MEDIA STATEMENT 4 DECEMBER 2013: WHY IS THE RICHEST NATION IN OUR REGION RIPPING OFF THE POOREST?
The Australia East Timor Friendship Association of South Australia today released a statement regarding the spying scandal against Timor-Leste by Australian security.
Andrew Alcock, AETFA’s Information Officer said:
All Australians who value justice and fairness must again be feeling very ashamed at the recent revelations of what lengths Australian governments have gone to to gain a great advantage over Timor-Leste, the poorest nation in our region, when negotiating the oil treaty between the two countries in 2006.
Now we learn that the current Attorney General, George Brandis, has authorised the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to undermine Timor-Leste’s attempt to seek a fairer outcome by appealing to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
From news reports on 3 December 2013, we know that ASIO officers raided the office of Bernard Collaery, the lawyer representing Timor-Leste at The Hague and has arrested a key witness in the case who was a former senior ASIS officer. Mr Collaery stated that both paper and electronic documents were seized during the raid.
He claims that the evidence shows that Australia spied on Timor-Leste during the 2006 negotiations on the Timor Sea oil/gas treaty, the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS.
The spying was carried out by the Australian Security Intelligence Services (ASIS) and involved bugging Timor-Leste government meetings when the negotiations with Australia were being discussed. It was done to give Australia the edge during the process so that it would win a greater share of the estimated $40 billion royalties from the Timor Sea oil and gas than what it was entitled to under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
UNCLOS allows Timor-Leste to have all the royalties of resources north of the median line between Timor and Australia and Australia to have the royalties for the resources south of theline.
Just prior to the commencement of negotiations, the Howard government withdrew its support for UNCLOS.
This spying had nothing whatsoever to do with any threat to Australia’s security.Bernard Collaery rightly pointed out that this is tantamount to insider trading and this is illegal in Australia.
The overall effect of this behaviour is to deny Timor-Leste badly needed income to assist its people. The country is the poorest in our region and one of the poorest in the world. It has high rates of illiteracy, malnutrition, high unemployment and maternal and infant mortality rates that are amongst the worst in the world.
The behaviour of Australian governments towards East Timor since World War 2 has been disgraceful. During World War 2, the East Timorese suffered greatly at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army because of the magnificent support that they gave to Australian soldiers. It is believed that up to 70,000 East Timorese out of a population of half a million people perished during the war. Many thousands were summarily executed because of the support they gave to our troops.
When Indonesia invaded and then occupied East Timor between 1975 and 1999, Australian governments not only trained, armed and cooperated militarily with the Indonesian military (TNI), they also argued in international forums for acceptance for East Timor to be integrated into Indonesia.This was a very callous way of treating our courageous World War 2 ally, especially when it is realised that a third of East Timorâ€™s population was wiped out during those years and the TNI carried out genocide and gross human rights violations.
Ironically, Australian governments knew what was happening because of the intelligence they received from the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD)..
In 1999, Australia redeemed itself, somewhat, by supporting the UN independence referendum in the country and being part of the UN peace-keeping force after the TNI carried out reprisals against the people for overwhelmingly voting for independence and destroying 80% of the nation’s infrastructure. Australia, however, was a reluctant saviour as PM John Howard advised the East Timorese to vote to remain part of Indonesia.
All fair-minded and thinking Australians must surely be asking why our leaders, the leaders of the richest nation in our region, want to take many of the resources of such a poor country like Timor-Leste that has suffered for so long, especially when it has been such a good friend to us?
Bernard Collaery described the behavior of our government in this matter as crass. It is hard not to agree with his assessment.
Therefore, AETFA calls on all Australians to contact their federal representatives and senators to demand that the Australian government stops these actions against the Timor-Leste and again agree to abide by UNCLOS so that our neighbour can have a much fairer share of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea that is rightly theirs.