out (see footnote) that this map of the Torres Strait region is outdated. I have retained it as it clearly shows the location of many islands. The current situation is depicted in Geoffrey's map that accompanies the footnote

But in the current warmish going on hottish geopolitical climate, proposing the mere presence of a Chinese enterprise on Daru, let alone a city as has been speculated, is likely to cause extreme mischief for Australia.

Phil Fitzpatrick (Remote Daru could be a regional flashpoint), John Greenshields (Reflections on the borderland dilemma) and Binoy Kampmark (China, PNG & Australia’s backyard blues) have all written fascinating pieces in PNG Attitude on this issue in recent times.

And I must mention the many comments from readers that accompanied these explorations.

One element of the mischief that could be triggered by a formal Chinese presence in Daru is that, although the Kiwai people of Daru will have free access to the Australian islands that start nearby and extend across the Strait, the Chinese will not.

But the Chinese enterprise envisioned for Daru is unlikely to be confined to the island alone, after all, there is little resource there except mud and nice people.

The clear aim would be to expand in all directions, and any expansion of Chinese into the Torres Strait would be a nightmare for Australia in terms of quarantine, illegal immigration, trafficking of various kinds, resource exploitation and, heaven forfend, strategic positioning.

Although with Daru 1,400 km from Darwin there would probably be no joy rides across the Arafura Sea for Chinese tourists to inspect the Port of Darwin, leased by a Chinese company for 99 years that has only got seven years on the clock.

China’s current restrictions of various kinds on Australia’s barley, lobsters, wine, coal, copper, beef, timber and wheat would seem like small fry if the Torres Strait came into play.

If China really wanted to cause mischief to Australia right on our doorstep and chose Daru as a bit of an investment destination, they would have really chosen the right place for some high level knuckle gnawing.

Defence minister Peter Dutton wouldn’t need to invent a drama, he’d have a real one to get his teeth stuck into.

FOOTNOTES

Geoffrey Dabb writes on the Torres Strait Treaty:

Dabb border mapThree small islands (orange arrows) previously thought to part of Australia were agreed to be part of Papua New Guinea. The purple line shows the boundary between territorial seas.

Next, without further disturbing sovereignty over land areas, the treaty aimed at an equitable division of sea and seabed resources.

In the northern part of the strait, outside the three-mile territorial seas of Boigu, Saibai and Dauan, PNG has resources jurisdiction over the areas marked ‘P’.

In the area marked A/P, Australia has jurisdiction over swimming fisheries and PNG has jurisdiction over seabed resources including sedentary species (e.g. coral, clams and crays).

Further south is the seabed boundary, which divides the resources of Warrior Reef.

Keith Jackson writes on Geoffrey Dabb:

Geoffrey Dabb arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1962, aged 23, from a Melbourne criminal law practice. "His trial expertise took him on court circuits," writes Donald Denoon in his book, A Trial Separation (free download here), mentioning that, in one day at Wabag, Dabb conducted six trials for murder. 

In 1971, with independence not announced but approaching at speed, Dabb, by now a PNG foreign affairs official, became part of a small national border negotiating team dealing with Indonesia and Australia.

"It was Papua New Guinea who were pressing for an early resolution quite strongly, as soon as possible, even from before independence,” Dabb told Radio New Zealand in 2015. “And I have no doubt in my mind that it was, in the circumstances, quite a fair arrangement.

"Super-imposed on the jurisdiction lines governing the sea and sea-bed jurisdiction were arrangements that guaranteed access for traditional purposes for the traditional inhabitants over the whole area; and when it came to commercial access, there was an arrangement for a sharing of them which I think was fairly equitable from both points of view."

Capture
Photo by Mike Bowers

Now much better known for his expertise as a Canberra ornithologist, and especially for his photography in the field, Geoffrey and I have something unusual in common. And it is literally not birds.

In 1966, my first wife Sue and I had our wedding party at the Badili home of journalist Don Hogg and his then wife Gail, who worked with me in the Education Department's publications unit. In 1968, I have just learned, the same venue was used for the same purpose by Geoffrey and his new bride.

 

Comments

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Ross Wilkinson

To take Chips' point that little bit further, one only has to look at the photographs of the intimidatory way the massed Chinese fishing fleet was used to blockade Philippines waters.

If this fleet operates in the Torres Strait one can imagine the mischief and inconvenience to general shipping that it could possibly cause.

Phil Fitzpatrick

i still think that the Chinese are interested in a back door into West Papua and Daru is an ideal place for it to be placed.

Irritating Australia might just be a bonus.

Chips Mackellar

I agree with Geoffrey's amending information. I could have mentioned these details in my original article, but they were not germane to my thesis of a territorial threat to Australia.

What is significant in terms of threat is the possibility of Chinese encroachment from Daru into those other islands of the Torres Strait which are part of Australia.

Geoffrey states that "vessels under the control of a third state (e.g., China) may not exploit fish resources of the Protected Zone without agreement of both countries (i.e., PNG and Australia)."

