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Has Australia missed the boat on the Timor Sea Treaty?

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The Hon Warren Snowdon MP Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia and the Territories Member for Lingiari Australian Labor Party


Phone: (08) 8942 3830 Fax: (08) 8942 3834

ALICE SPRINGS Phone: (08) 8952 9696 Fax: (08) 8952 5922

CANBERRA Phone: (02) 6277 4520 Fax: (02) 6277 8480

13 February 2003

Has Australia missed the boat on the Timor Sea Treaty?

The Federal Government today failed to ratify the Timor Sea Treaty before the end of the current parliamentary sitting, jeopardising Phillips Petroleum’s $6 billion investment in the Bayu-Undan gas field.

Warren Snowdon, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia, said the Government’s failure made it nearly impossible to ratify the treaty before March 11, when Phillips will have to renegotiate contracts with its buyers.

“This Government has persisted with the use of bullying and brinksmanship to force East Timor into ceding more revenue,” Mr Snowdon said.

“Its belligerent negotiating style has now put at risk up to 1,500 Australian jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.

“The delays are now beyond excuse.

“It’s time to put an end to the Government’s grubby pick-pocketing of one of the poorest countries in the world.”

The Prime Minister of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri, told the media yesterday that the Australian Government was not negotiating in good faith.

He said Australia had signed a memorandum of understanding in May last year declaring that the treaty’s ratification was not linked to a separate agreement on royalties for the Greater Sunrise gas field, but that Australia had since abandoned this understanding.

Mr Snowdon said Labor would seek to expedite the passing of the Timor Sea Treaty Bill, a requirement of the treaty’s ratification, when Parliament next sits from March 3 to 6, but warned that it was probably too late.

During a joint standing committee hearing on Monday last week, a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs assured Mr Snowdon that he would provide him with a timeframe on the treaty’s ratification.

“It’s been ten days now, and I still haven’t received this advice,” Mr Snowdon said.

“What does this say about the Government’s commitment to this treaty, which carries the economic hopes of both the Northern Territory and East Timor?

“The Government still hasn’t even tabled the Timor Sea Treaty Bill.”

East Timor ratified the treaty last year on December 17.


Contact: Warren Snowdon: 0419 626 601 or Markus Mannheim: 0428 280 114