Subject: Age: Bid for Timor billions in trust

The Age

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Bid for Timor billions in trust

By Brendan Nicholson

A lobby group supporting East Timor wants Australia to put the billions flowing from some of the Timor Gap oil and gas fields into a trust fund until the boundary dispute is resolved.

East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri said this week that Australia was breaching international law by taking billions of dollars worth of oil and gas from the Timor Gap fields, which East Timor says it owns.

Australia claims that a key part of the Greater Sunrise field lies within Australian control.

Representatives of the Timor Sea Justice Campaign appeared before a Senate inquiry in Canberra yesterday saying legislation now being considered would give Australia control over huge fuel supplies that belonged to the impoverished country.

Spokesman Dan Nicholson said the bill to implement the Timor agreement would give 82 per cent of its revenue to Australia even though the deposit was half the distance from East Timor as it was from Australia. His group wants Australia to negotiate a deal more beneficial to East Timor.

Greens leader Bob Brown said Australia was robbing its poor neighbour of royalties it desperately needed. "It's illegal, it's not moral and it's robbery of the poorest country in the region," he said.

"It means for many decades there's going to be bad blood between us and our poor neighbour," he said. "We're talking not about peanuts here, we are talking about billions, tens of billions of dollars, and it's absolutely outrageous that the Australian Government is doing this."

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