The Guardian reports that Australia has been accused of siphoning as much as two million dollars a week in oil revenues from its impoverished neighbor Timor-Leste.
Just over a year ago, Australia and Timor-Leste signed a treaty to resolve a long standing dispute over their maritime border. The agreement confirmed that the Bayu-Undan oil field lay entirely in Timorese waters. Previously, profits from the area had been split 90-10; as soon as the treaty was ratified, 100 percent would go to Timor-Leste.
But Australia’s parliament has failed to act, and the delay means that Australia continues to collect its ten percent. With elections now set for next month, Canberra will not be able to ratify the treaty until July at the earliest.
According to a Dili based human rights group, by that time, Australia’s ten percent will add up to 76 million dollars, enough to cover the health costs of the entire Timorese population for a year.
The Guardian quotes Steve Bracks, former Premier of the state of Victoria and founder of the Timor-Leste governance project, “This is pretty outrageous when it comes to one of our poorest neighbors.”
“They’re being denied that money because of the dysfunction of the Australian government.”
Last year’s treaty was supposed to resolve decades of tensions that included revelations of Australian espionage and the disclosure that Australian support for Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of what was then East Timor was driven in part by hunger for oil in the Timor Sea.
The next Australian government will face pressure to return all revenues taken since the treaty was signed.