Joint press conference, Dili, Timor-Leste

  • Joint transcript with:
  • H.E. Adaljiza Magno, Timor-Leste Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Subjects: Foreign Minister’s visit to Timor-Leste; additional budget support for Timor-Leste; Greater Sunrise project; Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN and the WTO; labour mobility schemes; strategic competition in the region.

Adaljiza Magno, Timor-Leste Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation: (TRANSLATION) We are both, Minister Penny Wong and I, here to give a briefing regarding yesterday's meeting that Minister Penny Wong and I had with the His Excellency President of the Republic as well as with the Prime Minister. During the meeting, we talked about many things, especially how to strengthen the bilateral relationship between Australia and Timor-Leste. We talked about Timor-Leste's accession to ASEAN and the WTO. We also talked about how Australia and Timor-Leste are working together to promote economic growth as well as economic development in Timor-Leste. Talking about Australia's budget support for Timor-Leste, they have committed to add a further $20 million. We also talked about the development of the Greater Sunrise, and also maritime security, and labour mobility. All of yesterday's meetings went very well. This is a very important step because Australia is a country with who we share a lot of history, and is a country that is very close to us. We share boundaries, especially maritime boundaries and also Australia is a very important development partner for Timor-Leste, especially since the restoration of independence until now.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: (TRANSLATION) Thank you very much, Minister Magno. Pleased to be here Dili again to talk this with my friend Adaljiza yesterday and last night. This is my first visit to Dili as Minister of Foreign Affairs, but it will not be the last. This official visit is particularly important in my new role to show Australia's strength of partnership with Timor-Leste. Sorry I don't speak Tetum, now I'm going to speak in English.

So, thank you Minister Magno for your generous hospitality When I last visited, in June 2017, when I was the Shadow Foreign Minister, I was privileged to meet with an incredibly impressive group of young Timorese women leaders.

So, this morning I had the opportunity to again me meet with some of them, along with other women leaders and my friend Minister Magno.

Their energy, determination and optimism embody the future of this nation.

And as a future that we share, Australia and Timor-Leste, we share it as neighbours, we share it as friends.

Australia sees Timor-Leste as a good friend and ours is a friendship of mutual respect. That was the message I expressed in my meetings here in Dili. And it was a great honour to meet with the President Jose Ramos-Horta, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Finance and of course my friend and counterpart Minister Magno. We share an ambition and that is to make Timor-Leste stronger, more prosperous and more resilient.

I can announce, as I think my friend Minister Magno might have referenced, Australia will be providing an additional $20 million from our COVID-19 Response package to Timor-Leste.

Funds to be provided as budget support, to co-finance programs managed and delivered by the Government of Timor-Leste.

The funds will be used to support payments for children and pregnant mothers, through the Bolsa da Mãe Jerasaun Foun program, and Timor-Leste village's development program known as PNDS.

And the final area we are also supporting with the additional funding is skills training linked to our Labour Mobility Scheme.

Skills are something that is just so important to your country, It has been raised with me, by the President, by Minister Magno, by all the ministers I've met, because it is important for the next generation of Timorese and we see it's one of the many areas Australia can, with you, meet your goals. Thank you

Reporter: Good morning, Minister. I would like to approach you [inaudible] I hope it doesn't happen, the impending fiscal fliscal cliff in Timor. The Timorese authorities have more and more increased the pressure and the need to sort out Greater Sunrise. President Horta has called on the Federal Government about its own strategies in the region to try move this along. Do you see any likelihood of this happening? Can the Federal Government do more to try getting favourable outcome on this? And second question: The Labor Party is coming to power, what sort of shift would that represent in the relationship of Australia with Timor. There has already been a decision on the case against Bernard Collaery. Do you see any other shifts happening with the Labor Government?

Minister Wong: There is probably quite a number of questions there. Shall I go to the first, which is the economic resilience of this nation. That matters to the people of Timor-Leste, it matters to Minister Magno, it matters to President. It matters to the government of Timor-Leste and it matters to Australia. And the economic resilience of this nation matters because we share our region, and we share a future. So, you are right we are all very seized of, and aware of, the fiscal and economic circumstances that are approaching. And the government's focus, the Timorese Government's focus on economic diversification is such an important way of responding to those challenges. Part of that, of course, is the Greater Sunrise project – it's not the only part. There are a range of other economic diversification measures. We had a good discussion today, for example, about agriculte, these are important as well. But Greater Sunrise is an extremely important project for Timor-Leste. You would be aware of the position the Labor party took in opposition on the maritime boundary. It is important to recognise, the joint venture partners will need to come to an agreement for that project to proceed.

