October 7th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy push has left us blowin' in the wind

EDITORIAL Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

CANBERRA OBSERVED Assurances on religious freedom needed now

ENERGY Peak oil turns out to be another moral panic

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

BUSHFIRES Disaster awaits as advice again goes unheeded

GENDER POLITICS Does biological sex matter?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

EUTHANASIA Medical murder: three historical cases

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Prepare for apologies in a generation's time

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A reflection on the use and abuse of the thought of the Angelic Doctor

MUSIC Stupendous talent: What to do with all that ego?

CINEMA Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy

BOOK REVIEW Debunking the 'harmless' tag


EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

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Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, October 7, 2017

Australia and Timor Leste have reached agreement on the joint maritime border, resolving a long-running dispute over oil and gas exploration rights in the Timor Sea. The agreement was reached under the auspices of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international agency established in 1899 to resolve amicably disputes between nations.

The court depends on the voluntary agreement of nations to accept its authority, and so far, 121 countries have accepted its jurisdiction. It was the first permanent intergovernmental organisation to provide a forum for the resolution of international disputes through conciliation and arbitration.

The status of the sea border between Australia and Timor Leste is a complicated issue, going back to the 1972 border agreement between Australia and Indonesia. At the time, Timor Leste was a territory of Portugal, and the border between Australia and the Portuguese territory was undefined.

The Greater Sunrise oil and gas field, discovered in 1974, was located just on the Australian side of the Australia-Indonesia seabed boundary.

Following Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, East Timor administratively became part of Indonesia. During the period of the Indonesian occupation (1975–99), Australia and Indonesia reached agreements permitting oil and gas exploration in the area.

After Timor Leste was declared an independent nation in 2001, Australia sought to negotiate the maritime boundary with the new nation, but no agreement was reached. Following this, the two countries agreed to reach interim agreements to provide certainty for oil exploration in the region.

The first product of this was the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty between Australia and Timor Leste. This treaty established the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA) to enable petroleum development in a region claimed by both Australia and Timor Leste. It apportioned 90 per cent of JPDA petroleum to Timor Leste and 10 per cent to Australia.

As a result of joint oil and gas development in the JPDA, Timor Leste has received $15 billion in revenue (as of April 2016) and accrued a National Petroleum Fund worth $20 billion (as of March 2016). Australia has received $2 billion (as of April 2016).

Further agreement

In 2003, an agreement was signed to permit the development of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field. This was necessary because 20 per cent of Greater Sunrise lies within the shared JPDA and 80 per cent was in exclusive Australian seabed jurisdiction. However, no development of this field has yet taken place.

In 2006, a further treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) was signed. It provided a 50:50 share of revenue from the Greater Sunrise field, and gave Timor Leste control of the sea resources in the JPDA.

The Timorese, however, were unhappy with the agreements, and indicated that it believed the border should be drawn along a line equidistant from Australia and Timor Leste, giving Timor Leste exclusive control over the five oil and gas fields in the region: Bayu/Undan, Elang, Jahal and the Greater Sunrise field.

It opened conciliation proceedings under the UN Law of the Sea convention, using the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016, and in January 2017, announced that it intended to withdraw from the 2006 treaty. The 2002 Treaty, establishing the Joint Petroleum Development Area, remained in force.

Since then, negotiations between Australia and Timor Leste over the common border have continued, and on September 2 past, the Permanent Court of Arbitration announced that agreement had been reached.

The terms of the agreement will not be released until October, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration gave an outline. It said Timor Leste and Australia had reached agreement on the central elements of a maritime boundary delimitation between them in the Timor Sea, and that it resolved the legal status of the Greater Sunrise gas field, and that it established a pathway to the development of the resource, and the sharing of the resulting revenues.

The lack of reference to the JPDA established under the 2002 treaty suggests that Australia will relinquish its shared control of this area entirely to Timor Leste, in an effort to resolve the issue and permit development of the Greater Sunrise field.

As Timor Leste, a very poor country, already had control of the sea in the area, and was receiving 90 per cent of oil revenue from it, the agreement is a fair and generous settlement by Australia.

All you need to know about
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