In the past I have found myself struggling to explain the issue of East Timor and Australia's dispute over the non-existent maritime boundary.
Way. Too. Complicated.
First the serpentine history, then the treaties, and international law, oil and gas , Bayu Undan, Woodside, Greater Sunrise, and then far too many numbers and acronyms ... 90/10, 50/50, CMATS, TST, IUA, JPDA, UNCLOS, ITLOS, ICJ, PCA .... AHHHHHHHHH!
Well hallelujah - thanks to statements made this year by the two Governments the issue has become simple. And in turn our role as supporters of the Timorese people in the issue has become clear.
There is now a negotiation.
And right now, only a little over three months from the deadline things must be getting pretty serious if there is going to be an agreement by the end of the process.
We know what Timor wants. They made it clear in their opening arguments to the Commission on the 29th of August last year: a permanent maritime boundary delimited on the basis of international law. They are seeking: "the area of the Timor Sea claimed by Timor-Leste as subject to its exclusive sovereign rights under international law."
The accepted process to figure it out is to draw a provisional middle or median line half way between our coastlines and then make adjustments as set out in international case law.
What does Australia want?
Well judging by the recent rhetoric of our PM they should be wanting exactly the same thing. Only last week in Singapore he said this:
It certainly sounds like we should be on the same page.
Except that the recent JSCOT meetings and report revealed Australia may still be clinging to its old fantasy position about "natural prolongation". A position debunked by the expert it invited to the hearing:
Where does that leave us?
The way I see it the path ahead is clear. We will hold our Government to account. We will insist that they are true to their words on the application of international law and respecting smaller states. We will let them know that this means a boundary based on the median line in the Timor Sea.
We are watching. We are expecting them to do the right thing. Let their actions match their talk.
To help do this we are presenting a petition to the House of Representatives. Please sign it.
Also we are visiting our local members and senators to discuss this with them and confirm their acceptance of the median line as the basis for the boundary according to the United Nations Law of the Sea. A group of us are going to Parliament House.
For now it is all so much simpler.
We can leave the history, treaties and oil and gas issues to one side.
Now it is a matter of making sure our country is true to the international law it so confidently espouses - so that finally, after too far too many years and at far too great a cost, the Timorese people get a fair go.
A permanent maritime boundary delimited on the basis of international law.
No more games, start in the middle, get it done. Enough!