Subject: ACSJC: Catholic Council urges Come to the table on Timor Sea

December 20 2004


Council urges Come to the table on Timor Sea

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) today urged 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.

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.

Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the ACSJC said, A rich nation like Australia can endure delays in these negotiations. East Timor cannot.

East Timor is among the poorest nations of the world. 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.

The only resource available to East Timor to provide adequately for its growing population rests in the Timor Sea.

Australians can view with pride the role we have played in securing East Timor s transition to democracy and providing aid and development support. 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 urges 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.

For further information:

John Ferguson National Executive Officer, ACSJC Tel: 02 9956 5811

AUSTRALIAN CATHOLICSOCIALJUSTICECOUNCIL 19 MACKENZIE STREET NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2060 Tel: +61 (0) 2 9956 5811 Fax: +61 (0) 2 9954 0056 Email: Website:

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