Page 2170 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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in the newly independent economy. This is not about charity; it is about a fair go. It is about ensuring that the people of East Timor have a chance to thrive and flourish in independence and it is about ensuring justice for the East Timorese and respect for their sovereignty and their goals.

In response to the round of advertisements timed to coincide with Anzac Day commemorations which were funded by Melbourne businessman Ian Melrose, foreign minister Downer has once again muddied the waters of this debate. To set the record straight, the 90 to 10 split to which Mr Downer refers relates to the temporary resource sharing arrangement, which includes only one-third of the contested oil and gas resources. I would agree that in this instance Australia has been generous, but a moment of generosity cannot pave the way for a century of injustice. Australians must be able to engage in open and honest debate about our own economic interests and our commitment to a free and independent East Timor.

In this important agreement it is also important that our governments are accountable to the people of East Timor and to the people of Australia. It is in this spirit of accountability and openness that we have forged the relationships between our community and that of Dili and it is important that this is reflected in our government and in our administration.

Colleagues, this is not an issue of party politics. In the New South Wales parliament last year a similar motion moved by Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon received unanimous and cross-party support. I urge members of the Assembly to do the same today. Canberra has a proud history of a strong and vibrant relationship with the people of East Timor and in particular Dili. Let us recognise and celebrate that relationship in the Assembly today and extend a hand of friendship across the Timor Sea by supporting a real and tangible means of economic, industrial and social development in East Timor. I urge you to support the motion.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (3.49): Mr Speaker, it is important that we have debate on motions such as the one before us, although I would have thought Mr Gentleman might have been better off moving a motion on the fate of Totalcare workers than dredging up what is happening in the Timor Sea. But such is life.

Mr Speaker, it is most important to put on the record what the people of Timor have said about this issue. East Timor’s foreign minister, Dr Ramos Horta, said after negotiations in Sydney from 11 to 13 May that they had made “substantial progress towards a new agreement” and this had “put our two nations on the threshold of a new era in bilateral relations and economic cooperation”.

My understanding is that the agreement is largely completed and that it is simply awaiting a final sign-off because Prime Minister Alkatiri of East Timor and several of his ministers have been travelling overseas. I also understand that both countries hope to finalise the deal as soon as possible so that work on the Greater Sunrise joint venture project has the best possible chance of recommencing. Prime Minister Alkatiri was quoted as saying last Friday, 17 June, that he is satisfied with the deal. If there was some angst from the Timorese, I am sure they would be making their position known. Mr Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech that there had been a loss of momentum and relevance, and perhaps he is right.

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