Friday, 8 July 2011

Xanana Welcome Rudd’s Visit But Will Have Hard Question

Tempo Semanal-Dili, 08/07/2011

Xanana and Rudd 
The former Prime Minister of Australia and now Foreign Minister of Australia Mr. Kevin Rudd arrives in Timor-Leste tomorrow (09/07).  The Timorese will be happy to receive Mr. Rudd for two reasons.  He is known to be a friend of Timor-Leste, and unlike almost all other senior Australian politicians, he is coming to stay overnight, and will leave on Sunday (11/07) after a visit to the rural areas.

In May 2010 Prime Minister Gusmao rejected to meet the Australian Minister for Trade, and in March 2011 Gusmao also rejected to meet the Australian Minister for Defence on his 6 hours visit to East Timor.  Mr. Rudd is being welcomed to East Timor because ehe has a long history and undertstanding of the Timorese, and is happy to make time and priority to stay overnight with his Timorese friends.

Tempo Semanal has learned that Rudd plans to meet with the President of Timor-Leste Jose Ramos-Horta, the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, and the Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa.

According to TS sources Mr. Rudd will meet with Prime Minister Gusmao at 1730 hours on 9 July 2011 at the Government Palace.

This visit comes a few days after the Australian Government has responded to a review of Australian Aid – this change in Australian aid is due to the initiative of Foreign Minister Rudd.  Rudd has accepted that there have been long term mistakes made and is trying to correct some of those mistakes.  These mistakes were covered by this newspaper in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  Many of these issues caused the relationship between the Canberra and Dili to become bad.

Critically Australian aid is increasingly from $75 million a year to $125 million a year starting now.  However, the Governments of Australia and East Timor have not yet informed the public how this extra money will be used. But it is important to note that an extra $75 million is not viewed as being very much by Timorese authorities in the context of the Government’s current $1.3  billion annual budget. East Timor President, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance have many times expressed concern over the usefulness of international aid, including Australian assistance, in East Timor.

In May 2011 the Prime Minister angrily spoke out on the effectiveness of international aid in East Timor, asking what happened to the $8 billion dollars of aid between 1999-2009.  It is an issue, which Timorese of all political allegiances from Dili to the mountains ask over and over again.

Rudd’s visit to Timor-Leste comes just days before the Timor-Leste Development Partners meeting in which the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste Xanana Gusmao shall reveal to the international community his so called Strategic Development Plan for Timor-Leste 2011-2030.

There are remains serious differences of opinion between Canberra and Dili over the effectiveness of Australian aid in East Timor and the Timorese Government is making its own path to national development.  The Opposition in Parliament has differences of opinion with both Canberra and the Gusamo lead coalition Government.

Of most serious argument is the matter of the Greater Sunrise liquid natural gass field in which the Government, Opposition and Australia’s Woodside Company have very serious conflicts over the direction of the pipeline. North to East Timor or south to Australia.

In 2010 during the public consultation of the Strategic development plan by PM Gusmao the the PM accused Woodside and Australia of seeking to steal East Timor’s future economic prosperity.  The President of East Timor has tried to mediate between Gusmao, Woodside, Australia and the Opposition on the issue. 

President Ramos-Horta has appealed to Canberra to bring Woodside to the position of running the pipeline north to East Timor.

Rudd is in East Timor from 9-10 July.  The Woodside agreement expires in early 2012. There is not much more time for Australia, Woodside and East Timor to reach a solution.  Failure to do so will put the future of Timorese children at risk.


Anonymous said...

"President Ramos-Horta has appealed to Canberra to bring Woodside to the position of running the pipeline north to East Timor."

That's the problem. Horta and others don't understand why an Australian prime minister cannot force the business decisions of private corporations the way that Gusmao threatens and forces his will over anyone and everyone in Timor-Leste - including judges.

Jangan lupa Maternus '09

Anonymous said...

What President Horta knows and too well is that governments will do the work to defend national interests and this often involves lobbying and playing hard politics on behalf of national companies to obtain national gain.

By the same token, governments can and do play hard ball to twist the arm of private corporations to get what it wants.

In regards to Woodside and the Greater Sunrise government can exert power because in the end it must give the final approval before anything goes ahead.

Of course this would require the Australian government to play fair politics in relation to Timor Leste rather than listen to immoral greed specially since Bayu Undan is already benefiting Australia with a pipeline to Darwin.

Of course the Timorese government can never count on such expectation of fairness on the Australian part and that is why it has adopted a firm position regarding the pipeline to Timor Leste.

Woodside can either comply with Timor Leste demands or stand to loose everything if a plan is not approved by 2013.

Woodside's mistake (Don Voelte's) was to think that as a poor and small country Timor Leste was going to concede to its wishes.

Had they done a quick study of Timor Leste's path to independence they would have found that these people are known for dogged determination in the face of adversity. That is how they were able to fight on to win independence.
But in all his arrogance Don Voelte didn't bother to get to know the other side and to his, only his surprise at the end of his contract as CEO of Woodside he said to be dissapointed and surprised why Timor Leste's government was so hard to deal bend to his will.

When Indonesia first devised its plan to invade Timor Leste they were confident they would overun the country within 2 weeks. 25 years later and after much pain and damage endured by the Timorense, Jakarta had to concede defeat and leave the country.

Maybe Woodside should seek advise from Jakarta regarding Timorese determination.
When the Timorese government say it is ready to leave it all for future generations it is dead serious.
Greater Sunrise is far too important for Timor Leste for the government to settle for second best.
It is Woodside who stands to loose the hundreds of millions it has already spent if it looses the exploration licence.
Politically and in all fairness Australia cannot argue a case against a pipeline to Timor Leste and that is why it is hiding behing Woodside insistence on its FLNG plan in the hope that it succeeds. Of course from Australia's perspective FLNG is only second best to another pipeline to Darwin but it is better than a pipeline to Timor Leste. More benefits to be had.

The only problem is Timor Leste's willingness to fighting to the death to secure the pipeline as it did to secure independence.

The stage is set. Let's see what Woodside does next.

Anonymous said...

It is fair that Timor Leste fights hard to get the best deal out of Greater Sunrise, but we have to be realistic and Timor Leste under the AMP government has only one appaling quality and that is the squandering of the nation's wealth. No doubt AMP already has its business allies lined up to share on the very profitable downstream businesses. And that could be acceptable. But will they have the business know-how to run oil business related industry? Doubt very much. Could bet everything that they will be of the caliber of the companies chosen for the famous Power Plant Project. With or without the pipeline running into East Timor one thing is for sure, the vast majority of East Timorese will never enjoy the benefits of its petro dollars as long as the AMP coalition remains in power. Seriously, can any body that wants to defende the AMP government come forward with the hard evidence of what visible and serious investment has been made with the billions of dollars spent to date? If so, please present the investment value (dollars spent) the actual asset created and explain how it benefits the people.