Time for fair borders in the Timor Sea

There is no dispute about resources on Australia's side of the median line.

"We invite our partner and neighbour Australia to come to the table, in good faith, to draw the line."

Agio Pereira, Minister of State and of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers 2014

Our Beliefs

Australia values fairness. Australia has responsibilities and should operate according to international law.

Australia's integrity and international standing are affected by its decisions and actions.

Timor-Leste is just as entitled as Australia's other neighbours to permanent maritime boundaries.

The Issues

There are disputes between Australia and Timor-Leste over resources in the Timor Sea. All disputes concern areas on Timor's side of half way in the Timor Sea.

Just two months before East Timor became independent in 2002, Australia withdrew from the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. By turning its back on the independent umpire Australia left East Timor with no legal avenue to challenge Australia's actions.

Australia is seen to have not acted in good faith when negotiating the Greater Sunrise oil and gas issues in 2004.

Current practice in maritime boundary determinations is to use median line principles, which are complicated but are internationally accepted as fair, for example, those agreed between Australia and New Zealand in 2004.

Australia and Timor-Leste need to decide on fair, permanent boundaries based on current international law and practice.

The Effects

Timor-Leste's capacity to be economically independent is challenged by Australia's claims on its resources and by the necessity of spending time and money pursuing Australia for justice.

Reduced access to resources heightens Timor's poverty:

  • 40% live on less than $2 a day
  • half the population is illiterate
  • over 100,000 people died violently during the Occupation and the national infrastructure was severely damaged
  • extreme challenges to education and health persist

Timor-Leste is N0 128 on the Human Development Index out of 187. Australia is No 2.