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Thursday, 25 July 2019
Page: 1024

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (13:12): Thank you, Deputy Speaker, I'll tell my wife. We have matching Queensland colours today, Deputy Speaker—good to see! I rise to speak on the Timor Sea Maritime Boundaries Treaty Consequential Amendments Bill 2019 and acknowledge the great contributions from those from the Labor side already in this debate.

I'm just going to give a little bit of history first. Timor-Leste, previously called East Timor, was the eastern half of the island of Timor—the area colonised by Portugal in the 16th century. Why Portugal? Well, because the countries of Spain and Portugal sat down together—they were the big maritime powers of the time—and struck the Treaty of Zaragoza in 1529, which basically divided the world in two—on this side of the planet, on the 141st degree of longitude, which is basically that bit of the Queensland border west of Toowoomba. If you kept going west, from Haddon Corner down to Cameron Corner to the western boundary of New South Wales down until it hits the Murray—it's actually not quite on 141st degree of longitude from the Murray down south, because Victoria actually stole 3½ kilometres off South Australia and went a little bit further west. There are lots of arguments as to what happened. They actually had a big argument for 60-odd years about that 1,800 square kilometres on the western side of Victoria that Victoria took off South Australia and it ended up in the Privy Council in 1914, where the Privy Council basically said: 'South Australia, you're never getting that back. That's now a part of Victoria.' I mention the world being divided in two because that's what this legislation is all about: where people draw lines on maps in terms of who owns what. That's what this legislation, which I commend the government for, is sorting out.

Timor-Leste was a Portuguese colony until Fretilin—the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor—declared independence. That lasted only about nine days before the Indonesians came in and declared East Timor to be the country's 27th province in 1976. That continued until 1999, when, after the United Nations sponsored an act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and Timor-Leste became the first new sovereign state in the 21st century on 20 May 2002. It has been a close friend of Australia ever since.

The reason this legislation is here is mainly resources. Timor-Leste is a very poor country, with nearly half the population living in extreme poverty. It is one of our closest neighbours and a country to which Australia owes a great debt, because of the great work that the East Timorese people did in World War II supporting Australian farmers, but it is a very poor community apart from the fact that they have petroleum. The Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund provides most of the East Timorese government's income. In fact, the International Monetary Fund has called Timor-Leste the most oil-dependent economy in the world. So it is important to get this right for East Timor, a land where many people in villages are still relying on subsistence farming; anything we can do to assist our good friend and neighbour is a good thing, obviously.

Previous speakers have touched on the fact that the call to correct this wrong and to get it right came mainly from the member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, in one of her recent speeches. She was calling for justice and not just because of that debt stretching back to World War II, when people like Tom Uren, who was a prisoner of war, were assisted by the East Timorese. Tom has been a great friend of the East Timorese. He was a prisoner of war on the Burma railway and the like, as the previous speaker, the member for Grayndler, mentioned. The member for Sydney called for justice to make it right, to repay the debt, because to do so is obviously in our national interests. Why? Because we must have a safe, stable community. Timor-Leste is a Christian country in the middle of Asia, a country that we have great connections with and a country that we need to make sure is stable, developing and growing. We obviously need to get the balance right.

The Timor Sea Maritime Boundaries Treaty Consequential Amendments Bill 2019 gives effect to the treaty that has been struck between Australia and Timor-Leste that recognises the extended maritime boundaries for Timor-Leste, and makes new arrangements for the petroleum development and revenues and the opportunities that will flow from making sure that the East Timorese are able to access all of those resources. There is an area struck out—the special regime area—where the gas fields known as Sunrise and Troubadour have their own set of arrangements, which include protection for current Australian petroleum activities, because the Greater Sunrise Special Regime area is a joint venture between Timor-Leste and Australia. There will also be some international areas to do with the gas pipelines to make sure that we get the best possible outcomes in terms of the value of the resources, and there are a few other things we need to sort out in terms of taxation arrangements for the companies that are operating in this area. It is a great opportunity for this government to do the right thing and to do things that are in the national interest that will benefit Australians.

We know that this coalition government doesn't have a big legislative agenda. This treaty was concluded on 6 March last year, so this could have actually taken effect much earlier. Instead, we see stunt after stunt from those opposite. They're all about the cheap politics and trying to wedge Labor rather than doing things that are in the national interest. This is important legislation on the world stage. We have a shadow over us because of the behaviour of past governments, as detailed by the member for Lingiari in her speech, which should be listened to and read. We have a shadow that springs from the Liberal and National parties and now there's a chance to do it right. I'm glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister will be travelling to Timor-Leste to make this right. But I would ask the coalition, the government of the day—the government about to enter its seventh year—to actually start focusing on the nation and on the people it's supposed to be benefiting rather than on the cheap politics. I commend these bills to the House.