Calls for a Timor Sea trust fund

Issue 

Vannessa Hearman, Melbourne

With maritime boundary negotiations between East Timor and Australia set to resume in Canberra on March 7, the Timor Sea Justice Campaign has called for a trust fund to be established.

According to the TSJC, the Australian government should place revenue already taken from contested oil and gas fields into a trust fund to be distributed accordingly when an agreement is reached on the Timor Sea dispute.

"If the Australian government wants to show that it's serious about wanting a fair outcome, it needs to take some genuine steps to stop its unilateral exploitation of oil and gas fields located closer to East Timor than Australia", Tom Clarke, coordinator of the TSJC in Melbourne, said on February 22.

"All revenue that Australia has taken from contested oil and gas fields should be placed in an escrow account. It's the only fair way to ensure that the Australian government doesn't spend money that belongs to East Timor."

Since 1999, the Australian government has taken over $2 billion dollars from the Laminaria and Corallina fields that are located closer to East Timor than Australia and are part of an exclusive economic zone claimed by the East Timorese Government.

East Timor has never had agreed maritime boundaries with Australia. Progress in establishing permanent boundaries has been stalled due to the Australian government's refusal to consider a resolution based on current principles of international law. The East Timorese government has no international legal avenue for the resolution of the dispute, as the federal Coalition government pre-emptively withdrew from the maritime boundary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea two months before East Timor's independence.

The issue will be the topic of a continuing television campaign during 2005, written and financed by Melbourne businessperson Ian Melrose.

[For more information, phone Tom Clarke on 0422 545 763 or visit <http://www.timorseajustice.org>.]

From Green Left Weekly, March 2, 2005.
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