Timor Sea Maritime Boundaries Treaty Consequential Amendments Bill 2019

I'd like to thank all the senators who have contributed to this very important debate on these very important bills. It's a historic occasion to mark our burgeoning relationship with Timor-Leste to see these bills pass through this place.

They passed through the other place last week. These bills give effect to the treaty between Australia and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, establishing their maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea. The treaty is a historic achievement for Australia and Timor-Leste and its implementation is firmly in Australia's national interest.

The Timor Sea Maritime Boundaries Treaty Consequential Amendments Bill 2019 implements the new maritime boundaries agreed under the treaty and transfers the Joint Petroleum Development Area and some adjacent areas to Timor-Leste's exclusive jurisdiction. This bill also makes amendments to the petroleum title areas affected by the boundary and provides for two new international offshore areas for the purposes of the Bayu-Undan pipeline corridor and a potential Greater Sunrise pipeline corridor. Further, this bill gives effect to the Greater Sunrise special regime area and the legal infrastructure to facilitate the joint development, exploitation and management of petroleum activities in the Greater Sunrise gas fields, creating a pathway for the development of the resources. The economic benefits will be significant, particularly for Timor-Leste. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Timor Sea Maritime Boundaries Treaty) Bill 2019 fulfils Australia's taxation related obligations under the treaty by ensuring that taxation arrangements applying to transition petroleum activities will continue in accordance with Annex D to the treaty. Finally, passage of these bills and the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment (Timor Sea Maritime Boundaries Treaty) Bill 2019 fundamentally farms Australia's commitment to a robust, mutually beneficial and stronger bilateral relationship with Timor-Leste and to international law and the rules based order more generally.

I too would like to express my thanks to the officials involved in negotiating this treaty and also formulating the resulting amendments to Australian law here. I thank Senator Scarr for his recognition of those officials, because they have worked tirelessly over a number of years to see this to fruition. As Senator Scarr commented, they can be particularly complex negotiations. It's fantastic to have seen them brought to fruition in March last year with the signing of the treaty—and today with the passage of these bills. I'd also like to thank and recognise, as Senator Scarr did as well, the efforts of the former foreign minister Julie Bishop, who played an integral role in the negotiations and in finalising the treaty itself, which has led us here today to make changes to our own petroleum laws.

Throughout this process, the Australian government has recognised and sought to work with the government of Timor-Leste to give it the power to progress its economic development aims and objectives. We have worked very closely with the Timor-Leste government on a number of different proposals and opportunities for that to occur. We fully recognise the desire of the Timor-Leste government to want to take charge—be master of its own destiny—and to seek to see the development of its resources in the way it sees fit for its national interests. The passage of these bills and the treaty itself do provide Timor-Leste with clear sovereignty over what was formerly the Joint Petroleum Development Area so that it can pursue those objectives and aims. The Australian government stands ready and able to ensure that Timor-Leste can develop a strong economic base for its people and the job opportunities that will flow from that.

Gas developments have already played an important role in the development of Timor-Leste. The Bayu-Undan field is already developed and has provided significant benefits to the Timor-Leste government. It's a fulcrum of the cooperation between our two governments, given that that gas and those resources are sent to Darwin in Australia for processing but provide the Timor-Leste government with substantial royalties and funding. I'm confident that future developments, particularly of the Greater Sunrise regime, will continue to see similar cooperation between our two governments. As I have said, we would like to work very closely with the Timor-Leste government to ensure its development aims and objectives are fulfilled. The finalisation of this treaty will give us an opportunity to do that.

We do have a shared interest too in making sure that demand continues to grow for high-quality natural gas, which we're lucky to have abundantly in both of our jurisdictions. Australia is obviously a very large developer and producer of gas and is indeed the largest LNG gas exporter now. While we have a number of competitors in our region to supply gas, including Timor, we have a shared interest to make sure that those markets do develop and that demand increases. We're working closely with the United States, Japan and other countries to ensure that clean natural gas is used more fulsomely in our region because it can cut pollution, particularly air pollution, if it replaces fuels that have a lot more particulates in them than gas does. It can also of course lower carbon emissions because natural gas has a lower carbon content than other alternative fuels, such as coal. We'll continue to work with the Timorese government and the wider region to ensure that those development goals occur, not only for the people of Timor-Leste but also to help development right through our region.

I'd also like to thank the opposition for their support on these bills. They have been extremely supportive throughout the process. I thank my counterparts—Mr Clare before the election and Mr Fitzgibbon now—for their support of these related changes in our petroleum laws. It is a unifying moment not just for our two countries but our country as well to see this legislation through. I'm confident that with this legislation passing we'll have a new chapter in our relationship. There is some symmetry that this legislation is passing on the 20th anniversary of the INTERFET deployment to Timor-Leste. Indeed, it was only the other day that the 20-year anniversary date marked the referendum in Timor-Leste that ultimately led to its independence. Now, hopefully, through the changes in this treaty, that independence will only grow stronger for the Timor-Leste people, and our relationship will do so as well.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.



get updates