Remarks at joint Australia-Timor-Leste reception

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP: Excellencies, Ministers, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen. This is an historic day for Australia, for Timor-Leste, and, might I suggest respectfully, for the United Nations. For today Australia and Timor-Leste signed an agreement - a treaty that permanently delimits our maritime boundary.

This is a landmark event for International Law for it is the first time that a compulsory conciliation has been undertaken pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Considering that UNCLOS has been in existence since 1982, it's been a long time coming for such a process to be adopted. The fact that the signing of the Treaty was witnessed by the UN Secretary-General and in the presence of the Chair and the Conciliation Commissioners is a testament to the process.

Both the Government of Australia and the Government of Timor-Leste have deemed this agreement to be fair and equitable. And it is now momentous historic fact that after 20 or 23 months, depending upon the starting date of negotiations, we were able to conclude a treaty on permanent maritime boundaries.

I take the opportunity to thank Ambassador Taksøe-Jensen and the Commissioners for their dedication throughout the process. We appreciated their advice and guidance; their independence; their integrity; and their desire to ensure that all parties were heard equally and fairly.

This is an example for other nations and the process has been as thorough and as independent as the parties could have wished. The fact that it has taken a matter of months rather than years, decades, generations or centuries to resolve is testament to the Conciliation Commission and the parties' willingness to not allow this opportunity to pass without concluding an agreement.

Last year Australia released a Foreign Policy White Paper - the first we had done in 14 years, and it set out a framework for our international engagement and our international activities over the next decade and beyond, reflecting on our values as a nation and our interests and our priorities.

Australia is an open liberal democracy, committed to freedoms and the rule of law and democratic institutions. We are an open export-oriented market economy. Our economic growth depends upon our ability to sell our goods and services around the world. And it's worked for us, Australia is entering its 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth, that is a world record.

At the heart of our Foreign Policy White Paper was our utmost commitment to strengthening, upholding and defending the international rules based order, that network of alliances and treaties and relationships and norms and conventions, underpinned by international law that has evolved since the Second World War. And it evolved because there was a collective will among nations to ensure that the horrors of a third global conflict would be avoided.

There has been relative peace, stability, and an extraordinary increase in prosperity around the globe in that time. Our commitment to the international rules based order includes a commitment to UNCLOS. This was an opportunity for us to test the conciliation process due to Timor-Leste's embrace of this conciliation concept.

We participated in it in good faith and with an overwhelming desire to see an outcome that would provide substantial benefits to our dear and close friend and neighbour Timor-Leste.

We were there at your independence. We are here at the signing of a treaty which is another step towards your full assumption of the rights, powers and obligations of a sovereign nation.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we now have a framework within which we can develop the resources in the Timor Sea based on an agreement between our two nations as to how the resource will be divided and how the revenues from a developed gas field will be divided.

And we are confident that this will provide the stability and certainty that investors will require to develop this and other projects in the Timor Sea.

So I thank again the Conciliation Commissioners, the Permanent Court of Arbitration that played a vital role, the support from the United Nations, and particularly our negotiating teams. Xanana Gusmao, who can't be here, led the Timorese side. And Gary Quinlan led the Australian side. I must say that Gary's great work as our negotiator has resulted in him being appointed the Ambassador to Jakarta for Australia. There is definitely life after negotiations, Gary.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I say to our friends from Timor-Leste, this is a new chapter in Australia-Timor-Leste relations. Long may our deep and close friendship endure.

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