New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 14: Middle powers and oceans policy: Australian perspectives on Antarctic competition and cooperation
Australia has been a long-standing player in polar affairs, formally commencing with Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911-1914 expedition, which paved the way for Australian interests in Antarctica to be formalized by way of the declaration of the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT) in 1936. Australia's polar interests have been predominantly realized through territorial claims to the AAT and the sub-Antarctic Macquarie, Heard and McDonald islands, by being an original party to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, and subsequently as an active participant in the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). Australia's territorial claims in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean remain of considerable significance to Australia over a century since their foundation was first laid, as was highlighted in 2012 when Australia proclaimed outer continental shelves offshore both Heard Island and Macquarie Island. As a middle power, Australia has sought to balance its sovereign interests in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean with the benefits that it accrues from a rules-based system which advances policy objectives relating to security, science and environmental protection, while also retaining marine living resource rights. In doing so, Australia has been a strong supporter of the ATS and its associated mechanisms. This chapter assesses the ways in which Australia has participated in various ATS fora in order to achieve cooperative outcomes that accord with Australian foreign policy priorities, and the extent to which changing environmental and geopolitical considerations are posing challenges for Australia's successful utilization of Antarctic and Southern Ocean institutions.
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