CONCERNED Brisbane Catholics have vowed to maintain pressure on the Australian government to negotiate a fair maritime boundary with our smallest neighbour, East Timor.
Michael Stevens has helped found the new Brisbane Timor Sea Justice group, which has grown from the Timor-Leste Companions of the Catholic Communities of Grovely, Samford and Mitchelton, a parish group focused on building friendship and solidarity, and recognising the issues of concern to the Timorese community.
The parish group has a faith partnership with a sister parish St John de Brito in the Timorese town of Liquica.
The seabed border in the Timor Sea between Australia and Timor Leste remains in dispute.
It represents only 1.8 per cent of Australia’s entire seabed border, but takes in the Greater Sunrise gas field worth an estimated $40 billion in government revenues.
Experts have said that if international law were applied the rich deposits would most likely fall within Timor-Leste territory.
Mr Stevens said it is important to maintain pressure on Federal politicians after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague rejected Australia’s claim it had no jurisdiction to conciliate the dispute.
This means Australia must come to the table and negotiate with Timor Leste within 12 months of the court ruling.
“What we want to do is maintain pressure throughout this next year to force the Australian government to conciliate in good faith and come to some sort of resolution,” Mr Stevens said.
Josephite Sister Susan Connelly, an expert on Timor Sea negotiations, said Australians should care about settling the border issue, which could greatly aid poverty-stricken Timore-Leste.
“For the people of Timor-Leste, it represents stability and ongoing security,” she has said.
To help muster support for his new group, Mr Stevens, is promoting a film screening of “Time to Draw the Line”.
The film explores Australia’s long connection with East Timor and reveals a chequered relationship of friendship and courage, mistrust and betrayal.
“Time to Draw the Line” will screen at St Mary MacKillop Centre, St Williams School, 67 Dawson Pd, Keperra on Friday November 18, from 6.30pm.
For more information on the film visit http://www.frontyardfilms.com.au.
By Mark Bowling