Subject: AFR: Timor Oil Deal Report Out Soon

Australian Financial Review

October 9, 2002 Wednesday

Timor Oil Deal Report Out Soon

Jason Koutsoukis With Aap

A Federal parliamentary committee considering the treaty arrangements between Australia and East Timor over shared oil and gas assets in the Timor Sea will report by the end of next month, clearing the path for ratification by the end of the year.

The chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Julie Bishop, said that with only one day of hearings left, the committee should be in a position to make a recommendation by next month.

"That will enable the government to get on with the task of ratifying the treaties and allowing the economic benefits to start flowing into East Timor, " Ms Bishop said.

The proposed Timor Sea Treaty between Australia and East Timor was referred to the committee on treaties for review on June 25, and has received over 80 submissions.

Appearing before the committee yesterday, a consultant to resources company Oceanic/PetroTimor, John Imle, said the stability of East Timor, which was in Australia's interest, was dependent on the early creation of jobs.

"The present plan of development is a classic example of an uneven deal reached by uneven counterparties," he said. "In my experience, this will eventually increase the political risk.

"The most urgent problem for East Timor is its lack of jobs."

Dr Imle, an expert in the development of gas projects in emerging nations, said ratification should be slowed down so East Timor could seek independent advice and hold public hearings.

One important factor in job creation would be where the resource came onshore.

Darwin was pushing for a pipeline to its shore, but the operators could load the liquefied natural gas directly on to boats from the platforms at sea.

"East Timor has been, and is still being, rushed to close the door once more by ratifying the treaty and a development plan that takes the gas not to its shores but to Darwin," he said.

[see Australian Parliament Review of Timor Seas Treaties]

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