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The Age - 28 January, 2005.

Businessman steps up ad campaign

A businessman paid $30,000 of his own money to screen an anti-government TV ad during the top-rating Australian Open tennis tournament on Wednesday night.

The 30-second commercial, which aired during the men's quarter final, claimed the government had stolen $2 billion in revenue from the East Timorese through the collection of oil and gas royalties.

Ian Melrose, 52, who owns a national chain of optometry outlets, said he would spend $6 million of his own money to try to make the federal government return the money it owed East Timor to help establish an adequate health system.

"The Australian government currently gets in the order of $1 million a day in taxation revenue from oil and gas that under international law would belong to East Timor," he said.

"We have no right to any of it.

"I will force the Australian government to be honest and give the money back that they have taken."

Mr Melrose said he would not give up his fight.

"The reality is politicians are thick skinned," he said.

"I am here for the long haul."

He said the money would be spent on a range of campaign initiatives including more print and television ads.

Mr Melrose also said a number of "significant, high profile international people" would be involved in another advertising blitz later in the year.

So far, he has spent more than $250,000 on the campaign with ads aired nationally during the lead up to last year's federal election and on Adelaide television screens during the AFL Grand Final.

Mr Melrose said the ads would continue to be aired at times of national significance, such as Anzac Day and the Queen's Birthday.

He said the decision to commit the money to the cause was not made for public recognition, but for justice.

"The East Timorese don't need charity, they need their lawful entitlements," he said.

"It's not about me, it's about getting a fair deal for East Timor."

He said he was not a member of any political party.

Comment was being sought from Prime Minister John Howard's office.