Samuel’s back, and he has a look at the fuss over the whalers, their hostages, and whaling in general.
Update: Hmmph, every time I have tried to write something about the whaling this week, the circumstances have changed while I was writing. It’s happened again, the Customs boat has arrived…my sentiments about the usefulness of a Customs boat remain valid though. End Update
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The script follows.
Welcome to Editorial Echoes for January 17, I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart.
Well, doesn’t time fly…it’s been nearly two months since we last did this, and quite a bit has happened since then. Of course there was a federal election and although I didn’t produce any episodes of Editorial Echoes after that, I made my position on the result quite clear on my blog.
There are two main reasons why I haven’t produced any episodes of Editorial Echoes for a while, one was that a lot of this podcast relates to politics and with a new government in power, it was only fair that I give them some time to settle before chastising them too heavily. The other was that I took a bit over a month off from blogging and podcasting at my usual rate. That break of sorts was good, and now I’m back.
And what a time to be back, we’ve got whalers and their hostages, we’ve got a sixteen year-old in Melbourne that I can’t name but you probably know who I mean and why I’m mentioning him, and then there’s a health announcement by the federal government on the weekend that didn’t get anywhere near enough press coverage, and an out-of-the-blue editorial by Tim Brunero on livenews.com.au about voluntary student unionism that I’m going to have to respond to.
There’s enough material here for a few episodes, and whilst I did say on my blog that there would only be one episode of Editorial Echoes this week…well we’ll just wait an see what happens.
So, the whalers. Japanese whalers once again make the headlines whaling in Australian waters, it happens every year, I’ve been following the stories for a few years now, and generally the story is the same. The Japanese insist on whaling, Australia says no, whaling happens anyway and an environmental group tries to stop them.
Same thing year in year out…what makes this occasion different though is a federal court ruling, stating that it is illegal to hunt whales in Australian waters. Two anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepard boat, Steve Irwin, boarded the Japanese whaling vessel the Nishin Maru with a letter from the Captain of the Steve Irwin advising that the whaling activity is illegal. That’s where the fun and games started, and the legalities became very very blurry.
Depending on who you talk to, boarding the Nishin Maru with the intent of handing the vessel’s captain a letter and then leaving is an act which ranges from being completely legal, to being an act of piracy. I’m not going to pretend to know the answer to that, but I do believe there were some very odd decisions from both parties.
The Sea Shepard people would have known that boarding a Japanese whaling vessel would be seen as a hostile act, although the Japanese would have known that detaining the two activists would also be seen as hostile. Maybe that was the point, the Sea Shepard people probably boarded knowing that they would either give the Japanese whalers a letter which would be ignored, or they could claim to have had their crew taken hostage…either way it’s newsworthy and keeps the heat on the whalers. As for the whalers, detaining the activists was a way of showing that they really don’t care what anybody thinks of their activities…they aren’t messing around and will continue whaling.
Ultimately the situation is messy and we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. I doubt it will stop the whaling activity…if anything it will just inflame tensions on both sides.
The question I really have to ask though, is what are the federal government doing about whaling? Prior to the election, the federal Labor party made a fair bit of noise about how, unlike the Howard government, they were going to be tough on whaling…and yet, now the best they can do is send a Customs ship to the area…a Customs ship. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to the government yet, but the whalers aren’t about to try and have a holiday in Tasmania, they don’t really have anything to declare at the airport, and they certainly aren’t going to behave simply because the drug sniffer dogs might be asked to check the crew’s quarters.
To top it off, the Customs boat is AWOL. Nobody seems to know where it is. Customs might be good at dealing with rickety little Indonesian fishing boats, but the Nishin Maru is neither little nor rickety. If the federal government were serious about getting the Japanese whalers out of our waters, they would send the navy down there to deal with them. Try to escort them out of our territory, and if they refuse, sink them.
That kind of action is about the only thing that is going to send home the message that the international community condemns whaling. Anything else is just a waste of effort.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address.
I’m Samuel Gordon-Stewart and this has been Editorial Echoes. Until we talk again, tada.