Subject: Australian Govt Trying To Rush Timor Bills Through Parliament

Wednesday March 10, 11:16 AM

Australian Govt Trying To Rush Timor Bills Through Parliament

CANBERRA, March 10 Asia Pulse - The Australian federal government was today trying to rush two bills through parliament to allow the development of massive underground petroleum fields in the Timor Sea.

East Timor and Australia agreed to develop the Sunrise and Troubador fields last year but are in dispute over how much of the fields each country owns.

Labor accused oil companies and the government of trying to push the bills through parliament today in order to put pressure on the East Timorese government over the underground borders.

"Why would the venture partners in the Greater Sunrise project want to rush this UIA (Unitisation Implementation Agreement) through now that it's been rubber stamped by the minister's office?", Labor energy spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon told parliament.

"Well one can only assume Mr Deputy Speaker that it's designed to put additional pressure on the East Timorese government.

"And I think that that is regrettable."

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the government was honouring an agreement with the East Timorese government by implementing the bills.

"I call on the government of East Timor to expedite its own treaty implementation process," he told parliament.

Mr Macfarlane said the bills would stimulate petroleum exploration in the Timor Sea.

"Timely development of Greater Sunrise will deliver significant benefits to both Australia and East Timor," he said.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the opposition was only permitted to see copies of the bills yesterday afternoon.

He expressed concern that a clause in the bills which would allow mining companies to import equipment into the mining zone duty free would not require equipment to be Australian sourced.

"How can it be in the national interest to allow these companies to import capital equipment from other nation states while totally ignoring to source those goods locally?" Mr Fitzgibbon said.


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