Subject: ABC: Majority support ICJ intervention over boundary dispute


October 7, 2004 Thursday 10:18 PM AEST

Majority support ICJ intervention over boundary dispute

A Newspoll survey has found 77 per cent of Australians support the International Court of Justice being used to settle a maritime boundary dispute between East Timor and Australia if a fair deal cannot be reached.

The poll, conducted in four capital cities, was commission by Ian Melrose, who has already spent $2 million on television advertising in key marginal seats, calling for a better deal for East Timor in negotiations over oil and gas reserves.

He says while the advertisements and survey may not influence the way people vote, the poll does highlight the plight of East Timor.

"People decide who they will vote for on a huge range of issues and this is just one, but it is a significant issue because Australia doesn't want to be known as a country that acts unfairly to Asian neighbours and that's what we're doing at present," he said.

"We did the right thing when they became independent, but that doesn't give us the right now to screw them for oil money."

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said Mr Melrose could better spend his money on disadvantaged East Timorese.

Australia and East Timor are aiming to have an agreement over oil and gas reserves by Christmas.

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