Last week at the United Nations, Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierrvanti-Wells, chaired a Partnership Dialogue. There at the Headquarters in New York, they were discussing "implementing international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea". All in the context of Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals which has to do with Oceans and their resources.
The Senator, who is the number two in our Foreign Affairs portfolio under Minister Julie Bishop, demonstrated yet again the breath taking ability of our Government to talk as though the issue in the Timor Sea does not exist.
In her opening remarks She noted that Australia's "marine jurisdiction is the third largest in the world, encompassing around 14 million square kilometres" and firmly stated that "International law is a reflection of our collective ambition to find solutions to problems that can only be resolved through global action and cooperation."
Then came something I was unaware of.
"In our region', she said "Australia is working with the Pacific Community to support our Pacific neighbours, to implement UNCLOS by providing technical and legal support for maritime boundary delimitation. I was pleased to announce earlier this week that Australia will commit a further $2 million over three years to provide ongoing support for this important Pacific maritime boundary work."
The media release announcing the contribution actually said this:
Let that sink in. Especially the last sentence.
Is the good Senator [and I understand she is a good Senator] not aware the actions of her Government to evade establishing a maritime boundary under UNLCOS with Timor?
Here are a few facts.
- Australia is currently and reluctantly in a United Nations Compulsory Conciliation process with East Timor to sort out the maritime boundary.
- Our Government spent millions of dollars trying to evade this process which was available to Timor under UNCLOS.
- East Timor was only able to initiate the process, which they did in April 2016, because Australia has [a] opted out of international law arbitration under UNCLOS and [b] the Government repeatedly refused to talk with them about maritime boundaries.
- Timor is a poor country and has been forced by Australia's belligerence and evasive behaviour to spend far too much time, money and energy in the process of achieving their sovereign international law rights in the Timor Sea.
- The Press Release after the latest round of conciliation meetings is less positive that earlier releases raising concerns that Australia may be continuing a deliberate strategy to frustrate the achievement of East Timor's rights under international law.
- Minister Julie Bishop has been quick to remind that the Commission's report, due to be delivered to the Secretary-General of the United Nations by the 19th of September this year is 'non binding.'
So on one hand we laud UNCLOS and give $2M worth of technical assistance to help certain neighbours complete their maritime borders under UNCLOS in good time and on the other we spend millions evading the application of international maritime law as far as East Timor is concerned.
You wouldn't read about it.
On top of that we put Timor in the situation where they are spending what must be millions just to try and get a fair maritime border with Australia.
Are you kidding me? This double dealing dishonours our country, is unfair to our neighbour and must end.
Please sign the online petition calling asking the House of Representatives "to take all appropriate measures to assist the Government to finalise as soon as possible a fair and permanent maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste, using median line principles, in accordance with current international law. We ask that this be done in good faith and as a matter of urgency."
We will be in Canberra tomorrow, the 14th of June, to give voice to this call.