UN move expands Australia’s territory: minister

SYDNEY, April 21, 2008 (AFP) – Australia’s territory has expanded by an area five times the size of France after the UN agreed to its jurisdiction over a massive amount of seabed, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said Monday. The United Nations’ decision to extend the country’s borders south, west and east to include a further 2.5 million square kilometres could potentially provide a “bonanza” in underwater oil and gas reserves, he said.

“I am pleased to announce that Australia, the largest island in the world, has just been dramatically increased in size,” Ferguson told reporters in Canberra.

“We have fully explored through the United Nations our entitlements to actually extend our continental shelf.”

Ferguson said the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York gave Australia control of large areas of seabed beyond the standard 200 nautical miles, including some bordering Australia’s Antarctic Territory.

The decision gives Australia the rights to what exists on and under the seabed, including potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves and biological resources.

“That is an area five times the size of France, 10 times the size of New Zealand, and 20 times the size of the United Ki