On the 2nd of July Australia votes to decide who will govern the nation for the next three years [we hope]. TIMFO is not affiliated with any political party. We do however seek to provide you with as much information as we can about Timor-Leste’s campaign to determine its maritime boundary with Australia.
In terms of Timor’s boundary your vote does make a difference.
This is because the policy position of Australia’s major parties are significantly different on this issue.
This was recently highlighted in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Election 2016: How a change of government in Australia might change the world
The Coalition’s policy expressed to date is that the current existing treaty arrangements “are fair and consistent with international law”.
This means the Coalition are not interested in addressing the issue of maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste. On the 12th of April Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg said the Government would not be entering into discussions.
The continued refusal of the Coalition government to engage with the Government of Timor-Leste in a substantial discussion on maritime boundaries triggered Timor-Leste’s decision to initiate Compulsory Conciliation with Australia.
This process is to encourage the parties to move towards negotiating permanent maritime boundaries. Australia has said that it is“disappointed Timor-Leste has decided to initiate compulsory conciliation over maritime boundaries which it believes contravenes prior agreements between the two countries.”
It was recently revealed that the Coalition Government, even though it has appointed two conciliators to the Conciliation Commission, is trying to scuttle it as soon as possible on the grounds of jurisdiction.
Labor’s policy on Timor-Leste’s maritime boundaries was announced by the Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, at the Lowy Institute on the 10th of February 2016. It has two parts expressed in the following declarations that:
" 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." And ...
"If we are not successful in negotiating a settlement with our neighbor we are prepared to submit ourselves to international adjudication or arbitration."
During the campaign Ms. Plibersek has reiterated the policy and last month said that if Labor wins the election, she would go to East Timor in her first months as foreign minister to begin negotiations on a permanent maritime boundary in the Timor Sea
The Greens are supporting final and fair resolution of Timor-Leste’s maritime boundaries. Green Senator Scott Ludlam said on the 11th of April, regarding the ‘current arrangements’ that “Negotiations over this border have not been conducted in good faith, with the Australian Government more interested in bullying and self-interest than in securing a fair outcome.”
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says that Australia urgently needs a fair sea border with East Timor based on the median line.
Here at TIMFO we will be looking to publish the positions of other candidates as they come to hand.
We encourage you to ask your local candidates about their policy position.
Please pass their responses onto us here at TIMFO so that we can publish them and be as informed as possible going into the polling booth on the 2nd of July.