Subject: SCMP: Timor Continues Campaign For On-Shore Gas Plant To Ease Poverty [+Horta: It Makes Best Sense]

also: Radio Australia: Pipeline makes best sense, says East Timor's Horta

The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Timor Continues Campaign For On-Shore Gas Plant To Ease Poverty

By Kirsty Needham

BRINGING an oil pipeline to East Timor would do more to alleviate poverty than Australia's $100 million aid program could achieve, East Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, said last night.

Dr Ramos-Horta, on his first state visit to Australia since his evacuation to Darwin after an assassination attempt in 2008, will meet the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in Canberra today. Dr Ramos-Horta said last night a prosperous East Timor would benefit Australia in regional security terms, and economically, by increasing Timorese power to purchase Australian goods and creating a ripple effect in surrounding impoverished Indonesian provinces.

''The vast resources of the Timor Sea … can catapult Timor towards prosperity,'' he said.

''This very generous aid [package] of $100 million, that's part of that vision, but even better still … let's look at the gas pipeline, the oil pipeline.''

East Timor yesterday outlined a plan to develop a $4.3 billion oil and gas hub on its coast, but conceded it was still in negotiations with Australia over the Greater Sunrise project.

The lead joint venture partner, Woodside Petroleum, wants an offshore, floating gas plant, which it argues would be $4.7 billion cheaper. The East Timorese government has objected to the plan because it believes an onshore plant will create more local jobs.

Dr Ramos-Horta said he was open-minded about the outcome of the oil and gas debate with the federal government.

''The pipeline is not a monument, a monument is a symbol of pride,'' he said.

Sharing the stage with the chancellor of the Australian National University, Gareth Evans, the former foreign affairs minister who signed the Timor Gap treaty with Indonesia, Dr Ramos-Horta offered a polite apology for his castigation of Mr Evans at the time.

He had later learnt Australian officials had been forceful with the Indonesian government ''behind the scenes'', he said.

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Radio Australia June 22, 2010

Pipeline makes best sense, says East Timor's Horta

photo: East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta wants Timor Sea gas discoveries to be processed onshore. [ABC]

Linda Mottram, Canberra

East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta is using a state visit to Australia to fight against plans to process gas from the Timor Sea on a floating platform, and not via a pipeline in East Timor.

Dr Ramos Horta's engagements include talks with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd - where he says he will also raise concerns about the effectiveness of Australia's development assistance.

The President says East Timor's future could be secured through a domestic gas processing industry.

But he is suggesting independent specialists be called in to decide the issue.

Economic

"Obviously, I'm not entirely objective, being president of my country," he said in Canberra.

"I believe the pipeline option to Timor Leste makes more economic, commercial sense."

Dr Ramos Horta was moving to calm the tone of a debate that has escalated after the Greater Sunrise consortium rejected the pipeline and announced a floating processing facility was the most economic option.

But he says a pipeline and processing industry in East Timor holds the best hope for sustainable prosperity for his country.

"If I were the Prime Minister of Australia and if I were the top oil executives and others sitting in Canberra I would look at the region as a whole.

"I wouldn't look only at my narrow economic, commercial interests."

The President will deliver his first major speech in Australia for two years on the challenges and prospects for democracy in his still fledgling country.

Also among his engagements during a four-day state visit will be the inauguration of a new embassy for his country in Canberra and a private discussion with the Australian Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade committee.


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