Press Conference with East Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias Da Costa

Subjects: Bilateral relationship with East Timor; Greater Sunrise

Dili, East Timor

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

9 July 2011

ZACARIAS DA COSTA: Good afternoon, I'll say a few words in English and then in Tetum before Minister Kevin Rudd.

Well Kevin it's an honour for us, for me especially to receive you here, on your first official visit as Foreign Minister of Australia to Timor-Leste.

As I told you before, we welcome you not just as a friend, but mainly as one of us.

Timor-Leste is a country that you know very well, having been here many times, not only as Opposition Leader, as Prime Minister and again let me recall that the first country that Kevin Rudd has decided as Prime Minister to visit after a conference in Bali was Timor-Leste — we still remember this very well — and of course now as Foreign Minister.

You are one of the Australian politicians that knows Timor-Leste very well and I know that you have many friends here, starting from the President and the Prime Minister and also we all know that Timor-Leste has a special place in your heart given your commitment over the years and as Prime Minister — now as Foreign Minister — and also as many Australians do. So we are very grateful and honoured to receive you here today. Let me also say a few words in Tetum.

Speaks in Tetum

KEVIN RUDD: Thank you very much Zacarias for the welcome that I have received here today in Dili.

I value very much my ongoing close working relationship with the Foreign Minister and of course with the Prime Minister and the President of this country.

It is always good to be back in Dili, it is always good to be back in Timor-Leste, it is always good to be back among friends. The Foreign Minister is right when he says that Timor-Leste has a very significant place in my own heart. I remember being here on Independence Day celebrations, I've been here many, many, many times since and it is good to see so many changes occurring here in Timor-Leste, and changes for the better.

Of course the Minister has referred to our security relationship, the Australian contribution to the ISF over a long period of time, that continues with some 400 Australian Defence Force personnel here on the ground in Timor-Leste as we speak. I know they are dedicated women and men of the Australian Defence Force and they are committed to the ongoing task of security and stabilisation here in Timor-Leste. Of course on the question of the future of the UN Security Council mandate and the future of the operations of the UN here in Timor-Leste that is entirely a matter for the Government of Timor-Leste. We ourselves in Australia seek simply to assist where both our friends in Dili, backed by the international community, have requested us to assist and that will continue to be the case into the future.

On the economic relationship, we are proud partners with Timor-Leste in the great challenge of economic development.

This country, this wonderful country of 1.1 million people still has many people living in poverty. Our combined challenge with our friends in Dili is how do we lift those people out of poverty. That is why we are actively engaged in education and in health, and in infrastructure and employment, and in governance, across this country.

I'm proud to say that in education we have built or refurbished about 2000 classrooms across this country. And in education we're about to begin a program with the Education Ministry on curriculum reform to lift the education enrolments across primary and secondary schools in this country.

In health I'm proud of the fact that AusAID has been able to assist with providing surgical treatment for more than 43,000 people during this country over time, 8,000 involving life changing surgery; some 1,500 or more having sight returned through blindness — reversible blindness; also in basic areas of immunisation, the fact that we're able to increase radically what we have done with the inoculations against measles; the increase in the survivability rate of infants at birth has gone up by a considerable factor since we have been partners through AusAID with our friends in Dili. On infrastructure we have over the years maintained, refurbished or sustained some 700 kilometres of roads, in turn generating some 35,000 jobs across this country.

These are good practical things which we have been doing as Australians on the ground here in Timor-Leste.

And the point of my visit here today, Minister, is to underline the fact that we intend to be your long term partners into the future. We are proud of what we have done so far and we aim to be doing more with you into the future.

Now finally if I could say before I depart to see the Prime Minister, how much we appreciate Timor-Leste's support for our candidature for the United Nations Security Council. We appreciate that very much, as we appreciate our cooperation with Timor-Leste around the world in the councils of the United Nations. 

Although Timor-Leste is a small country, it is a new country and it is a developing country, we welcome the solidarity we have with the people and the government of Timor-Leste in what we seek to do around the world — Australia is a good international citizen. 

So Minister, thank you for spending time with me on a Saturday here in Dili. To you and your officials, I'm sorry for upsetting your weekend, but I'm very glad to have the opportunity of spending today and tomorrow in a country which is very near and dear to my own heart.

JOURNALIST: Your Excellency I have one question. East Timor's government has proposed to have the Woodside (inaudible)

KEVIN RUDD: On the question of Greater Sunrise, our position has been a continuing one for a long period of time. 

And that is, first of all we recognise that Australia and Timor-Leste negotiated and signed a number of treaties in which both countries have agreed on how to share petroleum resources in the Timor Sea.

Secondly, the Australian Government does not advocate any particular method for processing gas from Greater Sunrise. 

The Australian Government cannot direct the Joint Venture to take a certain course of action in developing Greater Sunrise. This is a commercial decision for the Joint Venture. 

In accordance with our treaty obligations, Australia will agree to whichever option is the most commercially advantageous and consistent with good oil field practice. 

In other words, the development must meet the good commercial advantage test contained in the treaties.

Woodside, of course, is a private company, and neither the Government has the power to direct it, or the Joint Venture, to undertake any particular course of action. But I think it is a good time for the government here in Timor-Leste to continue engaging with Woodside, and Woodside's new CEO who came to see me in Canberra within the last week or so.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) …do you prefer to bring the pipeline to Timor or floating?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, our position is as I described. We do not prescribe or direct a particular option for the Joint Venture. That is for them to determine as partners on commercial grounds. And we in the Australian Government remain at arm's length from them. 

If there are no other questions, I might go and see the Prime Minister. Thank you.


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