So, that's Timor Gap, Woodside, and Osaka Gas. And, as yet that hasn't happened. Now what I have said, is this has been stuck for many years.

I've said to the President and to others, we need to unstick it, we need to see how a way through can be found. What I would say is that will be best done respectfully and directly - not through the media.

The second thing, you mentioned the Collaery matter. I've issued a statement about that, or the Attorney General did. I don't propose to comment more but obviously that's something we spoke to our counterparts about, including Minister Magno.

How would I describe it is as different? We came to government at a time where there is a lot of change and challenge in the region in which we live.

We have a very strong focus as a Labor government on our region. We see our economic prosperity, our future tied as with yours. And we see, as critical for all of us, a stable, prosperous region in which sovereignty is respected. And that is our focus and that's why I'm here. And that's why I said last night, this is not my first visit and it won't be my last.

Reporter: (inaudible)

Minister Wong: This is a question about ASEAN and WTO. One of the first things that the Honourable Minister spoke to me about, in our first call actually, was the WTO and ASEAN accession requests and I indicated to her then that Australia will continue to support both of those accession approaches. We are supporting through some technical assistance and some funding for a number of your public servants, members of the government, to enable both the WTO and the ASEAN applications to be progressed. I think this is consistent with my answer to the question I was just asked about economic diversification. I commend the Government of East Timor for recognising that access to these other markets, is an important part, a precondition to increasing your economic resilience.

Minister Magno: (Translation) Just want to add a little that Australia is the country that provided the largest donor supporting Timor-Leste's accession to ASEAN and the WTO, Australia also provided AUD $6.5 million to assist Timor-Leste in post-accession preparation. Preparation in many ways including capacity building for Human Resources and especially for diplomats and public servants in other line ministries. Australia is also the first dialogue partner for ASEAN, and they are now a strategic partner, they have also greatly contributed to our accession process to ASEAN.

Reporter: (Translation) Regarding the announcement of AUD $20 million, when will this be paid, this month, next month, I would like clarification? Regarding the mobility of workers, is the Australian Government committed to accepting the Timorese people to Australia, how many?

Minister Wong: The first thing is, this is for the financial year 22-23. I'd make a point that we are providing some, I think a AUD $100 million dollars in development assistance and the funding to which I referred is additional AUD $20 million towards budget programs. Part of it would be used for Bolsa da Mãe, part of it will be used for national development program and I think part of it is also for skills development for people participating in the labour movement schemes.

But this is in addition to our existing and what we propose to, we are looking to expand our labour mobility schemes, we understand how important that is to the people Timor-Leste and to the people of the Pacific. 

We came to the government with a commitment to expand and improve our labour mobility schemes and we will work with the governments of Timor-Leste and the Pacific region to do that.

Reporter: Did you discuss with the President Ramos-Horta about the pipeline?

Minister Wong: I think that is the Greater Sunrise question that I answered before from my friend Senhor Sampaio. So, I'd refer you to my previous answer.

Reporter: Did he mentioned to you that Timor-Leste will look for other partners if Australian system sees the pipeline come to Darwin. Did he mention it to you?

Minister Wong: I take a view - and what others do is a matter for them - I take the view in this job, that I have a role to talk to leaders, I have the privlidege of talking to leaders and ministers and I don't tend to come out with a read out of everything that we discussed. Of course, we discussed Greater Sunrise and my response earlier in the press conference reflects the position that we have publicly and privately. What I would say to you, though, you mentioned other partners. You're a sovereign nation, you make your own decisions, including as majority shareholder or player in the joint venture. Those are matters for Timor-Leste to consider.

I would make this observation; our assistance, our development assistance, our debt, our loans, they come in the spirit of wanting your country to be more resilient. We know that economic resilience can be affected, can be constrained, by unsustainable debt burdens, or by lenders who have different objectives. We, Australia, we seek to help make your country stronger. You may not always like everything we say and do, but that is our motivation.

Reporter: Media in Australia, opinion makers, have been talking about this threat of China in the region. Are you concerned about this in the case of the Timor in particular, and in the regional at large, is this real threat or not?

Minister Wong: I think we live in a time strategic competition. We all understand that. One of the ways is which countries, smaller nations, medium sized nations, one of the ways in which we navigate that period of strategic competition is by working together, by working together to ensure our own economic resilience and that we have a regional order that reflects rules and norms. That multilateralism continues to operate. See, as an Australian, and Timor-Leste knows this, that's why you have such a history of support for multilateralism. We don't want situation where power and size is the only way in disputes in this world become resolved. We all have an interest in a stable, prosperous order where sovereignty is respected, and where disputes are resolved by norms. That is the approach Australia will take. Thank you.

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