Timor-Leste president to visit Australia

·2-min read

Unsticking the deadlock over a major resources project is key to the future of Timor-Leste, Foreign Minister Penny Wong says.

Senator Wong, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Governor-General David Hurley will meet with Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta during his visit to Canberra on Wednesday and Thursday.

Senator Wong was in Timor-Leste's capital Dili last week for discussions to resolve a dispute over the location of a gas processing hub.

The Greater Sunrise gas field is located in the Timor Sea and is off the northwest coast of Australia.

Timor-Leste is entitled to at least 70 per cent of the royalties from the field, estimated to have more $70 billion in resource value.

It controls almost 57 per cent of the field, with Australian energy company Woodside controlling 33 per cent and Japan's Osaka Gas 10 per cent.

Woodside's preferred option is the already established hub in Darwin, but the Timorese government wants the gas piped to a new site on their southern coast.

Dr Ramos-Horta has threatened his government will turn to China to fund the project if the stalemate remains, after pressuring Woodside to agree to the proposed new hub in his country.

The issue is expected to be on the agenda in talks over coming days.

Senator Wong said "economic sovereignty" was a key issue for Australia's neighbour.

"They face some pretty serious economic challenges as revenue from an existing field runs out (this year), which will mean much less revenue for government," she told ABC radio.

"One of the ways in which there has been discussion about the diversification of the economy is obviously the development of the Greater Sunrise field.

"That's clearly stuck. It's been stuck for many years, and we need to engage and discuss so that ... we can find a way to unstick it. I think that would be in the best interests of East Timor."

The minister noted the government was not a party to the joint venture so the parties had to make the decision.

Mr Albanese said in a statement the visit by Dr Ramos-Horta was "an opportunity to further deepen this relationship and explore avenues for strengthened co-operation both bilaterally and in the region".

Dr Ramos-Horta will deliver a televised address to the National Press Club on Wednesday.