Back in early June deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop was pumping up the troops at a Coalition meeting by portraying Foreign Minister Bob Carr as the Government clown.
Ms Bishop, shadow foreign affairs minister, likened him to the character played by Peter Sellers in “The Party”, a 1968 film about an actor who bumbles and stumbles around a social event.
So like Carr, Ms Bishop said. She saw him as an accidental arrival in foreign affairs, who doesn’t know his way around the place, and keeps putting a less-than-diplomatic foot into affairs best left to the professionals.
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It’s the third week of January and we’re facing a long year in politics. With no federal election due until 2013 we could be in for a 12-month bout of deja vu, as ALP leadership speculation rumbles on, people keep giving Tony Abbott lots of free advice (because 54/46 two-party preferred is not impressive enough polling), and boatloads of asylum seekers keep setting off from Java.
So nothing’s changed. Well, that would be too easy. Actually, as 2012 dawns the political landscape has become a bit skewwhiff.
Robert Manne started it all just before Christmas, when he wrote a piece in The Monthly admitting what a lot of lefties had already started to think, but hadn’t yet been game to say - that while they hated John Howard’s Pacific Solution, it did, indeed, stop the boats. And with no boats there were no drownings, and upon reflection, that was a pretty good result.
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Nothing makes me yearn for a whale steak like the sight of Aussie extremists acting all macho on the high seas.
Japanese whaling is roundly condemned by Australians (including me, for the record) but we don’t have much truck with feral activists either.
So when three Forest Rescue campaigners were detained after boarding a Japanese whaling vessel off the WA coast last weekend (with nary a tree or a whale in sight) you could well imagine the collective roll of the eyes in households across middle Australia.
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Update - 9.15am Tuesday, January 10: It’s being reported the Australian Government will dispatch the Customs vessel Ocean Protector to collect the three activists, after Japanese authorities agreed to hand them back without charge.
Three men board a foreign ship in the dead of night, outside Australian waters, without permission. The crew of the target ship refuses their demands, and sets course for the ocean blue. And now it’s our Attorney-General’s job to fix it.
According to the A-G Nicola Roxon, all options are on the table at present, including sending a vessel out to meet the Shonan Maru No.2 and collect WA men Glen Pendlebury, Geoffrey Tuxworth and Simon Peterffy. She’s even been asked if the Navy should be mobilised.
This in spite of the bleeding obvious, that Roxon pointed out: “We do need to explain to the public that although we do not support Japanese whaling, if people take action outside our territorial waters, Australian laws will not automatically apply and that does restrict some of the options that the Government can take.”
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Apparently, anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune is pretty chipper for a guy who could be spending the next 15 years in a Japanese prison. Perhaps he’ll feel especially vindicated by today’s news that the federal government is taking legal action to try and put an end to Japanese whaling.
But in contrast to the mindless and increasingly dangerous anarchism of the Sea Shepherd protesters, legal action by Australia in the International Court of Justice has the potential to save an actual whale.
The high-seas harassment of whalers has become increasingly dangerous and, well, bit embarrassing. Bethune, you may remember, was the skipper of stealth boat the Ady Gil, who picked a fight with an Japanese industrial whaling ship and lost. The Adi Gil sank and in a surreal denouement Bethune later boarded the Shonan Maru 2, with a knife, trying to put the captain under citizen’s arrest.
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How much do we really care about whales? How much are the Australian people and its Government really willing to put on the line in our relationship with Japan to stop the killing of our sonar speaking cousins?
Tony Abbott has gone some way to answering this question by saying he doesn’t think it’s worth taking Japan to the International Court of Justice or International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. In Abbott’s summation it’s just not worth pissing off the Japanese and risking a legal fall-out with our number one trade partner.
“We don’t like whaling. We would like the Japanese to stop,” he told Macquarie Radio yesterday. “On the other hand, we don’t want to needlessly antagonise our most important trading partner, a fellow democracy, an ally.”
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BACK in 2007, Kevin Rudd said that if we elected him as prime minister, he would stop the slaughter of whales.
And it wasn’t just earnest young lefties who took off their Save the Whales T-shirts and replaced them for a time with a red, white and blue Kevin 07 design.
No, Mr Rudd’s pledge to end ``commercial’’ whaling appealed across the political spectrum, young and old, progressive, conservative, as advancing technology meant Australians were bombarded with real-time images of dying whales writhing in agony as they were hauled at the end of a harpoon line through blood-stained seas.
And he was pretty clear about it too, our prime ministerial hopeful.
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Do you reckon if Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson was roaming the streets of Melbourne in a high-tech armoured car deliberately provoking drug dealers and putting his young acolytes in harm’s way he’d be welcomed on to the national broadcaster to tout his particular brand of vigilantism? I doubt it.
We’re not big on vigilantes in this nation, which has an imperfect but workable system of the rule of law, enforced by publicly funded police. Yet for some reason the ridiculous antics currently under way off the tip of Antarctica are allowed to carry on unchecked, and have prompted a frenzy of boys-own-adventure cheering here at home.
Whomever is ultimately responsible for the sinking of the Ady Gil yesterday afternoon, it was highly irresponsible of the Sea Shepherd organisation to put the crew in such danger. But there was Mr Watson on the ABC this morning being hailed a hero for protecting the whales from the Japanese factory ships. He was also on Macquarie Radio, no doubt Fairfax radio, most TV stations and in every newspaper.
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