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Timor Sea Justice Campaign
a fair go for East Timor
GREATER SUNRISE BRIEFING PAPER -
28 July 2005
This paper has
been prepared for the [Australian] opposition parties and East Timor
solidarity and activist groups to encourage informed responses to the
signing of a temporary resource sharing agreement between Australia and
East Timor covering the Greater Sunrise gas field.
About the Timor Sea Justice Campaign
The TSJC is an independent campaign
made up of concerned Australians of various ages and professions that
believe East Timor should control all of the gas and oil fields that it
is entitled to under current international law, by the establishment of
a permanent maritime boundary
The Greater Sunrise gas field
The currently proposed deal on Greater Sunrise
The Timor Sea Justice Campaign’s view of the currently
proposed Greater Sunrise Deal
The 2003 Greater Sunrise Unitisation Agreement
Timor's probable entitlement under current International Law"
The Greater Sunrise gas field
- The Greater Sunrise gas field is
located about 170km from East Timor and about 450km from Darwin.
- The ‘government take’ of Greater Sunrise is estimated to be higher
than $40 billion and could even become significantly more as oil prices
rise over the next few decades.
- Most, if not all, of this field would belong to East Timor if
permanent maritime boundaries were established in accordance with
principles of current International Law.
- Australian company, Woodside Petroleum has the license to develop the
field once the legal framework is in place. If/when the project goes
ahead, Woodside hopes to pipe the gas to Darwin for processing. However
other development options are possible.
The currently proposed deal on Greater
- The deal does not create maritime
boundaries – it is merely another ‘temporary resource sharing agreement’
- The deal reportedly consists of a 50/50 split of government royalties
from Greater Sunrise.
- As part of the deal the Australian Government wants East Timor to
suspend claims of sovereignty for the next 50 years.
- Many civil society groups and individuals within East Timor will
continue to push for the establishment of permanent maritime boundaries
as borders are closely linked with key issues of self-determination and
- The deal only covers the Greater Sunrise field.
The Timor Sea Justice Campaign’s view
of the currently proposed Greater Sunrise Deal
- While the 50% share of Greater
Sunrise is an improvement on the miserly 18% previously offered by the
Australian Government, it still falls dramatically short of East
Timor’s legal entitlement under current International Law.
- Through this deal, the Australian Government is set to short change
the poorest nation in Asia to the tune of at least $20 billion dollars.
- This deal is a ‘stop gap, band aid’ solution that does not even begin
to address the broader issues of sovereignty. It’s simply an attempt to
allow the commercial development of the field without the Australian
Government acknowledging East Timor's rights to this and other fields
on East Timor's side of the median line.
- The deal only covers one single field. If further resources are
discovered, this entire process will need to take place again. Only
permanent maritime boundaries will provide the legal and fiscal
certainty required for a range of Australian companies to confidently
operate in the area.
- Sadly, the Howard Government has proven that it is willing to bully
and blackmail our neighbouring countries for its own financial gain.
This disregard for International Law is damaging Australia’s reputation
in the region.
- The Australian Government should compensate East Timor for the $2
billion taken from the Laminaria Corallina fields since 1999.
- East Timor should receive a fairer share of the downstream benefits
as well as have greater control of development decisions via its,
currently inequitable 2:1, representation on the Sunrise Commission
- The Australian Government must ‘finish the job’ and commit to
negotiate permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor in accordance
with International Law.
- These issues are integral to the process of self-determination and
achieving true independence. Until the East Timorese enjoy just and
fair borders, their struggle will continue.
The 2003 Greater Sunrise Unitisation
In March 2004, the Australian
Government introduced the ‘Greater Sunrise Unitisation Agreement’ into
both houses of parliament. Under the deal, that the East Timorese
Parliament refused to ratify, the Australian Government would have
taken 82% of the royalties from Greater Sunrise leaving East Timor with
only a miserly 18%.
Labor supported the seriously flawed
policy and it was left to Senators Brown, Harris and Stott Despoja to
be the only Federal Australian politicians to publicly condemn it.
Fortunately, growing public pressure on this issue has ensured East
Timor will now receive a larger share of royalties from Greater Sunrise.
Part of the current pending agreement
on Greater Sunrise, is that East Timor will ratify the IUA unchanged.
There will simply be an additional document spelling out how East Timor
gets the 32% increase in its Greater Sunrise share.
The bill still remains both flawed
and unjust. The exact same arguments used to support the original bill
are being recycled, only it has now been proven that the Australian
Government can be pushed towards a more equitable solution.
The Labor Party can ‘get it right’
this time by insisting that the Howard Government ‘finishes the job’
and establishes permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor in
accordance with current International Law.
For various historical reasons East
Timor has never had maritime boundaries and is presently trying to
negotiate boundaries with its neighbours.
Under current International Law, East
Timor is entitled to a much larger share of the petroleum resources in
the Timor Sea than it currently enjoys.
However, the Australian Government
has not been ‘acting with restraint’ as recommended by International
Law. Instead the Australian Government has taken over $2 billion in
royalties since 1999. These royalties from the Laminaria Corallina oil
fields are highly likely to belong to East Timor if permanent maritime
boundaries were established in accordance with current principles of
For the last year an a half,
representatives from the East Timorese and Australian Governments have
been discussing where permanent maritime boundaries between the two
countries should be established.
East Timor wants to establish
maritime boundaries along the median line, halfway between the
coastlines, and with equitable lateral boundaries. East Timor’s claim
is based on principles of international law set out in the 1982 UN
Convention on the Law of the Sea and in case law. Australia on the
other hands, wants to simply close the ‘Timor Gap’ that was left in the
1972 Indonesia/Australia seabed boundary treaty, which was based on the
now outdated continental shelf rationale.
Because the Australian Government
secretively and preemptively withdrew recognition of the maritime
boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the
International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea in March 2002, East Timor
has no legal avenues in which to settle this dispute and has been
forced into unbalanced negotiations.
As a result of this deadlock, and
with East Timor (the poorest nation in Asia) in desperate need of
funds, a so called “creative solution” has been devised and a deal
covering the Greater Sunrise gas field is expected to be signed within
the next few weeks.
A combination of the efforts of East
Timor’s negotiating team, Australian grassroots pressure, businessman
Ian Melrose's television commercials, and mounting international
pressure politicians, trade unions and activists, has moved Canberra's
position significantly over the past 18 months.
There's every reason to believe that
the Howard Government could be moved even further if negotiations and
campaigning continues. The Australian people and media are just
beginning to grasp the underlying truth behind Australia's continuing
maritime occupation of the Timor Sea.
Now is the time for all opposition
parties to voice their concerns.
Map: "East Timor's probable
entitlement under current International Law"
See map on page 5: http://www.timorseajustice.org/resources/greater_sunrise_briefing_sheet.pdf
This map shows maritime boundaries
drawn along the median line and with equitable lateral boundaries. This
would be the likely outcome if principles of current International Law
were followed when establishing the boundaries. As you can see, all of
the contested gas and oil fields would belong to East Timor.
For further information and updates,
The Timor Sea Justice Campaign would
like to thank all of the people who, believing in justice and the
notion of a fair go, have supported the campaign to stop the theft of
East Timor’s gas and oil.
While the deal currently on offer
still falls disappointingly short of East Timor’s legal entitlements
under International Law, our supporters deserve some of the credit for
East Timor’s share of Greater Sunrise revenues being increased from 18%
Well done and thanks.
Enquiries: Tom Clarke, co-ordinator
TSJC Melb0422 545 763 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Timor's Resources and East Timor's Future -
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