There seems to be a groundswell of support for East Timor's position in the current dispute about oil-rich territory. However, suppose the island-state in question was instead, say, Singapore, whose wealth exceeds our own. Would we then support Australia "going in hard" with the negotiations, including selecting (to the extent allowed by law) the jurisdiction, tribunals and other legal mechanisms that puts Australia's interests in the best light? I suspect most of us would.
So if the only difference here is that East Timor is very poor while Singapore is very rich, then any concessions of billions of dollars to the East Timorese amounts to a form of aid. The question must be asked: is donating the oil to the East Timorese the best form of aid? Does this new, tiny country have the resources and expertise to extract maximum benefits from the territories?
Surely it would be more transparent for Australia to seek the best deal we can and then explicitly donate the billions of dollars to a UN trust fund, where it can be administered efficiently, competently and free from corruption by UN agencies and NGOs.
Yes, it's paternalistic and self-aggrandising; but it would likely lead to a better outcome.