Timor-Leste v Australia: what each country stands to lose

Australia Timor-Leste

As a tiny nation battles in The Hague for oil and gas revenue, Australia's reputation as a good global citizen is questioned.


At the international court of justice in The Hague this week, the tiny half-island nation of Timor-Leste has accused Australia of violating its sovereignty in a souring battle for natural resources.

The case relates to a protracted dispute over the Greater Sunrise field, an estimated $40bn worth of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

Timor-Leste has called for Australia to be internationally condemned after it authorised a raid on the office of Bernard Collaery, Timor-Leste’s Canberra-based lawyer, from which documents were seized, and the home of a former Australian spy last December.

The former spy, now a key witness, alleges that Australia bugged the Timor-Leste parliament to listen in on Sunrise talks in 2004. Timor-Leste has told international arbitration in a separate case that that move should see a subsequent 2006 treaty nullified.

Streamed live on the ICJ website – in contrast to the behind-closed-doors arbitration over the treaty – the first days of the ICJ case were marked by a battle for international image.

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Image: International Court of Justice / Shutterstock

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