Yesterday the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of the ALP, the Hon Tanya Pibersek made an announcement that took her party's policy on Timor-Leste's Maritime Boundaries two steps forward.
First she announced the resolution approved at last years National Council would be the policy of a Shorten led Government:
" A Shorten Labor government will redouble our efforts to conclude good faith negotiations with Timor-Leste to settle the maritime boundaries between our two countries."
Second she moved the policy from one that would 'consider' the reservations to international jurisdiction to one that was committed to submitting to it if negotiations were unsuccessful:
"If we are not successful in negotiating a settlement with our neighbor we are prepared to submit ourselves to international adjudication or arbitration."
This willingness makes it clear that the outcome is to be one respectful of international law.
Although she would not be drawn on the ALPs acceptance of a "median line" boundary Plibersek, Dreyfus and Shorten are all aware of the maritime case law on overlapping claims of countries closer than 400 nautical miles ... the median line is the starting point. What they are avoiding is making an announcement of outcomes unilaterally.
For all the reasons outlined in her speech and in answers to questions at the National Press Club this is a policy that must be bipartisan.
The Government of Timor-Leste, responding to the announcement yesterday said:
“the position of the Australian Labor Party further articulated by Ms. Plibersek today, demonstrates that moving forward from the current impasse is possible if there is a willingness to do so."
The Minister of State went on to say
"Australia, as a country that promotes the rule of international law, led by a Prime Minister who expresses confidence in the role of international dispute mechanisms, is well positioned to step forward and engage with Timor-Leste to negotiate delimitation of our maritime boundaries.”
Come on Mister Turnbull - let's get a move on, take the lead here.
Right the Wrong in the Timor Sea.