But I can't imagine the Chinese bothering to seek such an agreement from Australia.

They didn't bother to seek an agreement from other adjacent countries before occupying the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

So it is my view they won't bother with an agreement from us if they want to encroach upon our islands and reefs in the Torres Strait.

That is the essence of the threat to Australia if the Chinese were to establish a base at Daru.
________

There is a major difference, however, in China's unilateral imposition of its sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, and this is that (along with Vietnam) it had long claimed them as its own. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei came in later. But then I guess you can never be sure. Some ancient parchment may turn up from the well preserved mud of Daru to prove a Sa Huỳnh mariner staked a claim in 200BC - KJ

Geoffrey Dabb

Unfortunately maps that show a single line as ‘the border’ give a misleading picture of how jurisdiction has been divided in Torres Strait.

The map that accompanies the article is based on a map in the Torres Strait treaty and shows the position under the treaty.

Keith has now added a more accurate map provided by me that depicts the situation as it stands today.

First, three small islands (orange arrows) previously thought to part of Australia were agreed to be part of Papua New Guinea. The purple line shows the boundary between territorial seas.

Next, without further disturbing sovereignty over land areas, the treaty aimed at an equitable division of sea and seabed resources.

In the northern part of the strait, outside the three-mile territorial seas of Boigu, Saibai and Dauan, PNG has resources jurisdiction over the areas marked ‘P’.

In the area marked A/P, Australia has jurisdiction over swimming fisheries and PNG has jurisdiction over seabed resources including sedentary species (e.g. coral, clams and crays).

Further south is the seabed boundary, which divides the resources of Warrior Reef.
________

Chips' article has now been amended and augmented to take account of Geoffrey's corrections and to add some other interesting fragments - KJ

Geoffrey Dabb

There will be few who remember the border issue as it was ventilated and grappled with at the time, in those early golden years of PNG independence.

None of the four ministers involved (two on each side) are with us and few officials will remain.

Among the reasons for today's complex jurisdictional tangle, I would point to two.

The first was the constitutional bar on the Australian side on transfer of any land territory without Queensland consent.

The second was the need to produce a picture of 'The Border' that could be used to justify the solution to each of the various interested parties.

That is the reason why the fisheries boundary departs from the seabed boundary (covers sedentary fish) to leave Saibai, Boigu and Dauan on the Australian side of it. To each his or her boundary.

The National Museum of Australia has taken advantage of this ambiguity to produce a map that gives a quite misleading impression of the boundaries of this country.

My complaint that they have got the boundaries of their country wrong has been less important to them than other considerations.

As to the Chinese fishing menace, such a complication was envisaged in the 1970s. Article 27 of the treaty is directed to that.

Vessels under the control of a third State may not exploit fish resources of the Protected Zone without agreement of both countries.

However, inevitably there will be more border issues. The fact is, Papua New Guinea is not going to get any further away.

Bernard Corden

Can the Darwin Port's 99-year lease to China be reversed? And what role, if any, did Andrew Robb play?

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-19/can-darwin-port-99-year-lease-china-be-reversed-andrew-robb-role/10912478
__________

Former trade minister Andrew Robb has accepted a job with the Chinese company that has a 99-year lease of the Darwin Port.

Mr Robb was appointed to the role – described as a "high-level economic consultant" – in a ceremony in September.

However, his job only came to light on Sunday when the ABC commissioned a translation of a September 2 statement by the Landbridge Group.

According to the ABC, the translated statement reads: "The process of internationalisation of the Landbridge Group and the results achieved had greatly impressed him [Mr Robb]."

A ceremony celebrating Mr Robb's appointment was described as "auspicious" and included a floor-to-ceiling banner reading: "Appointment ceremony of Senior Economic Adviser Mr Andrew Robb of Landbridge Group".

Landbridge Group paid $506m for the 99-year Darwin Port lease, which began in November 2015. The deal was seen as an attempt to expand trade between Australia and China.

At the time, Mr Robb welcomed the deal, lauding it as a "wonderful outcome for the Northern Territory, and for Australia as a whole."

In his time as trade minister, Mr Robb negotiated four trade agreements, including the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China.

When the 65-year-old announced his resignation in February, he said he wanted to have one more career before he turned 68.

His career move has already been criticised.

Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told The Australian Mr Robb needed to explain his "cosy" appointment.

"It is appropriate that we get an explanation about when he was approached by the company to take on this role," Mr Jennings said.

"He has to be very careful to make sure he can explain if there is a conflict of interest or why there isn't a conflict of interest in this appointment, based on his obvious involvement in the free trade agreement arrangements when he was the minister for trade."

On Sunday night, shortly after the announcement was made, Mr Robb's Wikipedia page was changed anonymously to read that his appointment continued "a proud tradition in Australian conservative politics of plunging their snouts firmly in the trough for the purposes of personal enrichment at the expense of the Australian voter".

The altered text remained online for several hours.

(Sydney Morning Herald, 30 October 2016)

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