Page 2180 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005
There will be substantial revenues flowing to East Timor from the Greater Sunrise gas fields. In fact, the Timor Sea treaty, as I think we heard, already gives East Timor 90 per cent of the production from the joint petroleum development area it creates. This is quite generous in contrast to the previous treaty that existed, which had, as we were advised earlier, a 50:50 split with Indonesia. Before we take up the cause of the exploited and downtrodden and so forth, because Australia is perceived as having much greater might economically and everything else, we have to accept the fact that, as recently as last week, Prime Minister Alkatiri expressed satisfaction with the deal. Ramos Horta, who is a legendary figure in the liberation of the people in that part of the region, has described the deal as putting Australia and East Timor “on the threshold of a new era in bilateral relations”.
What this deal essentially involves is creating permanent maritime boundaries and claims for 50 years, setting these areas aside, and, of course, East Timor allowing the Greater Sunrise gas project to go ahead for the benefit of both countries. What better way can we help a struggling new nation than by ensuring that it has income streams? I am advised that East Timor will receive an additional $US2 billion to $US5 billion in revenue, subject, of course, to oil prices. This comes on top of a 90:10 split of revenues from the JPDA agreement under the Timor Sea treaty which, based on current world oil prices, will deliver about $US14.5 billion to East Timor over the next 20 years. That averages out at about $US2 million a day.
I do not quarrel with the sentiment that we must help our neighbours. For part of my career I worked with the Canadian government and I saw a fair bit about what happened in the neighbouring countries in the Pacific. There are always significant security issues for Australia, which I believe have intensified in terms of ensuring the stability of all of these small nations that encircle us, both in the Pacific and Indian oceans and to our immediate north.
The best way we can help these countries is not simply by writing out cheques for aid, which sometimes is required, and we do so generously in terms of economic and sometimes military aid, but by helping them get on their feet. That is achieved, obviously, through improving levels of education, ensuring that they have adequate health facilities, and ensuring that they are appropriately able to police their resources and to settle agreements to ensure that they have ongoing income streams that can support the infrastructure and the needs of these people.
I have not been to East Timor and I am not sure if members of the Assembly have. Maybe there are some here who have been there. I understand it is coming from a long way behind as, effectively, a Third World environment. I have met a number of Australians who have served over there, and served with great accomplishment. We are certainly aware of the role that Major General Cosgrove, who is about to retire, played in this particular mission.
We will leave a lasting legacy in terms of their economic future if we settle this arrangement along the lines proposed. I do not think that it is the role of the ACT Assembly to rush in when things are well advanced and start casting doubt on what have clearly been well-handled negotiations, which have been blurred somewhat by a television campaign that I am advised was not entirely truthful. We, as elected