Subject: ABC: Govt considers giving old Navy vessels to E Timor

ABC Online

Last Update: Saturday, February 11, 2006. 10:47am (AEDT)

Govt considers giving old Navy vessels to E Timor

Northern Territory Fisheries Minister Kon Vatskalis has proposed giving decommissioned Navy vessels to East Timor to bolster their coastal surveillance.

Mr Vatskalis has just returned from an official trip to Dili where he held talks with officials from the mining and fisheries industries.

He says that country is also dealing with illegal fishing.

Mr Vatskalis says the Australian Navy is introducing new Armidale Class patrol boats and the superseded Fremantle Class vessels could be donated to Timor.

"It's happened before. The Australian Government provided some of the old patrol boats to the Pacific islands, Pacific nations, in order to police their waters with great success because we provided the training, we provided the boats and we can do the same for East Timor," he said.

Minister Assisting the Federal Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson, was also in Darwin last night to launch two of the new Navy patrol boats, and says he is open to the idea of giving decommissioned boats to East Timor.

"Some creative lateral thinking there by the Northern Territory Minister," he said.

"I guess our approach is very much one of collaboration in managing the northern shores of Australia. That's a useful suggestion and we'll certainly have a look at that."

Mr Vatskalis also proposes a partnership deal for East Timorese fisheries staff to also train in Darwin.

He says the training would help East Timor police their natural resources.

"It's something we have to discuss formally in the Department, I mean we have different courses we run all the time," he said.

"We can offer structural training programs so these people get the skills and expertise, go back to Timor and train some of their colleagues there."

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