Australia's Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, delivered an important speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last week. It was rich in irony for those of us who have supported East Timor's quest for the delimitation of their maritime boundary over many years.
He began by borrowing a Chinese proverb used by Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew:
"Big fish eat small fish and small fish eat shrimps".
From there he went on to insist that Australia's vision for the region was that is would be a place where the "rights of small states are untrammelled; where our shared natural bounty, our land, water and air is cherished and protected, and disagreements are resolved by dialogue in accordance with agreed rules and established institutions. This is a world where big fish neither eat nor intimidate the small."
Here's another one:
Two days later in a doorstop interview came this pearl:
" .. commitment to mutual respect, the rule of law, disputes being negotiated in good faith between the parties in accordance with law, that is the key .."
Come on. Really? Our relationship with East Timor in regards to their quest for a maritime boundary has been characterised by disrespect, belligerence and strategies to avoid the application of international law.
Right now we are in engaged in a UN Conciliation process to 'solve our dispute.' It is a process our Government tried desperately to get out of.
The work of the commission, carried out secretly, is due to finish on the 19th of September. Indications [see our blog Red Flags] are that our Government is playing hard ball and are still seeking to avoid the application of international law.
It's time to remind our PM and our Government that they need to walk the talk in the Timor Sea. Especially now when the UN process may be at its most critical phase.
Begin at the middle line. Make adjustments in line with international case law and get it done. Enough. The current duplicity dishonours us all.
Please sign our petition to the House of Representatives "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."
Here's the link.