Subject: AP: Australia Parliament Approves Timor Sea Gas And Oil Deal

Also - AAP: Oil, gas treaty 'robs' East Timor

Received from Joyo Indonesia News

Associated Press March 29, 2004

Australia Parliament Approves Timor Sea Gas And Oil Deal

CANBERRA (AP)--Parliament passed legislation Monday allowing Australia and East Timor to share revenue from a Timor Sea gas and oil field in a deal that a Greens lawmaker said robs one of the world's poorest nations of vital revenue.

Australia will take about 80% and East Timor 20% of royalties from the Greater Sunrise field, which some analysts say could hold A$40 billion in gas and oil.

The conservative coalition government of Prime Minister John Howard passed the legislation through the Senate with the support of the opposition Labor Party, 49 votes to 11.

The agreement governs how revenue is shared until the two nations can agree on a new maritime boundary, to replace the one accepted by Indonesia when it ruled East Timor.

Lawmakers who oppose the deal say all of Greater Sunrise should belong exclusively to Australia's impoverished neighbor.

East Timor agreed to the revenue deal in 2002, although that country's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri later said his government was pressured by Australia and oil companies to sign it, and his parliament hasn't yet ratified the accord.

The fledgling nation hopes to get a bigger share of the oil fields once the maritime boundary is redrawn.

Greens lawmaker Bob Brown proposed two amendments to the legislation but both were defeated.

One would have allowed the International Court of Justice to decide a boundary if negotiations between Australia and East Timor couldn't agree on one by Dec. 31 next year.

The second would have allowed the Greater Sunrise agreement to lapse if a permanent boundary wasn't decided by Dec. 31, 2006.

"What a terrible moment this is for Australia and for Timor Leste (East Timor), for this parliament," Sen. Brown told parliament. "The bill is going to rob the poorest country in Southeast Asia to line the pockets of the government and the oil corporations of the richest country in the region, which is Australia."

The Australian Democrats, a minor party, supported Sen. Brown's first amendment but dismissed the second as unworkable.

"I feel like this country and this government have just been bushrangers (armed robbers) for oil," Democrats Sen. Natasha Stott Despoja said.

Government minister Eric Abetz defended the deal, saying it provided certainty of some revenue for East Timor while the maritime boundary was being negotiated.

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Oil, gas treaty 'robs' East Timor By Sharon Mathieson and Paul Osborne 29Mar04

AUSTRALIA was today accused of robbing East Timor of billions of dollars after parliament signed off on an oil and gas treaty with the fledgling nation.

Labor voted with the government in the Senate to pass laws giving effect to an agreement between Australia and East Timor to develop oil and gas resources in the Sunrise and Troubadour fields, collectively known as Greater Sunrise.

The $7 billion Greater Sunrise project is being developed by a joint venture between Woodside, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Osaka Gas, and is expected to generate government revenues of $10 billion over its three to four decade life.

The project is anticipated to create around 3,000 jobs during construction and thousands more in spin-off works.

Bills mirroring the Australian legislation are expected to pass the East Timor parliament after Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said in a statement his government was committed to honouring the agreement.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the government looked forward to East Timor's cooperation.

But the East Timor government has taken Australia to task for issuing licences in disputed Timor Sea areas, which are the subject of talks to resume next month, and for refusing to agree a timeframe to settle the border issue.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown today accused Australia of acting illegally in its issue of licences and said the government was stealing from the fledgling nation.

"We're going to rob the poorest country in South East Asia to line the pockets of the government and the oil companies of the richest country," he told the Senate.

"It is a terrible moment in our history in this country, a shameful moment, I won't have a part of it.

"It is a wrong being committed here today and it's being done in name of this nation, if only the Australian people knew about the theft from East Timor that's being committed here today."

But Special Minister of State Eric Abetz said the laws dealt with an area not in dispute between the two countries.

The Australian Democrats, One Nation's Len Harris and independent Meg Lees joined the Greens in opposing the bill.

"It is ironic that the Australian government played such a crucial role in helping East Timor achieve legal independence but is now acting like bushrangers for oil," Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

Labor voted with the government to pass the bill and defeat Greens and Democrats amendments, including one calling for the revenue to be put in trust until the border dispute was resolved.

The treaty gives Australia interim rights to around 82 per cent of the total revenues from the reserves until the two governments settle the boundary dispute.

Australia wants to keep the border which was agreed with Indonesia in 1975, but East Timor argues that the border should lie at the mid-point between the two countries.

This report appears on NEWS.com.au.


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