The hard-fought agreement between Australia and Timor-Leste over proceeds from the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field is a tribute to the tenacity of our tiny neighbour. Talks over how to share the $50 billion field have been going on since 2004.
An earlier agreement, the 2006 treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS), was abandoned in January 2017 because Timorese politicians saw it as unfair.
Australia agreed to let it go in return for Timor withdrawing two international legal espionage suits against Australia. Hopefully the latest agreement will set fairer boundaries between the two countries. But a question remains over whether it will be a vehicle for the economic support Timor-Leste so badly needs? Bec Strating of the Lowy Institute has been following proceedings on the deal.
In his ecological encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis speaks of the common good as having to do with the “overall welfare of society” and with calls for “social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice…” (LS #157). With global society as it is – with injustices abounding and growing numbers of people deprived of basic human rights, Pope Francis writes, the principle of the common good becomes “a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters” (LS #158).
In the context of discussions on the Timor Gap, it could be seen that Australia has a moral obligation to look to the needs of its much poorer neighbour to have its citizens’ basic human rights met. What better way to accord the Timorese a chance to use the revenue from the gas field to better themselves, maybe even achieve a standard of living most Australians have enjoyed for at least a century.
In his Lenten message, Pope Francis calls for a focus on sharing our possessions for the welfare of all, for the common good. “How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”
With Easter occurring at the end of this month, we turn our minds to chocolate, which Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) says (below) is being picked in Africa by children many of whom will never get to eat it.