East Timor has asked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to intervene personally in a dispute over plans for a gas plant in the Timor Sea.
Australia and East Timor will share the spoils from the Greater Sunrise plant when it is built, but there is a stand-off between East Timor and the development consortium over aspects of the operation.
The consortium, led by Woodside Petroleum, wants to process the gas via a floating platform onto ships, but East Timor wants the gas piped to its shores to provide jobs onshore.
The consortium claims the floating plant would generate at least $US13 billion for East Timor, but its government wants to see its costings, claiming $US65 billion could be made from an onshore plant.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta asked Mr Rudd, during a meeting in Canberra on Wednesday, to press Woodside for a better deal.
Mr Rudd with his “persuasive intellect and charm” might be able to persuade the consortium to talk with East Timor government, Dr Ramos-Horta said in a speech later to the National Press Club.
“Maybe why not push the consortium … bring the pipeline to Timor Leste because in the end a very prosperous Timor Leste will be to the benefit of Australia.”
Dr Ramos Horta said the figures Woodside was using to claim an onshore plant was too expensive were “absolutely exaggerated”.
He said the government was open to dialogue and discussing options.
“If the pipeline is far too expensive to bring to Timor Leste in reality … then we have to think twice.
“We don’t want a white elephant that we have to pay for.”
Mr Rudd said the issue was a matter for the East Timor government and the consortium to resolve.
“Australia does not support any particular location for processing the LNG,” he told reporters after meeting Dr Ramos Horta.
“We agreed that this matter should be settled in the processes consistent with our treaty obligations.”