Last week the Labor Party made a minor election issue out of Australia’s ongoing debate with Timor Leste over the extensive seabed oil and gas resources between the two countries, saying it would restart the stalled seabed negotiations with Timor Leste.
For several years Australia has taken a hard line on the issue sparking outrage in Timor Leste. The Howard Government wants a border drawn on the median line between continental shelves, not the median line between the countries, a position that would give Australia greater access to massive natural resources.
Despite an International Court of Justice ruling in Timor Leste’s favour Australia has maintained its position, leading to a breakdown in negotiations. Last week opposition leader Mark Latham promised to restart negotiations with a view to securing the future of a stable state in Timor Leste.
Foreign minister Alexander Downer has now threatened to suspend negotiations saying there was no point in continuing with scheduled talks in September if Labor had withdrawn from its bipartisan support for the government's negotiations.
"If the Labor Party is still going to take the view that it wants to politicise these delicate negotiations, we'll have no choice but to suspend the next round of negotiations," Downer told reporters.
The newly-signed Anzac boundary treaty has accepted the continental shelf stance after four years of negotiations. This treaty will be used by Australia when presenting its position on the Timor Gap to a UN commission later this year.
APPEA chief Barry Jones said this morning as far as the New Zealand treaty was concerned he was not sure if it had a great deal of relevance to the Australian Petroleum industry.