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Wednesday, 24 March 2004
Page: 21762


Senator NETTLE (10:09 AM) —The Greens are opposing this motion by the government to push through this legislation because we recognise it is not urgent. The government has put a case to say that it believes it is urgent that we grab the oil away from the Timorese before there is a capacity to deal with this in the International Court of Justice, where the matter of the maritime boundary should be dealt with. This government has withdrawn itself from the jurisdiction and so from being able to be involved in that determination about the maritime boundary, and now it is trying to pull through a piece of legislation that does not just put in place a treaty that has already been ratified.

There is a range of questions that will be asked during the debate about the process by which that treaty was ratified, but what we see here in the piece of legislation the government is trying to bring through today is not simply a transferral of what was in the treaty into a piece of implementing legislation. With this piece of legislation, the government is attempting to ensure that if the decision about the maritime boundary between Australia and East Timor is made in the court—the maritime boundary that, if we put it in the centre of the two continents, ensures that the entire gas reserve is on the side of the East Timorese—then that decision by the court will be dismissed.

Firstly, let us remember that the government has withdrawn from the court in which the determination will be made, and now it is attempting in legislation to ensure that if a decision is made in the court it will not be primary to the decision because it will already have a piece of legislation through that will ensure that Australia gets its hands on the oil of the East Timorese. East Timor is one of the poorest nations in our region, a country over which this government made a great fanfare about the role it played in going in and supporting the Timorese at the time of the Indonesian militias. Having been in East Timor after the Indonesian militias had gone through and devastated the country, with many Australians working there, Australians have a responsibility to that country—and it is not to grab the oil out from under their feet before they have the capacity for a determination to be made in the International Court of Justice, where it is right and proper that a determination should be made as to whom the oil does belong.

That is the intention of this government, and its intention in relation to the urgency of this legislation is to ensure that greater pressure than has already been exerted is put on the East Timorese government over the issue of the Timor Sea Treaty. It is not urgent that we grab the oil from the Timorese before they have the capacity to have the boundaries determined under in the International Court of Justice. The Greens will never support this raping of resources from East Timor by the Australian government. It is not urgent that we take their oil, and we will not support this motion to ram through a piece of legislation that ensures that Australia takes from the East Timorese the oil that under international law is rightly theirs.