Australia accused of being greedy of Timor’s oil and gas royalties

Apr 15, 2004 02:00 AM

Australia has been accused of being as ruthless as Indonesia's former Suharto regime in its treatment of East Timor in talks on oil and gas royalties. The talks, on the location of a maritime boundary between Australia and East Timor, are due to resume soon again.
Billions of dollars of revenue from the huge Timor Sea oil and gas fields are at stake. A Timorese action group has accused Australia of being a bad neighbour and of stealing the "birthright" of the East Timorese people under existing revenue-sharing arrangements.

The Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea, representing East Timorese civil organisations, has also accused Australia of "foreign occupation of our territory".
"We did not expect to emerge from Indonesia's bloody occupation of our land only to face Australia's greedy occupation of our sea," the group said. "With believed that Australia, with its democratic tradition and lofty ideals, would be more moral and less ruthless than Suharto's military regime," it said.

The two nations last year signed and ratified a deal under which 90 % of the revenue from joint development areas of the Timor Sea petroleum reserves are handed to East Timor. But East Timor has now refused to ratify an associated agreement -- an International Unitisation Agreement -- which gives Australia 82 % of the royalties from the multibillion-dollar Greater Sunshine oil and gas field.
The Timorese refusal to ratify the Unitisation Agreement has cast doubt over the viability of the project, with project manager Woodside Petroleum warning it will not proceed unless East Timor ratifies the treaty. Instead, East Timor plans to push for the entire field to be included in its maritime boundaries.

A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said Australia had negotiated "a very, very reasonable deal (with) great economic advantages for both countries, particularly East Timor". Greens Senator Bob Brown called on the Government to soften its stance, claiming Australia was "robbing"East Timor of about $ 8 bn.
"This is becoming a festering sore between our rich country and our poor neighbour and we are seen as the villain," he said.

Source: Queensland Newspapers
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