Labor welcomes news that Foreign Minister Bishop is on her way to Dili today. In doing so Minister Bishop becomes the first Abbott or Turnbull Government Minister to visit Timor-Leste in the five years since the Coalition came to power.
During this same period Labor recognised the importance of Australia’s relationship with Timor-Leste with visits from both myself in 2017, and my predecessor as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, in 2015.
All Australians are rightly proud of the role we played in supporting the Timorese people to claim their place as one of the world’s newest and proudest democracies.
But in an astonishing admission in Senate Budget Estimates in May DFAT officials confirmed that not only had Prime Ministers Abbott and Turnbull failed to make a single visit to Timor-Leste during their time in office, neither had the Foreign Minister or indeed any other Minister or even Assistant Minister.
DFAT: “September 2013 was the last ministerial visit to Timor. It was by the then Minister for International Development, Melissa Parke.”
In recent years the relationship between Australia and Timor-Leste has come under strain over our maritime boundary dispute, a dispute only ended when the Turnbull Government finally agreed to international mediation, as Labor had been arguing for.
In my visit to Timor-Leste in 2017 it was clear that our relationship would have benefited from closer engagement and resolution of this issue. Had any minister from either the Abbott or Turnbull Governments made the same visit any time in the past five years, this sore point in our relationship might have been overcome much sooner.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.