Australia–East Timor relations

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Australian–East Timorian relations
Map indicating locations of East Timor and Australia



Australia and The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) are near neighbors with close political and trade ties. East Timor, is the youngest and one of the poorest countries in Asia, lies about 610 kilometres northwest of the Australian city of Darwin and Australia has played a prominent role in the young republic's history.

Australia has been the leading of international support for Timor-Leste during its first 10 years of independence, not only as the largest bilateral donor of development assistance, but also by providing a leadership role to ensure security and stability in the country.[1]

Australia led the military force that helped stabilize the country after it gained independence from Indonesia in 1999 and has been a major source of aid since. In recent years, relations between both countries have deteriorated as a result of the Australia-East Timor spying scandal.

Country Comparison[2][edit]

Header text Australia Timor-Leste
Conventional Long Form Commonwealth of Australia Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste
Government type federal parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm Republic
Independence 1 January 1901 28 November 1975 (independence proclaimed from Portugal); note - 20 May 2002 is the official date of international recognition of Timor-Leste's independence
Population 22,507,617 1,201,542
Area 7,741,220 sq km 14,874 sq km
Capital Canberra Dili
Official languages English Tetum, Portuguese
Main religions Protestant 28.8%, Catholic 25.3% Roman Catholic 96.9%
Ethnic groups white 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1% Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese minority
GDP (purchasing power parity) $998.3 Billion (2013 est)Country comparison to the world: 18 $25.41 Billion (2013 est.)Country comparison to the world: 125
Exports $251.7 billion (2013 est.)country comparison to the world: 22 $34.1 million (2011 est.)country comparison to the world: 202
Imports $245.8 billion (2013 est.) country comparison to the world: 21 $689 million (2011 est.)country comparison to the world: 188
Military expenditure 1.71% of GDP (2012) 2.92% of GDP (2012)


Australian soldiers participating in UN peacekeeping operations in East Timor

Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam told Indonesia that his government would not oppose an annexation of East Timor in 1975,[3] a decision that quickly proved controversial at home. In October 1975, Indonesian troops poured across East Timor's border with Indonesian West Timor at the town of Balibo. Among those killed by the advancing Indonesian troops were five Australia-based journalists, who came to be known as the Balibo Five. Many in Australia and elsewhere[4] were convinced that the murder of the unarmed reporters was intentional. The incident placed East Timor at the top of Australia's international diplomacy agenda and Australia's involvement with East Timor has deepened since independence, especially after the internal conflict in 2006 and the sending of Australian peacekeepers.[5]


Timor-Leste has achieved their independence on 20 May 2001. The process of Timor-Leste independence begins by a referendum offered by the Indonesia government to choose between autonomy with Indonesia or independence, and eventually the Timor-Leste voted overwhelmingly for independence. Since then, Timor-Leste had begun as the youngest sovereign nation.

Embassy and Consulate[edit]

Australian embassy in Timor-Leste located in Dili with Mr. Peter Doyle as the Head of the Mission . And Timor-Leste also had an embassy in Canberra with Mr. Abel Geutteres the Head of the Mission. [6] East Timor also have several Consulate-general in every state of Australia such as in New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.[7]

Official Visit[edit]

There have been numerous high-level visits between Australia and Timor-Leste[8]

  • August 2013 – then Minister for International Development Melissa Parke visited Timor-Leste
  • July 2013 – President Taur Matan Ruak visited Australia
  • February 2013 – then Minister for Energy and Resources and Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson visited Timor-Leste
  • December 2012 – then Foreign Minister Bob Carr visited Timor-Leste
  • May 2012 – then Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO and then Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Warren Snowdon, visited Timor-Leste to attend Timor-Leste's 10th anniversary of independence celebrations
  • February 2012 – Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão visited Australia
  • July 2011 – then Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd visited Timor-Leste
  • April 2011 – then Defence Minister Stephen Smith visited Timor-Leste
  • December 2010 – then Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor visited Timor-Leste
  • October 2010 – Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen visited Timor-Leste
  • June 2010 – then President Ramos-Horta visited Australia accompanied by three Ministers


The Australian Defence Force have been stationed in East Timor almost continuously since they first arrived to quell the rioting, disorder and low-level fighting created by the Indonesian military's scorched earth campaign as it withdrew from its former possession in 1999.[9] In addition to being in charge of all military and police operations in East Timor after Indonesia's 1999 withdrawal, Australia landed troops in the country in 2006 to quell ethnic fighting that involved East Timorese police and soldiers.[10] In early 2009, Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said his country was willing to keep troops stationed in East Timor for as long as Dili wants them.[11]

Bilateral Economy and Trade Relation[edit]

In 2013-2014, Timor-Leste ranked as Australia’s 118th largest goods trading partner, with total merchandise trade valued at $24 Million[12] Australia and Timor-Leste had been on an international cooperation in agriculture with Timor-Leste’s largest agriculture export is Coffee. Another potential agriculture can be crops such as vanilla, spices, candlenut and palm oil.[13]

