Subject: ABC: Labor shifts stance on Timor gas 


Thursday July 22, 03:54 PM

Labor to revisit East Timor gas talks

Federal Opposition leader Mark Latham says a Labor government would go back to the drawing board in negotiations with East Timor over the Sunrise gas field.

Australia is in dispute with East Timor over maritime boundaries and oil and gas reserves and royalties in the Timor Sea.

Mr Latham says the Government has failed in its negotiations with East Timor and that talks must be restarted.

"Our starting point is to recognise that if East Timor goes broke that's bad for Australia," he told commercial radio.

"We don't want a failed state on our doorstep. We have an Australian interest in the viability of East Timor so we've got to conduct these negotiations in good faith.

"If we come into government, we'll have to start again because from what I can gather there's been a lot of bad blood across the negotiating table and we've got to get it right."

Lobby group Australians for a Free East Timor says negotiations over East Timor's maritime boundaries with Australia would be quicker and fairer if they started again from scratch.

The group's Rob Wesley-Smith says the Federal Government has ignored the International Court of Justice and is dragging its feet on negotiations that are vital to East Timor's economy.

"Not only should they observe international law but they should also be fair," he said.

"Australia can change its own boundaries on a daily basis when a refugee boat approaches its shores but it's taking years and years to negotiate a fairly simple boundary with its neighbouring country."



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