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Press Releases - 19 May 2004 >> 
 

Howard takes the cake on east Timor’s birthday

Demonstration organised by the Timor Sea Justice Campaign

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Melbourne (Casselden Place, 2 Lonsdale St) - 12:30pm on Thursday 20 May 2004.

On May 20 2002, the international community celebrated as it recognised East Timor's independence. Two years later, national and international outrage is mounting at Australian government actions over Timor Sea oil and gas resources.

Oil and gas worth more than US$30 billion lie under the Timor Sea between East Timor and Australia. No permanent maritime boundaries have been drawn between the two countries.

“Under current revenue sharing arrangements, Australia takes 60% of revenues from oil and gas resources closer to East Timor than to Australia - resources which under international law should belong entirely to East Timor. In financial terms, Australia stands to profit to the tune of over US $7 billion at the expense of East Timor,” Dan Nicholson of the Timor Sea Justice Campaign, said today.

“Australia refuses to negotiate maritime boundaries expeditiously as East Timor requests. Australia has withdrawn from the jurisdiction of bodies like the International Court of Justice, which could settle the dispute through neutral arbitration. While the Australian government stalls, it profits to the tune of US $1 million per day at the expense of East Timor,” Mr Nicholson added.

The amount that Australia has taken since 1999 in revenues from the exploitation of disputed oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea dwarfs the foreign aid contribution Australia has made to East Timor in that time. As East Timor's Prime Minister, Dr Mari Alkatari said, ‘in addition to blocking a judicial resolution of our maritime dispute, Australia is unilaterally taking the resources from the disputed area.'

As East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao stated recently, for East Timor, ‘this is a question of life or death, a question of being continually poor, continually begging, or to be self-sufficient.'

‘Today, instead of celebrating East Timor's independence, we are protesting against an Australian government that is stealing East Timor's future,' Mr Nicholson concluded..

Demonstrations on the Timor Sea issue will be held on May 20 in Melbourne , Sydney , Brisbane , Adelaide and Darwin . In Dili, East Timor , there will be three days of peaceful demonstrations outside the Australian embassy beginning on May 18.

To mark the anniversary of Timor's independence there will be a birthday cake – 80% of which will be taken by a 3-metre John Howard puppet .

For more information, contact Dan Nicholson on 0409 328 289.

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