Not so long ago, Australians were being feted for helping tiny East Timor, their northern neighbor, gain independence from Indonesia. But a tug of war over riches lying at the bottom of the Timor Sea that divides the two countries has quickly changed the tone of the relationship. The Howard government wasn't very caring in their dealings with them in fact many believe Australia ripped them off.
East Timor has branded Canberra a thief, complaining that a deal on harvesting the undersea energy riches greatly favored Australia. But after a rough patch, it looks as if the two countries could be back on an even keel--if things go according to plan.
The trouble centers on vast oil and gas deposits in the seabed that researchers estimate will be worth billions of dollars when developed. The fifteen-year-old boundary--drawn up long before East Timor was a country--gives the bulk of the seabed to Australia.
East Timor, whose annual budget is less than $71 million, thinks that the wealth and royalties lying at the bottom of the sea could total $20 billion.
"REFUGEE PROCESSING CENTRE"
Maybe the thought of having more employment and high level training for some of their citizens will be enough to entice them into agreeing.
The infrastructure that will be needed to support a processing centre might be too good a chance to miss for a country in great need of work and the training for its citizens.