Subject: Greens: ALP fail to support Timor's right to arbitration to establish

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ALP fail to support Timor's right to arbitration to establish fair maritime boundaries

The right for Timor Leste to refer its maritime boundaries dispute to UN arbitration as under the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea was not supported by the Labor Party this morning.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle moved a motion in the Senate after tabling a petition with close to 3000 signatures calling on the government to respect Timor's right to fair maritime boundaries.

The ALP refused to agree to a clause which called on the government to return Australia to the jurisdiction of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea with regards to arbitration of maritime boundaries.

"The ALP says they want to negotiate fairly with the Timorese and yet they do not support the right of the Timorese to take their claims to UN arbitration to have the boundaries resolved," Senator Nettle said.

"The Labor party know that every case of arbitration of maritime boundaries cases by the UN have found in favour of a median line option which the Timorese want. The ALP's refusal to back this process implies a lack of support for this equitable outcome.

"This must come as disappointment to those in the Labor Party who support the aspirations of the Timorese and to the Timorese themselves who hope to find support on the Labor benches for their right to fair maritime boundaries."

Contact - Jon Edwards 0428 213 146






EAST TIMOR Senator NETTLE (New South Wales) (9.57 a.m.)—I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes:

(i) that the inaugural Dr Andrew McNaughtan memorial lecture was delivered on 7 December 2004, which also marks the 29th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor,

(ii) Dr McNaughtan’s major contribution to the struggle of the East Timorese people, including his work to achieve economic justice in relation to the Timorese claim to oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea,

(iii) the remarks of Timorese Foreign Minister, Mr Jose Ramos Horta, who said last week that Australia’s reduced compensation offer to Timor Leste ‘amounted to an unacceptable blackmail’, and

(iv) the patronising and inaccurate comments by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Downer) in response to East Timorese dissatisfaction with the Australian Government’s compensation offer when he said ‘East Timor wouldn’t be an independent country if it wasn’t for Australia’; and

(b) calls on the Government to:

(i) negotiate a fair and equitable maritime boundary with Timor Leste according to current international law and the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,

(ii) respond to the request by Timor Leste for more regular meetings to settle the maritime boundary dispute between the two countries within a more reasonable timeframe,

(iii) return Australia to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for the adjudication of maritime boundaries, and

(iv) commit to hold in trust revenues from disputed areas immediately outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area of the 20 May 2002 Timor Sea Treaty for further apportionment between Australia and Timor Leste after the maritime boundary dispute between the two countries has been settled.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL (New South Wales) (9.58 a.m.)—by leave—Labor cannot support the motion in its current form. Labor are happy to work with the minor parties on notices of motion of this nature, and in this instance we did work constructively with the senator’s office. However, we were unable to agree in the final analysis because the proposed counter amendments were contrary to existing Labor policy.

Labor strongly believe in negotiating in good faith with the Timorese on the disputed maritime boundaries between our two countries with a view to having an agreement acceptable to both sides. Our policy is that the government should do all things reasonably practicable to reach a negotiated settlement as rapidly as possible and based on the joint aspirations of both countries. We believe a negotiated settlement should be consistent with international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

During the election campaign we had no objection to the maritime boundary negotiations taking place, being mindful that a settlement before the end of the year is an important requisite for the proponents of the Greater Sunrise project to commit to move the project forward. The realisation of the Greater Sunrise project would unlock revenue for both East Timor and Australia. We note with disappointment the apparent breakdown in relations between Australia and East Timor since the negotiations, despite comments by both sides prior to the federal election that the negotiations were anticipated to move rapidly to an amicable conclusion.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Nettle’s) be agreed to.

The Senate divided. [10.01 a.m.]

(The President—Senator the Hon. Paul Calvert)

Ayes………… 8

Noes………… 38

Majority……… 30

AYES Allison, L.F. * Bartlett, A.J.J. Brown, B.J. Greig, B. Lees, M.H. Murray, A.J.M. Nettle, K. Ridgeway, A.D.


Barnett, G. Bishop, T.M. Boswell, R.L.D. Brandis, G.H. Buckland, G. Calvert, P.H. Campbell, G. Chapman, H.G.P. Colbeck, R. Collins, J.M.A. Crossin, P.M. Denman, K.J. Eggleston, A. Faulkner, J.P. Ferguson, A.B. Ferris, J.M. * Fifield, M.P. Hogg, J.J. Humphries, G. Johnston, D. Kemp, C.R. Ludwig, J.W. Lundy, K.A. Macdonald, J.A.L. Mackay, S.M. McGauran, J.J.J. McLucas, J.E. Moore, C. Payne, M.A. Santoro, S. Scullion, N.G. Sherry, N.J. Stephens, U. Tchen, T. Troeth, J.M. Watson, J.O.W. Webber, R. Wong, P.

* denotes teller

Question negatived.

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