Thanks to the Office of Mark Dreyfus QC MP for access to these notes
Mark Dreyfus QC MP
ALP National Conference
Speaking Notes on East Timor Resolution
Australia was a founding member of the United Nations, and we have been an active participant in UN institutions for over 65 years.
Engaging as an active and constructive participant in the multilateral system of international affairs is a keystone of Australia's foreign policy.
That is why Australia is committed to strengthening the international rule of law, as a foundation of the international peace and security that is essential the prosperity, security and wellbeing of our nation.
Labor recognises that we live in a complex, inter-connected world where countries cannot address on their own some of the major challenges we face, whether that’s climate change, the global trade in illegal drugs, transnational tax avoidance, or terrorism.
Let me give you another example. When Australia was unable to resolve its long standing dispute with Japan over its whaling program in the Southern Ocean, Labor made the decision to take Japan to the International Court of Justice to demand that program ceased. We won that legal battle resoundingly, with the Court ruling in our favour on all matters raised.
I note that Australia has also been an active supporter of the International Criminal Court, and its goal of ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes.
As part of its commitment to international law and institutions, Australia also contributed greatly to the development of the international law of the sea, and played a constructive and influential role during negotiations that led to the 1982 United Nations International Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Australia ratified that Treaty when it came into force in 1994.
In 2002, then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer quietly withdrew Australia from the maritime jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
Since then Australia has played a leading role in the development of the Law of the Sea Convention's continental shelf regime.
Australia has also called on nations with overlapping maritime boundaries in the South China Sea to settle their disputes peacefully in accordance with international law.
More recently Timor-Leste has asked Australia to begin talks to determine a permanent maritime boundary between our nations.
While we have every expectation that Australia and Timor-Leste can agree on a permanent maritime boundary, in the event that we can not, it is appropriate that we have resort to the full range of dispute resolution mechanisms under UNCLOS.
The Labor Party is proud of our nation’s long tradition of support for UN agencies and systems and that is why Labor is committed to reviewing Australia’s reservations to the maritime jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.