Monthly value of Australian merchandise exports to East Timor (A$ millions) since 2002

Oil disputes[edit]

Demonstration against Australia Dec. 2013

Large oil and gas reserves lie in the sea between the two countries in an area known as the Timor Gap. Territorial disputes over control of this resource, which some geologists estimate could pump over $10 billion of oil and gas, have colored diplomacy over East Timor, both when it was an Indonesian possession and since. Australia broke with many of its allies and recognized Indonesia's annexation of East Timor in 1976 in what was widely seen by analysts at the time as a quid pro quo for a treaty favorable to Australia involving oil and gas exploration in the area. Since East Timor's independence, disputes over how much of a split Dili would receive when the resource is finally developed have been an occasional strain on otherwise close relations.[14]

In the aftermath of the Australia-East Timor spying scandal in 2013, East Timor launched a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to pull out of a gas treaty that it had signed with Australia as it accuses the latter of having its intelligence agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), bugged the East Timorese cabinet room in Dili in 2004.[15]

Timor Sea Maritime Arrangements[edit]

Currently Australia and Timor-Leste have three agreement regarding the maritime arrangement in Timor Sea. Timor Sea Treaty between The government of East Timor and the government of Australia which took place in Dili, 20 May 2001, and come to force on 2 April 2003. This treaty is a jointly exploration, development and exploitation of the petroleum resource from the Joint Petroleum Development Area (JPDA).

Treaty on certain Maritime Arrangement in the Timor Sea between Australia and the democratic arrangement in the Timor Sea was sign in Sydney on 12 January 2006 and enter to force on 23 February 2007. This treaty provides an equally shared revenue derived from the production of that petroleum[16]

International Unitization Agreement for Greater Sunrise is an agreement between Australia and the Government of Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste relating to the unitization of the sunrise troubadour fields. This agreement regarding the exploitation of the Sunrise and Troubadour petroleum and gas field in Timor Sea that known as the Greater Sunrise

Common Membership[edit]

Australia and East Timor are currently have common membership in[17]

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB)
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • International bank for reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
  • International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
  • International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRM)
  • International Development Association (IDA)
  • International Finance Corporation (IFC)
  • International Federation of red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS)
  • International Labor Organization (ILO)
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO)
  • International Criminal Police 0rganization (Interpol)
  • International Olympic Committee (IOC)
  • International Organization for Migration (IOM)
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
  • Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)
  • Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
  • Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) (East Timor as Observer)
  • United Nations (UN)
  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)
  • United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
  • Universal Postal Union (UPU)
  • World Customs Organization (WCO)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO)


Australia and Timor-Leste have a strong relationship as a close neighbor and shared strong people-to-people link. Australia have been the biggest development partner for Timor-Leste, where Timor-Leste is one of the poorest nations, ranking 147 out of 187 countries in the UN Human Development Index. [18] In the decade that ends in 2010, Australia is scheduled to have provided around A$760 million in direct aid to East Timor.[19] In 2010, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said that 10 years of foreign aid including from Australia had "had no impact on transforming the lives of the people" [19] In 2012/13, the estimated annual aid budget from Australia to East Timor is A$120 million. [20]

Both countries shared the Timor-Leste – Australia Strategic Planning Agreement for Development (2011), where both countries work together in close cooperation to improve the lives of all citizens of Timor-Leste and in so doing strengthen the bonds between our two peoples and two countries.[21] This agreement is based on priorities taken directly from Timor-Leste’s Strategic development Plan 2012 – 2030, include on economic development, infrastructure development, social capital, and institution framework[22]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The World fact Book
  3. ^ Whitlam reveals his East Timor policy | Australian Broadcasting Service, 6 December 1999
  4. ^ International Press Institute's appeal for UN investigation of reporters killed in East Timor
  5. ^ The Jakarta Post | Balibo killings: Beginnings of impunity? | Ati Nurbati, 9 February 2001
  6. ^
  7. ^ Department of Foreign Affair and Trade – Australia Government
  8. ^ Department of Foreign Affair and Trade – Australia Government
  9. ^ Scorched Earth, Far Eastern Economic Review, John McBeth and Dan Murphy, 16 September 1999, pp. 10–14
  10. ^ Australian forces intervene to halt fighting in East Timor | New York Times, Jane Perlez, 26 May 2006
  11. ^ Australia troops in East Timor 'as long as necessary,' Radio Australia, Corinne Podger
  12. ^ Department of Foreign Affair and Trade – Australia Government
  13. ^ Department of Foreign Affair and Trade – Australia Government
  14. ^ Australia casts a shadow over East Timor's future, The Independent, Kathy Marks, 3 June 2004
  15. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation (5 December 2013). "East Timor spying case: PM Xanana Gusmao calls for Australia to explain itself over ASIO raids". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ The World fact Book
  18. ^ Department of Foreign Affair and Trade – Australia Government
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^
  21. ^ Department of Foreign Affair and Trade – Australia Government
  22. ^ Timor-Leste - Australia Strategic Planning Agreement