Is Kevin Rudd the Neville Chamberlain of Conservation?
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson on board the Steve Irwin in the Southern Ocean
We have laws that are not being enforced. We have promises that are not being kept. We have tax-payer funded documentation of atrocities against the whales in an established whale sanctuary that the Australian tax-payers are not allowed to see for fear that it will embarrass Japan.
The West Australian newspaper applied under the Freedom of Information request for the video and photographic documentation taken by the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking last year. The images were taken as evidence to be used in an international court case against Japan to challenge their illegal activities in the Southern Ocean.
The government appears to have abandoned plans to take Japan to court and the images are not to be released because the documentation "could reasonably be expected to cause damage to international relations."
With that government statement, Kevin Rudd has become the Neville Chamberlain of conservation and of our generation. He has clearly stated whose side he is on and it is not on the side of the whales. His orders are clear. Don't upset trade relations between the mega consumer nation of Japan and the resources of Australia.
It has now been revealed that Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith and Environment Minister Peter Garrett have both been involved in secret closed door meetings with Japan and other IWC member nations to broker a compromise that will simply legalize what Japan has been doing illegally.
In taking this stand the Rudd government has contemptuously turned their back on the people who elected them. Kevin Rudd lied. Peter Garrett lied. And they both have betrayed the whales and they have betrayed Australia.
The statement below was issued by Peter Garrett in September 2007: (with comments from Captain Watson)
Peter Garrett MP
Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage
Media Statement - September 18, 2007
Government must stand up and stop Japanese whaling. (Yes they should)
A Rudd Labor Government would not stand in the way of Humane Society International's (HSI) legal challenge in the Federal Court to request an injunction to stop Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd from killing whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. (They have)
Labor has a clear policy position that we will enforce Australian law banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Therefore, Labor would enforce any injunction the courts decide to grant against Japanese whalers. (They have not and the policy is decidedly not very clear)
I wish to send a powerful and clear message to the Australian public that Labor believes in enforcing Australian law. This is the right and obvious thing to do. (A message not acted upon)
The Howard Government has made a mockery of our laws by refusing to enforce the Whale Sanctuary protections, and it's just not good enough, frankly. (And now the Rudd government has made a mockery of Mr. Garrett's statement)
There is an ocean of clear water between the Howard Government and Labor on the issue of whaling. (Yes, the Liberals are tougher on this issue than Labor)
Labor has the guts to stand up to the Japanese whalers - the Howard Government will do no such thing. (No sign of guts so far and no guts on the horizon)
Mr. Turnbull is all talk and no action. All pretty pictures of whales in his election material and no results. (Mr. Garrett is now all talk and no action and will not release the graphic pictures of Japanese whalers paid for by the tax-payers, preferring pretty pictures himself now that he is in government.)
We expect the Government will not show support for this hearing. You wouldn't see such timidity from a Labor Government. (Oh, but we are seeing it now Mr. Garrett. We are seeing the craven timidity of appeasement and compromise.)
If elected, Rudd Labor will not stand in the way of enforcing Australian law banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. (This was of course a lie. The Rudd government is indeed standing in the way of enforcing the law.)
It's now hard to believe that Peter Garrett made this statement. I especially like his reference to Mr. Malcolm Turnbull being "all talk and no action. All pretty pictures of whales in his election material and no results."
When Senator Ian Campbell was Environment Minister he did much more than Mr. Garrett. The Howard government for all its faults (and there were many) at least had the guts to stand up taller for the whales than the Rudd government is doing today.
Even now the Liberals are talking stronger than the government on this issue.
An editorial in the West Australian stated that "opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt rightly says the negotiations are a gross betrayal of the Australian public and has suggested the Government has gone soft on Japan..."
Mr. Hunt says succinctly but convincingly: "Australia's position must be: No way. No whaling, whatever."
The Australian government's secret negotiation to find a compromise with Japan is now seeing the light of day. The Humane Society International has released a U.S. State Department memo written in November that reveals that Australia's Special Envoy on Whale Conservation, Sandy Holloway, was ready to "seriously consider" Japan's whaling priorities and their request for a "reduced" total take of Southern Ocean whales as part of negotiations with the International Whaling Commission. And the Australian media has also revealed that the Federal Government has been involved in talks to draw up a secret deal to break the whaling deadlock by letting Japan kill more whales in the North Pacific in return for killing fewer whales in the Southern Ocean.
'Mr. Holloway has traveled to Tokyo and Washington in recent weeks, explaining that Australia is ready to seriously consider Japan's priorities in the IWC (if not actually support them) and simultaneously reductions in the larger Antarctic whale quotas that Japan grants itself', the memo said.
"Holloway...stated (Kevin) Rudd's desire to find a way forward that (1) reduced the total take of whales in the Southern Ocean, and (2) helped prevent a "blow up" in the IWC negotiations. We believe Australia's proposal reflects a major move forward in Australian whaling policy and shows openings for negotiations that were unimaginable even a year earlier."
Under the plan, Japanese whalers could hunt a regulated number of Minke whales in its coastal waters and take many more whales in the North Pacific than they are already taking now. In exchange, Japan would agree to phase out "scientific" whaling in the Antarctic entirely, or lower their quota in the Southern Ocean.
This reduced take would be a mere 20% reduction. It would be unprofitable for the Japanese fleet to drop it any lower than that. And in return for this, the Japanese would get an increase in the number of whales they are killing in the North Pacific. It's a great deal for Japan and a lousy deal for the whales. And it appears the Rudd government is anxious for any deal that will just make this issue go away.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has enforced a 50% reduction in the Japanese quota for the last two years and is working on a third year. This "compromise" would actually see more whales killed rather than less because if legalized it will force us out of the Southern Ocean and would enable Australia to join Japan in preventing our interventions on the grounds that we would be acting unlawfully. In other words what they want to do is legalize Japanese illegal activities and criminalize our up to now legal interventions.
What the Rudd government has been doing is playing both sides of the fence. In an editorial in the Western Australian this was described as "flirting with such a proposal opens the government with charges of hypocrisy and opportunism and of being "heroes at home but cowards in Tokyo."
The Green Party of Australia is stressing that the negotiations have more to do with the politics of appeasement than the protection of whales.
I am not an Australian citizen and I could not vote in the last federal election, but I did speak to tens of thousands of Australians in public, on radio and on television prior to the election and I appealed to them to vote Labor to save the whales.
Therefore I feel personally betrayed by Peter Garrett and Kevin Rudd. By rallying people to their lies, I lied, and I don't appreciate them making a liar out of me.
The cowardice of the Rudd government on this issue forces us to risk our lives in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean year after year confronting vicious killers in hostile conditions.
What the Rudd government needs to do but most likely will not is to do exactly what Peter Garrett said he was going to do two months before he was elected.
Japan needs Australia's resources more than Australia needs Japan to buy them. There are plenty of other markets like China and Europe. Call their bluff. Stand up for Australia, Australians and Australia's whales, enforce the bloody laws mate and show the world that Australians have the guts and the integrity to do what Mr. Garrett said Australia should do in September 2007 when he said. "I wish to send a powerful and clear message to the Australian public that Labor believes in enforcing Australian law. This is the right and obvious thing to do."
Do it Mr. Garrett, make us proud of you again and be the man we once thought you were - a conservationist with the guts to do the right and obvious thing.