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The Age - 2nd February, 2005. 'Letters Page'

One man's courage to stand up for the Timorese

Melbourne businessman Ian Melrose is to be roundly applauded for his self-funded advertisements that highlight the injustice of the Australian Government's stance on the Timor Gap oil and gas.

It is a very rare and brave thing for a businessman to lock horns with this Government, which is so closely allied to the big end of town, and also unusual for someone from the corporate world to recognise that true development assistance comes from self-determination and independence, and not just from charity hand-outs.

True to form, the Government has lashed out at Mr Melrose and his ads (The Age, 1/2) - but has not actually responded to criticisms by Mr Melrose (and others) of its legal position. Credibility, of course, lies on the side of no vested interest, which in this case is Mr Melrose, who has nothing to gain from a better deal for the Timorese.

The aid agencies, which, you report, have distanced themselves from Mr Melrose and his ads, are caught between a rock and a hard place. While almost certainly most would support Mr Melrose's stance on this issue, they are dependent on support from the Government through AusAid, and are facing new legislation, due to be passed this year when the Government gets control of the Senate, which threatens to remove their tax-deductibility status if they engage in advocacy that challenges the Government.

In an era when free speech and dissent is increasingly stomped on by those in power, Mr Melrose's actions stand as an example for others to follow.

- Paul Tyndale-Biscoe, Flemington

Muddying waters in the Timor Sea

The Australian Government says that Melbourne businessman Ian Melrose's TV advertisements about the Timor Sea debate are misleading because the $2 billion figure includes royalties taken from outside the Joint Petroleum Development Area (The Age, 1/2).

Yet this is the very point the TV ads are making! The $2 billion figure is based entirely on the Laminaria, Corallina and Buffalo fields - all of which lie much closer to East Timor than Australia, and all of which are in an area East Timor is claiming as its Exclusive Economic Zone in keeping with current international law.

It's time for the Government to resubmit to the maritime jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to settle the dispute fairly.

- Tom Clarke, co-ordinator, Timor Sea Justice Campaign, Melbourne