Australia and East Timor during the Howard years: an international law perspective



Publication Details

Kaye, S. (2008). Australia and East Timor during the Howard years: an international law perspective. Australian Yearbook of International Law, 69-86.

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Australian Yearbook of International Law


A significant international event during the life of the Howard government was the emergence of an independent East Timor. The troubled former Portuguese territory had been under Indonesian control since its occupation by the Indonesian army in 1975, and few would have predicted in 1996 when the Howard government was elected that within seven years Timor-Leste1 would be an independent state and the subject of the largest Australian military effort since the Vietnam War.

This article considers the principal aspects of Australia’s interaction with East Timor during the Howard years: the role of Australia in East Timor’s independence; and the negotiation of a new regime for petroleum exploitation on the continental shelf between Australia and Timor. Both are examples of an essentially Australian foreign policy, where the interests and pressures of Australia’s allies abroad exerted little impact upon government policy: something for which the Howard government was often not, in the popular mind at least, known for pursuing.

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