Asia-Pacific

West Timor awaits Abbott Montara response

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's approval rating is also low across the Timor Sea, where some of Indonesia's poorest were hit by the 2009 Montara oil spill.

The federal leadership crisis is being watched with interest from Indonesia's West Timor area, where citizens are still waiting for Australian help after the 2009 Montara oil spill.

Since Australia's largest offshore pollution disaster, people in villages across the Timor Sea have experienced illnesses and devastating losses in the fishing and seaweed industries.

Their Australian lawyer, Greg Phelps, wrote to Prime Minister Tony Abbott on November 24 seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the legacy of the disaster.

To date, Mr Phelps says he has received no reply to the letter, which urged government help to require Montara operator PTTEP AA to fund an independent study into the spill's impact in Indonesian waters.

"I put it directly to the office of prime minister that allowing PTTEP AA to be protected by the poverty and remoteness of Montara's victims is a reprehensible position for this nation and is collaborative with the polluter in abrogating its corporate responsibility," Mr Phelps wrote.

West Timor-based spokesman Ferdi Tanoni says Mr Abbott "has closed his eyes and ears to these people who are just in Australia's backyard".

The Indonesian government has also made contact with Australian officials, explaining that Jakarta's efforts to deal with PTTEP AA have failed, and seeking help to encourage them back to talks.

Millions of litres of oil gushed from the Montara well head into the Timor Sea for 74 days in 2009, spreading pollution towards Indonesia, where there has never been any scientific research on the effects.

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