Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Australia's loss of innocence with respect to East Timor is pretty profound."

As children we learn that you don't take from your neighbour, and sharing means meeting in the middle. So Australia's loss of innocence with respect to East Timor is pretty profound. 

First our government turned a blind eye to Indonesia's decades long occupation of East Timor and the brutalisation of its people. Then our government took advantage of East Timor's fledgling state of independence to short-change the second poorest country in Asia out of tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenue, just as it was getting back on its feet.1 What's worse, there's strong evidence to suggest our government spied on the East Timorese negotiators to help do it.2 

It's like standing idly by while a man gets mugged, and then after it's over, stealing his wallet as you pretend to help him up. It's time to right this wrong. 

Australia's finally back at the negotiating table to establish a permanent maritime boundary with East Timor. So, while world leaders are in town this weekend for the G20, we've created a TV ad that breaks down the international complexities into a story anyone can grasp. We hope to shame our leaders on the world stage into doing the right thing by one of our closest neighbours. 

We've managed to grab some last-minute national spots on Sky News, which will have screens up inside the G20 conference this weekend – but we need to lock them in now. 

Click here to check out the ad and chip in to get it in front of world leaders 


Sister Susan Connelly is a Sydney nun who's spent 17 years traveling to East Timor working with impoverished communities. She argues, "there are entire generations of people in East Timor who have had no access to education, health and basic welfare... but we're holding them in abject poverty by refusing them their fair share of their own resources.". 

With world leaders in Australia for the G20, together we can help her to shine a spotlight on decades of deception, theft and dodgy deals in Australia's negotiations with East Timor. But that focus and attention will only last for a few more days, so please chip in now to help Sister Susan get the platform she needs by getting this ad on the air. 


Here's a taste of our government's inglorious recent history over the maritime boundary with East Timor. 

First, reports indicate our government bugged the office of the East Timorese Prime Minister a decade ago during negotiations over the revenues from the oil and gas reserves.2 

What's more, just months before East Timor became independent, Australia withdrew from the international umpire that can settle disputes over maritime boundaries, which could have seen them drawn at the midpoint between the two nations under international law.3 Instead it jostled the world's youngest nation into a series of deals that saw Australia claim a disproportionately large share of the projected $40 billion in proceeds of oil and gas reserves, even though they're far closer to East Timor.4 

East Timor learnt of Australia's espionage and took Australia to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague seeking to have the treaty nullified on the grounds that Australia had not negotiated in good faith. 

What happened next was shocking. Australian agents raided the home of a former Australian intelligence agent, whose evidence is crucial to East Timor's case, and confiscated his passport.4Agents also raided the offices of East Timor's lawyers in Australia. This lead to the ICJ issuing an unprecedented and embarrassing order, for Australia to immediately stop interfering in any way in communications between East Timor and its legal advisors.5 

Right now, Australia and East Timor continue to negotiate. Without international pressure, we fear history will repeat itself. We've a chance to ensure it doesn't, by putting this ad in front of the world's most powerful diplomats during the G20 conference and prompt them to act. Click here to check out the ad. Let's share it far and wide, and chip in to put it on TV. 

The solution to all this is simple: Australia should agree to permanent maritime boundaries half way between the two coastlines. This would mean that if an oil or gas field was located closer to East Timor then it would belong to East Timor, while if it was closer to Australia then it would belong to us. 

In hope, 
Sam and the GetUp team 

PS - Successive governments have gutted Australia's foreign aid program, including to our poorest neighbour, East Timor. But this is far worse, because our government is keeping the people of East Timor in poverty by actively taking something from them that should rightfully be theirs. The tens of billions that's taken dwarfs what Australia provides in aid. Watch and share the ad that lays this out for Australians, world leaders and the international press. 

[1] "Oil, gas and spy games in the Timor Sea", The Monthly, April 2014. 
[2] "Australia ordered to cease spying on East Timor by International Court of Justice", Sydney Morning Herald, 4 March 2014. 
[3] Declaration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning the application to Australia of the dispute settlement provisions of that Convention, 21 March 2002 [2002] ATS. No.6 
Article 15 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; 'Delimitation of the territorial sea between States with opposite or adjacent coasts. 
[4] "Intelligence agency failed to investigate spying claims, lawyer Bernard Collaery claims", Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 2013 
[5] International Court of Justice Press Release (unofficial) No. 2014/12, 3 March 2014.

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