Press Conference, Dili, Timor-Leste

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Foreign Minister’s visit to Timor-Leste; Greater Sunrise project; Official Development Assistance to Timor-Leste; protecting maritime zones
Dili, Timor-Leste

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Thank you very much, Honourable Minister, for the opportunity to meet with you and the opportunity to give this speech today. This is my third visit to Timor-Leste, but my second in a year as Minister, which reflects the importance of our relationship.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Foreign Minister: I'm conscious - I'm sure you have questions. I simply want to thank my counterpart, I want to thank his Excellency, the President, for honouring me with his attendance today, and with his meeting with me earlier. I want to thank the Prime Minister for his very generous meeting with me and his generous gift. And I want to again say we want to work with you to shape the future that we share.

Journalist (via Interpreter): Question for Minister Wong, what has motivated you to visit Timor-Leste and the second is, do you say Greater Sunrise is unfinished business? And the third is, please will you be specific about how cooperation agreement is going? To what extent is this means to be different?

Foreign Minister: I’m here, which is this first question, I’m here because we are friends and partners, and there is a new government and as Foreign Minister I wanted to come early in this new government to engage my counterpart and new Prime Minister, incoming Prime Minister to recommit to our partnership and to working together.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Foreign Minister: The question in relation to Greater Sunrise, what I have said in the speech, I meant, which is we have only one ambition for Greater Sunrise and that is to see it developed as soon as feasibly possible. We agree with Prime Minister Gusmão that there needs to be a feasible and economically sound solution, and we would encourage the work to be done within the partners in Greater Sunrise for that to occur.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Foreign Minister: I want to say something about, you asked about China. We do what we do because of who we are and who you are. It's not about other people, it's about our relationship and our region.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Journalist: Minister, from listening to your speech, there is seems to be a content of some mea culpa on the part of the Australian Government ‑ about some of the things that were done in the past, and the firmest ever commitments of ‑ on really wanting to get Sunrise, and so recognising the wishes of Timor. How confident are you that this will be done in the foreseeable future? That's the first question.

And second, Australia's relationship with the region, particularly the Pacific has been troublesome. Is this a relationship where you're trying to consolidate with Timor, and attempt to do things slightly different? What should be the new approach in the way Australia deals with the region?

Foreign Minister: Well, I've been Minister now for a year, and I articulated how I wanted to deal with the region as Minister, and how our government wanted to engage with the region in action and in word, in what I said and what we did, and in the first year of being Foreign Minister, I have visited every nation of ASEAN, except Myanmar, and every member of the Pacific Islands Forum, and I did that, not just because I wanted to be able to say it in a press conference. I did it because it is a statement of who we are, and an expression of intent.

We understand this is a world where there's a lot of competition and a lot of change, but we all want peace, stability, prosperity, and we all want to protect our sovereignty. Australia understands that in great part that means working with and in our region, and that's why we're here.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Journalist: You didn't answer my question on the Sunrise.

Foreign Minister: Excuse me, I've answered a couple of questions on Sunrise, and I'm going to someone else.

Journalist (via Interpreter): So Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão's government has a commitment to bring Greater Sunrise to Timor, and what is Australian position?

Foreign Minister: I think I directly dealt with that in the speech, that we understand very clearly that is the position. We want Greater Sunrise, we have one ambition for Greater Sunrise, which is to see field developed as soon as is feasibly possible to support the development of Timor‑Leste and we agree with the Prime Minister that there needs to be a feasible and economically‑sound solution.

So we look forward to the work that is being done to enable that to occur. And people might recall when I was last here, after a meeting with President Ramos‑Horta, I said it's clear to me that the project is stuck, and we wanted to unstick it, and in part that's why we appointed Mr Bracks, who's standing next to you.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Journalist (via Interpreter): President Ramos‑Horta also has called for Australia to increase foreign aid to Timor‑Leste. Is this something you commit to?

Foreign Minister: Well, I think I've just announced today some additional aid, and I would make the point that we are already providing, I think, 118 million Australian dollars in this year. What I have said to the President, and to my colleague here, and to the Prime Minister, is that we are willing to work with you on your priorities, because we want Timor‑Leste to fulfil its full aspirations.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Foreign Minister: You had a second question?

Journalist (via Interpreter): The second question, how do you justify supporting a big oil and gas project like this one, when the world slowly transitions to the renewables?

Foreign Minister: Look, I think we all understand that we're in a transition. The global economy is in transition and Australia is in transition. I do represent a government that has got very ambitious targets when it comes to climate change, and we were elected with a strong mandate to act on climate, and we will. However, we do also understand the economic imperative for Timor‑Leste through this period, and why Greater Sunrise matters to your people.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Foreign Minister: That's okay, you're doing well.

Interpreter: Thank you.

Foreign Minister: It's a hard job.

Journalist (via Interpreter): The Government of Australia has promised to provide Timor‑Leste two patrol vessels to help Timor-Leste control its waters. We just want to know from your side, why were you [indistinct] at this time?

Foreign Minister: It's a question of our maritime security and the Guardian patrol vessels, and my recollection, and my staff might tell me, is that, it's in the middle next year, some time, we're looking at the delivery of those vessels. Someone from the post? They're nodding, yes, that's right.

But can I just make a point about maritime security ‑ do you want me to stop there, and you do the next bit? Okay.

Interpreter: Yes.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Foreign Minister: Protecting your maritime zone is about your sovereignty. It is about the revenue, and it is about preservation of fish stocks, it is about food security. So we are very clear for Timor‑Leste, frankly, for many countries in the Pacific, and in Southeast Asia, about why we have to not only protect UNCLOS, the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, which your people know so much about, but also the protection of rights under UNCLOS in terms of access to fishing.

Interpreter speaks in Tetum.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555