Subject: Sunrise project discussed in Australian Senate

Excerpt from Australian Senate Hansard (official record). Thursday, 26 November 2009. Page 50-51. 

Greater Sunrise Project

Senator BOB BROWN (2.19 pm)­My question is to Senator Carr, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. What was the outcome of the reported talks between the special adviser to the Timor-Leste government, Francisco da Costa Monteiro, and Minister Ferguson yesterday on locating the LNG Greater Sunrise project onshore facility in Timor-Leste? Can the minister tell the Senate what advantages there would be to Timor-Leste from this project being developed in that very poor neighbouring country?

Senator CARR­In representing Minister Ferguson here, I am not briefed on every aspect of every meeting that he has with foreign governments. What I can say to the senator is that advice has been provided to me which indicates that the government strongly support the development of the petroleum resources in the Joint Petroleum Development Area and the development of the Greater Sunrise gas field. Those arrangements are progressing well. The Australian government and East Timor continue to work closely on the management of the resources in the Timor Sea for the mutual benefit of our nations. This cooperative work is built on the principles agreed between our two countries which are implemented pursuant to relevant treaties.

I am further advised that the contract operator, Woodside, and its commercial partners are considering the development options for the Greater Sunrise field. The Australian government do not advocate any particular method for the handling of the gas from the Greater Sunrise field. The direction of any pipeline and the location of processing facilities for the Greater Sunrise field is ultimately a commercial decision for Woodside and its commercial partners in line with the provisions contained in relevant treaties. I want to emphasise, though, that the government strongly support the development of the Greater Sunrise project and welcome the implementation of the Sunrise Commission, which of course will provide for a project that will be of immense benefit to both our peoples. (Time expired)

Senator BOB BROWN­Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask Senator Carr: has he read today’s paper in which Mr da Costa said: … establishing the project ­ in Timor-Leste­ was expected to cost $8 billion to $10 billion and … would drive the development of other services in the country of 1 million. “That’s the reason why we see that for Australia this is one drop in a big ocean, but for Timor Leste this is … the single biggest [project] and you can imagine how much attention we put into this.”

What are the social benefits to Timor-Leste which were explained to the minister yesterday­if I read this correctly­ and is it true that this development is 200 kilometres from Timor-Leste but 500 kilometres from Australia and logic would dictate that it go ahead in Timor-Leste?

Senator CARR­The nature of the discussion’s specifics are not matters which I have been provided advice on. I have been advised that the Greater Sunrise field has the potential to generate significant future revenue flows for both governments, that Australia is fully committed to the Timor Sea treaties that underpin the successful exploration­

Senator Bob Brown­Mr President, I raise a point of order. The minister is repeating what he read last time. I asked about the social benefits to Timor-Leste and the proximity of this development to Timor-Leste, and I wonder if the minister could answer those questions.

The PRESIDENT­I believe the minister is answering the question. The minister has 32 seconds remaining. I draw the minister’s attention to the questions.

Senator CARR­I was asked about the detail of the discussion that occurred yesterday. I am answering that specifically and directly. I have indicated that this development has the potential to generate significant future revenues for both governments and be of great benefit to both governments and their peoples. But Australia remains fully committed to honouring the Timor Sea Treaty that underpins the successful operations. Now, 79.9­ (Time expired)

Senator BOB BROWN­Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I put it this way to the minister: isn’t it true that Timor-Leste potentially has the ability to block the onshore development, or the atsea development for that matter, of Woodside if it does not do the right thing by Timor-Leste, and are there other potential resource developers­for example, from Malaysia and China­who might like to supplant Woodside at the end of the day if it does the wrong thing by Timor-Leste?

Senator CARR­The question of the nature of the commercial development of the project is a matter for the parties who are the proponents of the project. It is true that the government of Timor-Leste has the capacity to undertake certain matters and is engaged in conversation with other parties. But, as Prime Minister Gusmao expressed as far back as 2008, the view had been taken that the decision on the pipeline for Greater Sunrise was a commercial one for the joint-venturer. There have been subsequent statements made by officials for the Timor government. The Australian government has, of course, the view that we are not proposing any specific outcome from those commercial discussions, that it is a matter for the joint-venture parties and that, while 79.9 per cent of the Greater Sunrise field is in the area which­ (Time expired)

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