Australia has been “siphoning” millions of dollars a month in oil revenue that should belong to Timor-Leste, because the government is yet to ratify last year’s maritime border treaty. The delay has meant that Australia continues to draw profits from the Bayu-Undan fields, which had previously been split 90-10 but was confirmed by the treaty to have belonged entirely to Timor-Leste. Estimates vary between $350,000 and $2.9m per week that Australia is drawing by continuing to claim 10% of the Bayu-Undan revenue.
Estimates suggest the revenue taken by Australia since the signing of the treaty now totals more than it has given to Timor-Leste in foreign aid, and more than Timor-Leste spends on health in a year.
L’ao Hamutuk, a human rights organisation, said both countries could have ratified the treaty in August – when Timor-Leste’s new parliament began sitting and when the Australian joint select committee on the treaty published its report.
“But in the next seven months Australia received US$44m from Bayu-Undan,” said Charles Scheiner, of L’ao Hamutuk. “If ratification doesn’t happen until the end of July 2019 [the next sitting dates after the Australian federal election], this will grow to about US$76m. If the treaty had been ratified expeditiously, the Bayu-Undan revenue no longer being siphoned off by Australia would have covered the health costs of the entire Timorese population.”
L’ao Hamutuk that Australia had taken billions of dollars in revenue over the decades, money that should have been Timor-Leste’s.