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Timor Sea Agreements: Setting the record straight.

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8 February 2007

Timor Sea Agreements: Setting the record straight

The assertions by Mr Kim Wilkie, the Deputy Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, about the Australian Government’s processes to bring into force a landmark revenue sharing treaty with East Timor are inaccurate, misleading and damaging to the interests of both countries.

The record should be set straight.

The Australian Government tabled in Parliament on the first sitting day this year the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) Treaty with East Timor, in a timeframe and process agreed with the East Timor Government.

At the request last year of the East Timorese Prime Minister, Dr José Ramos-Horta, I agreed that the two countries would move through their domestic treaties processes as closely in parallel as possible. It was this agreement, and not - as Mr Kim Wilkie incorrectly asserts - the timing of elections in East Timor that has dictated the Government’s approach. Proceeding through the steps together would help East Timor with its approvals process and ensure the greatest likelihood of the CMATS Treaty entering into force in the short term. Both the Australian and East Timorese Governments wished to avoid the situation where one of them alone had completed its domestic processes for the CMATS Treaty.

Efforts in East Timor for entry into force of the treaty, as well as the related International Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise (IUA), were diverted by the civil disruption in mid-2006 and understandably little was achieved in its domestic approvals process. The East Timorese Government has however informed the Australian Government recently that East Timor will be in position to complete its domestic treaties process in the near future, well before the elections in East Timor.

The Australian Government has done all it needs to do at this point on this package of the CMATS Treaty and IUA. It is my understanding that, to date, East Timor has completed some but not all of its processes to bring both treaties into force. The treaties cannot enter into force without this action by East Timor.

The CMATS Treaty, signed on 12 January 2006, and the IUA, signed in March 2003, will facilitate the development of the Greater Sunrise gas field, worth billions of dollars of revenue to both countries, and will usher in a new era of cooperation on all aspects of our interests in the Timor Sea.

The text of the CMATS Treaty has been publicly available since its signing in January 2006. The IUA was considered and supported by JSCOT in 2003.

Media contact: Carla Young (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500

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