ABC Radio - The World Today - 27January, 2005.
KAREN PERCY: The Melbourne businessman behind a television ad accusing the Australian Government of stealing oil and gas supplies from East Timor says he will "up the ante", and plans to ambush the Prime Minister at upcoming public events.
Ian Melrose paid around $30,000 for a 30-second television commercial, which received maximum exposure during last night's Australian Open men's quarter finals. The ad claims the Federal Government has stolen $2 billion in revenue from the East Timorese.
As Kerri Ritchie reports from Melbourne, Ian Melrose is not a member of any political party, and says he's actually more likely to vote Liberal than Labor.
KERRI RITCHIE: Ian Melrose is a very wealthy and determined man. The Melbourne businessman, who owns a chain of optometrists, says he'll spend $2 million this year on advertising campaigns and media stunts aimed at embarrassing the Prime Minister.
IAN MELROSE: I think I'm doing the right thing. If it's successful I will have done the right thing.
KERRI RITCHIE: The 52-year-old says he's deeply concerned about the plight of the East Timorese.
IAN MELROSE: I've had involvement with health causes in East Timor, and as a result of that I've decided that something's got to be done, where East Timor gets a decent health system.
That's something that hasn't happened, or East Timor isn't able to do at this stage itself, because it just hasn't got the money, and in the meantime the Australian Government is taking around about $1 million a day in taxation revenue from oil and gas that, under international law, would belong to East Timor.
KERRI RITCHIE: Ian Melrose decided to act. He paid $30,000 for a 30-second television commercial.
He decided the Australian Open finals were the perfect time for it to hit the screen.
EXCERPT FROM ADVERTISEMENT: East Timor, a country where eight out of every 100 children die before they're five, don't want our charity, they just want justice. Under international law, the Howard Government has stolen $2 billion in tax revenue from gas and oil royalties. Please, let your Liberal politician know that Australia must stop stealing East Timor's gas and oil.
KERRI RITCHIE: Ian Melrose says the commercial has helped raise awareness, but he's not stopping there. He's already planning a blitz of other high-profile events, and John Howard will be the main target.
IAN MELROSE: Oh, yes, there's a program planned for the next few years. Essentially, every high-profile event that John Howard would ordinarily – or John Howard's government – would ordinarily try and ride on, we will be advertising the East Timor issue at those times.
Say, for example, ANZAC Day, Australia Day, all those sorts of events where the Government tries to gain glory, we will be advertising the poor conduct of the Australian Government in relation to East Timor.
KERRI RITCHIE: What is surprising about all of this is that Ian Melrose is a Liberal voter.
IAN MELROSE: I enjoy a good business because the economy is run well, and that's reflected in the way that Australia is going at present. I mean, Australia is doing well, and it's primarily because of the John Howard Government. Having said that, I can't accept the conduct of the John Howard Government in relation to East Timor.
KERRI RITCHIE: The Prime Minister's office won't comment.
Ian Melrose says the Howard Government knows it's in the wrong, because it ignored a ruling in 2002 by the International Court of Justice on maritime boundaries which favoured East Timor.
IAN MELROSE: You can't just decide to not recognise the courts if you get caught for speeding or some other offence, it's just not what is proper conduct. No Australian citizen could do it in relation to its own government, and Australia shouldn't do it in relation to its conduct with the rest of the world.
KAREN PERCY: Melbourne businessman Ian Melrose ending that report from Kerri Ritchie in Melbourne.