‘The Sydney Morning Herald, January 27, 2005.
Businessman wins ace in campaign for Timor
The organisers of an advertising campaign that ambushed the Australian Open to highlight disputed maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea have pledged to dog John Howard at public events to further their cause.
Ian Melrose says that over the next three years he will spend $6 million on advertising campaigns and media stunts to embarrass the Prime Minister over the contentious issue of Australia's claim on the lucrative oil and gas fields.
The first of the businessman's commercials, which says the Federal Government has stolen $2 billion in revenue from the East Timorese, caught television viewers of the Alicia Molik fourth-round victory over Venus Williams on Monday by surprise.
But the 30-second spot - estimated to have cost about $30,000 - is just the beginning of a campaign by Mr Melrose and a recently formed coalition of groups, including World Vision, Oxfam and the Uniting Church of Australia, to push the Timor issue to the top of the political agenda.
"I'm not after dropping shit on Johnny - he's done a good job on many things. I'm after justice for the Timorese. They need the money. We don't," said Mr Melrose, who runs a chain of optometrists and who has visited East Timor to see first-hand the population's plight.
Although not a member of a political party, Mr Melrose said his ownership of a business under the Coalition's stewardship made him, if anything, a "natural Liberal".
A spokesman for the campaign team at the lobby group The Timor Sea Justice Campaign promised that for every big public event Mr Howard "used to promote himself" they would be there to "ambush" him.
The next event to attract the campaign's attention is the anniversary of Australia's decision to ignore the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on maritime boundaries, made two months before East Timor gained independence from Indonesia in May 2002.
Mr Melrose and his campaigners are pushing for Australia to recognise that court and accept its decision if it found in favour of East Timor's claims.
The Prime Minister's office did not return the Herald's calls.
- Julian Lee, Marketing Reporter.