“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” is the essence of what most Australian’s would feel is the founding principal of civil society, albeit not always achieved but always strived for.
Hence the Australian Government must review its resolute stance on continuing forward with a decisive legal battle against East Timor.
Last month the International Court of Arbitration agreed to take up the decade-long dispute over maritime territory in the Timor Sea (also known as the Timor Gap), an area containing large oil and gas deposits estimated to be worth $40b.
Tensions between the two nations have been slowing deteriorating since a 2006 ruling that stated all revenue from the area would be split evenly between the two countries, however still leaving East Timor no set maritime borders.
East Timor has long argued since gaining its independence from Indonesia in 2002, that their maritime border should sit halfway between itself and Australia (as is customary in international disputes).
This would result in the majority of the Greater Sunrise Oil and Gas Fields residing in their territory and awarding them the majority of collected revenue.
As of 2014 East Timor’s GDP was estimated at $1.293billion whilst Australia’s at $1.223trillion; surely these two figures say enough. What a boon this extra revenue would provide a country where nearly 40% of citizens still live below the poverty line. This is a time when Australia can act as a genuinely ‘good global citizen’ to a country who had 95% of schools destroyed due to conflict in the late 1990’s.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop needs to hear these numbers before she continues to drag this poor country through legal loop holes, for what under normal international law should be rightfully theirs.
The Liberal Party has always championed ‘trade over aid’ (in 2015-16 Australia gave $99.1m to East Timor), and hence should see this as an opportunity of empowering a nation to take control of its own future.
But above all how all how can we be so strongly admonishing China over the disputed South-China-Sea, when we ourselves act so ruthlessly to deemed lesser powers.
With China’s dominance in the region continuing to grow Australia may one day find itself accepting the metaphor “the shoes on the other foot.”