It’s Timor’s Oil

c. 2002

Donated by Donated by Hannah Middleton

Museum of Australian Democracy collection

This badge shows support for East Timor’s struggle to establish permanent maritime boundaries, and its entitlement to oil and gas reserves within these boundaries.

When East Timor voted for independence in 1999, Australia thought it should still honour the Timor Gap Treaty. This Treaty, negotiated in 1989, split the Timor Sea’s vast gas and oil reserves between Australia and Indonesia 50/50 for 40 years. The Treaty came about during Indonesia’s illegal occupation of East Timor, and short-changed East Timor of its fair share of gas and oil. A new treaty in 2002 gave East Timor a greater share. But Australia’s share remained disproportionate because it refused to negotiate permanent maritime boundaries, which East Timor is entitled to have under international law. A permanent boundary would probably give East Timor possession of Greater Sunrise, a vast oil and gas field off the nation’s coast worth at least $40 billion in revenue.

The donor of this badge, Hannah Middleton, writes:

A campaign began, to win these resources back for the Timorese people as their major asset to fund the rebuilding of their ravaged country. We were involved in protest rallies, writing lots of letters … writing to MPs [and] newspapers etc protesting the theft of Timor’s oil.

In 2006, Australia and East Timor agreed to spilt oil and gas revenue from the Timor Sea 50/50 but with one condition: East Timor would shelve its claim for permanent maritime boundaries for 50 years. One of the world’s poorest nations, East Timor had to agree to this compromise. The public campaign continues.