Tooth Fairy, Santa and Peter Garrett aside, (and this is a slight digression but bear with me) there is another man who manages to blunt every nasty needle taken to an idealist's balloon. (Now, how was that for a mangled metaphor? I've outdone even myself.) I met this man in a field surrounded in Karri trees, during the mid 1990's Forest Blockades. It was night time and all around me leapt other idealists of the same ilk; their bodies painted with ochre, their fire poi primed with kero in the long grass, awhoopin' and ahollerin' among the teepees and bonfires and naked babies and ladies.
A tall man in a green shirt stood beside me. "Hi, I'm Bob." He shook my hand.
"Well, of course you are Bob!" I was so blown away that Bob Brown needed to tell me his name that I completely forgot to tell him mine. Dammit.
So, this post is about Bob Brown, Wikileaks, spy planes and Peter Garrett. On New Year's Day and the next, Wikileaks released the embassy cables between Tokyo, Canberra and the ominously titled 'State' (I think that means the U.S.) discussing last year's IWC talks. Anyone who has been reading A WineDark Sea from this time last year will know I am particularly interested in last year's spy planes controversy. Japanese whalers, The Institute of Cetacean Research, hired public relations company Omeka Communications to hire Australian planes to find the whereabouts of the Sea Shepherd fleet. Some of these planes refuelled at my local airport. Once the Sea Shepherd protestors were spotted, the whalers were able to peacefully kill whales somewhere else without being chased, harrassed or having butter bombs thrown at them.
About this time last year, Bob Brown started agitating for an inquiry into the practice of the Japanese hiring Australian planes. " ... the Australian Government is doing nothing about it and is allowing Australian facilities to be used against the whale protesters." He raised the point that if Australian ports were closed to Japanese whalers, then why are our airports open?
Albany airport workers reported a refuelling operation supported by "truckloads of cash." The Humane Society considered taking aviation companies who hired planes to the Japanese whalers to court. Once they had proved that the whalers were working inside the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone, it was possible that the aviation companies could be charged with aiding a criminal act.
The whole story seemed to fall to bits when the Ady Gil was rammed and sunk.
But maybe it didn't. The Wikileaks cables show that Tokyo, Canberra and the State were a bit alarmed with Bob Brown's calls for an inquiry into the spy planes. A month later at the meetings with the IWC, Garrett's take on the situation was "This is NOT good."
I'll cut and paste some relevant paragraphs of the cables below, with link on each number and reference identifications. It's interesting reading ...
Reference ID 10CANBERRA93 Created 2010/02/05
4. (C/NF) Garrett Chief of Staff David Williams told econoff
that the GOA could accept a compromise that delivers a much
Qthat the GOA could accept a compromise that delivers a much
lower level of whaling, but it has to be accompanied by
signals of commitment to address other key issues -
sustaining the commercial moratorium, keeping whaling out of
the southern sanctuary areas and Australian antarctic waters,
bringing all whaling under the control of the IWC, and
preventing future scientific whaling. Absent any signals on
these areas, Garrett and other political leaders will be
under consistent attack on a deal that only addresses
numbers, however low. Williams was careful to say that
Australia would not act precipitously and would signal its
intentions clearly. Pol-Econ Counselor and Econoff both
echoed Commissioner Medina's message (ref email) on the
importance of staying at the table to Dewar, Williams and
CORAL TRIANGLE INITIATIVE
CANBERRA 00000093 002 OF 002
2. Garrett said
the negotiating process had largely ground to a halt, with no
"real" proposals on the table. He said legislation pending
in the Australian parliament (introduced by the Green Party
on February 4 to examine the role of "spy flights" in Japan's
planning for this year's whaling season) would strengthen
anti-whaling sentiment in Australia, making it difficult for
the government to accept the current proposals. Garrett said
the February 22 IWC Small Working Group briefings, which will
alert the NGO and global community to the state of
discussions, will be key for Australia's policy on the
Reference ID 09TOKYO2529 Created 2009/11/02
¶2. (C) Yamada inquired about an investigation into the tax
status of the U.S.-based NGO Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society and repeated Japan's request for the U.S. to take
action against the organization, which he said created a very
dangerous situation on the seas. The DCM replied that the
U.S. places the highest priority on the safety of vessels and
human life at sea, and added that if any violations of U.S.
law are discovered, we will take appropriate enforcement
action. Morishita went on to say it would be easier for
Japan to make progress in the IWC negotiations if the U.S.
were to take action against the Sea Shepherd.
Reference ID 09TOKYO2588 Created 2009/11/09
6. (C/NF) Turning to harassment of the Japanese whaling fleet by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), Yamashita said the NGO's actions have kept the fleet from reaching its quota the last few years. Yamashita said the GOJ would come under pressure domestically if SSCS harassment continues to keep Japanese whalers from filling their quota after an agreement on reduced numbers is reached within the IWC. EMIN said the USG is concerned about the safety of life at sea and is looking at the activity of the SSCS. ROOS
6. ... Second, the violent protests by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) could limit the GOJ's flexibility in the negotiations. He said the Netherlands should have primary responsibly for taking action against the SSCS, but he appreciates the USG initiative to address the group's tax exempt status. He said action on the SSCS would be a major element for Japan in the success of the overall negotiations. Ms. Medina replied that she hopes to work out differences with the EU on Greenland's proposal on humpback whales prior to the March 2010 IWC intersessional meeting and include the issue in the overall agreement. Regarding the SSCS, she said she believes the USG can demonstrate the group does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions. ¶7. (U) Ms. Medina cleared this cable subsequent to departing Tokyo.ROOS