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Deal should form basis for Oz-Timor agreement

26 July 2004

Hon Matt Robson MP, Progressive Deputy Leader

NZ-Oz maritime deal should form basis for Oz-Timor agreement

Australia's successful signing of a maritime boundary agreement with New Zealand should form the basis of a similar agreement between Australia and East Timor, Progressive MP Matt Robson said today.

"The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides that delimitation must be 'effected by agreement on the basis of international law' and now that this has been done between Australia and New Zealand there is no good reason why it shouldn't be quickly achieved between Australia and Timor," the Progressive MP said.

"The Timorese people paid a high price with their lives and their security during the Second World War providing protection to Australia's servicemen in the face of the Japanese military expansion.

"Now that the Australian government has shown it is able to reach an equitable agreement based on international law with one of its neighbours, New Zealand, there is no good reason why it can't similarly conclude an agreement based on justice with its northern neighbour," the Progressive MP said.

As reported, Australia and New Zealand in the weekend signed a Treaty to settle the maritime boundaries between Australia and New Zealand in the Tasman Sea and adjacent areas of the south-western Pacific and Southern Oceans. The boundaries are the culmination of negotiations that began in August 1999. The Treaty will settle both our countries' largest outstanding undelimited ocean areas and provides each of us with certainty of jurisdiction over both the water column and seabed, including fisheries and petroleum resources, as well as in relation to protecting and preserving the marine environment and undertaking marine scientific research.

Last week, the Indonesia Human Rights Committee alleged that the Australian conservative government is acting "like a renegade" by refusing to submit its dispute over its maritime boundary with East Timor to international Arbitration while at the same time continuing to exploit the oil resource while the issue remains unresolved.

"The international principle about maritime boundaries is clear, when neighbours claims overlap the boundary should be at the halfway point between the two coast lines. So why has Australia withdrawn from the dispute resolution mechanisms of the International Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice? Australia should be consistent between its neighbours," Matt Robson said.

ENDS

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