December 2011 – January 2012

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Gareth Evans & Ali Alatas

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

One was a career diplomat, the very model of discretion, patience and good manners. The other was a famously volcanic politician, a thrower of tantrums and ashtrays, witheringly intolerant of others’ imperfections. It was 1988 and each had just been appointed his respective country’s foreign minister. For Gareth Evans, the world stage suddenly beckoned. With a friend like Ali Alatas, a newcomer might go far.

But Australia’s relationship with Indonesia lacked ‘ballast’. The Suharto regime’s occupation of East Timor continued to turn Australian stomachs, Indonesian fishing boats were trespassing in our sacred territorial waters and our pesky media wouldn’t shut up about corruption. Our main trade was insults and the path between Jakarta and Canberra was littered with diplomatic eggshells. 

That October, in Jakarta, the freshman foreign ministers had their first official meeting. Senator Evans made a good impression on our neighbour’s former ambassador to the UN. “We clicked,” said Alatas. Evans proposed they find something on which they could co-operate.

Exploitation of the $100-billion treasure trove of oil and gas beneath the Timor Gap was a good place to start. Negotiations on a deal to share the bonanza had been limping along for nearly a decade. New fields were being discovered and the big resource companies were getting impatient. Evans applied his furious energies to an expeditious resolution of the issue.

In little more than a year, his efforts were crowned with a “leap in mutual understanding”. On 11 December 1989, he and Alatas boarded an RAAF VIP jet, circled the 61,000 square kilometre “zone of co-operation” and exchanged letters of agreement confirming the 120-page Timor Gap Treaty. The split was 50/50 for 40 years, with options for another 20.

Goodwill was thick in the air. Glasses of champagne were raised. Alatas smiled his toothy smile for the camera. Evans, a former university lecturer, was described as “looking both exhilarated and inebriated”. Raising his glass, he toasted the deal as “uniquely unique”. At dinner in Darwin later that evening, he gushed his “bilateral affections”. Alatas was more reserved. “Slow down, mate,” he said. 

Moderate and popular, Alatas might have become UN Secretary-General if not for his country’s illegal occupation of East Timor. He died in 2008, aged 76. Gareth Evans chased protestors off lawns, said ‘fuck’ in the Senate, decoupled Cheryl Kernot and described Indonesia’s eventual offer of independence to East Timor as “a fit of pique”. He remains a very eminent person. He has received an award from the University of Louisville, Kentucky. His important work continues.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: December 2011 - January 2012

December 2011 – January 2012

From the front page

Whose side are you on?

The Opposition can’t keep joining the government

Image of Buzz Aldrin next to flag on the Moon

Shooting beyond the Moon

Reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission as Mars beckons

The Djab Wurrung Birthing Tree

The highway construction causing irredeemable cultural and environmental damage

Detail of 'Man, Eagle and Eye in the Sky: Two Eagles', by Cai Guo-Qiang

Cai Guo-Qiang’s ‘The Transient Landscape’ and the Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria

The incendiary Chinese artist connects contemporary concerns with cultural history


In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Work and play

Melbourne Zoo at 150

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Whirlpool

Primitive educational techniques, Sydney, 1965. © Hopwood / Fairfax Syndication

Phoney education

'The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia' By Bill Gammage, Allen and Unwin, 384pp; $49.99

‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’ by Bill Gammage


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image of Buzz Aldrin next to flag on the Moon

Shooting beyond the Moon

Reflecting on the Apollo 11 mission as Mars beckons

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image from ‘Booksmart’

Meritocracy rules in ‘Booksmart’

Those who work hard learn to play hard in Olivia Wilde’s high-school comedy

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

The government’s perverse pursuit of surplus

Aiming to be back in black in the current climate is bad economics


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