Subject: Australian TV Ads to Raise Awareness on West Papua

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Saturday, January 20, 2007

TV ADS Businessman's bid to raise awareness

Government on notice over West Papua crisis

by Mark Kenny, Political Editor, Canberra

PERTH-based businessman Ian Melrose is planning a TV blitz to turn the spotlight on the plight of West Papuans and their ongoing fight for independence.

Mr Melrose, who runs the Optical Superstore chain, aims to reach into the living rooms of every Australian with extensive advertising.

The pro-independence campaign so far has been limited to rallies in the expatriate community and events designed to raise money and awareness.

Mr Melrose, who has funded television ads to campaign for a better deal for East Timor over oil and gas rights in the Timor Sea, now has thrown his considerable financial weight behind the issue.

He was a thorn in the Government's side last year through his involvement in the ultimately successful campaign to defeat a Government move to declare Australia's northern borders outside the immigration zone.

That the Government was trying to so dramatically beef up what it said were already extremely tough border protection laws was a direct result of the arrival and acceptance of West Papuan asylum seekers.

Probably no seat would turn on it at an election but West Papuan independence last year was one of the more difficult political issues the Federal Government faced.

It was brought to a head with the arrival of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers. Their arrival in January, 2006 precipitated one of the most difficult periods in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia.

Australia's role in East Timor in leading the international forces in that country's independence from Indonesia in 1999 still is resented in Indonesia and has led to profound suspicion over possible Australian interference in the ongoing independence struggle for West Papua.

Among the prominent people involved in this new campaign is the former Liberal NSW attorney-general, John Dowd, QC, who also is President of the International Commission of Jurists Australia.

He says despite the fact the ads draw comparisons with East Timor and Indonesian abuses there, the campaign is not about independence but about the proposed security treaty between Australia and Indonesia, yet to be ratified.

Such critics as Mr Melrose and Mr Dowd say the problem with the proposed treaty is that in trying to reassure Indonesia that Australia respects Indonesian territorial integrity, which is another way of saying we do not support moves for independence of West Papua, the Government has gone too far.

Mr Dowd says the proposed treaty would stop Australian politicians from expressing legitimate concerns on alleged ongoing human rights abuses.

Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is to conduct hearings on this treaty from next month with a view to having it ratified this year.

Prime Minister John Howard has made no secret of his Government's enthusiasm to have it fully signed off, telling ABC radio in November it represented a new "maturity" after the recent difficulties.

Mr Melrose and others hope they can sway enough public opinion to make some MPs ask questions about the treaty before it is ratified.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

Back to January menu

December 2006 menu  
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu