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Council urges Govt to 'come to table' on Timor Sea

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) has called on the Australian Government to do all in its power to ensure East Timor has early access to revenues from the oil and gas resources of the Timor Sea.

A Council statement yesterday noted that as recently as August, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated that Australia and East Timor had the makings of a framework to settle the dispute by the end of the year. By October, however, these negotiations had broken down. There appears to be no good news for the East Timorese this Christmas.

The Timor Sea dispute comprises a number of boundary issues but the most immediate relates to the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields. At stake is the development of billions of dollars worth of revenue. A reasonable share of this revenue is desperately needed to secure the economic viability and sustainable development of East Timor.

ACSJC Chair Bishop Christopher Saunders said: "A rich nation like Australia can endure delays in these negotiations. East Timor cannot."

Bishop Saunders pointed out that East Timor is among the poorest nations of the world, and the Timor Sea is the "only resource available to East Timor to provide adequately for its growing population".

Half of the population of 900,000 is under the age of 14. Food security is poor and there is widespread malnutrition. Child mortality rates for children under 5 years of age are well over 10%. Industry and commerce is minimal - over 80% of the population survive on subsistence agriculture and farming.

"Australians can view with pride the role we have played in securing East Timor's transition to democracy and providing aid and development support," he said. "The dire need of our vulnerable neighbour increases the urgency of Australia acting now to ensure East Timor can improve its economic security."

The ACSJC is urging the Australian Government to resume negotiations on Greater Sunrise that will allow fair terms to assist East Timor to be self sufficient and prosperous. Such terms would recognise both countries' right to pursue permanent maritime boundaries relating to the shared petroleum development area in the future", Bishop Saunders concluded.

Council urges "Come to the table on Timor Sea" (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council 20/12/04)

Save East Timor (Edmund Rice Centre)
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Government of East Timor
Office of Territory Development: Timor Sea Oil and Gas
Sr Susan Connelly: East Timor needs justice not charity (Australian Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs)
Long Term Consequences of Government Policy on Resources of the Timor Sea (Sr Susan Connelly, Politics in the Pub, 17/9/04

Nun challenges media mischief on Timor oil (CathNews 6/8/04)
Christian Brothers leader writes to PM on Timor Sea oil (CathNews 20/5/04)
Josephite support for Timor Sea boundary rethink (CathNews 13/5/04)
Commission says Australia 'bullying' East Timor (CathNews 20/4/04)

East Timor ups ante in oil and gas fight (ABC Radio The World Today 16/12/04)
Australia accused in E Timor oil wrangle (The Guardian 4/12/04)

21 Dec 2004