typing is not activism….

environ mentalism, fresh articles, interviews & checkitouts from Sydney.

Whaling: Peter Garrett’s most convenient problem looks like this…

with 4 comments

minke whale and her calf, less than a year old

The Australian government has just released these pictures of Japanese whaling in the waters of the Australian Whales Sanctuary off Antarctica. The federal opposition are opportunising the moment by proclaiming their intention to create a global whale utopia, through their Environmental Orifice, Greg Hunt. Of course, while in government the Liberals’ greatest contribution to whaling was to legally block all efforts to stop it, but that was weeks ago. Tossers.

Speaking of tossers, the land-loving chief of Japan’s Whale Kill Inc. has hit back by denying that the two whales in the picture aren’t related and that this is just Australian propaganda. Off course this is the same guy who claimed that Sea Shepherds‘ accusations that their crew members were tied to a pole aboard the Yushin Maru 2 were lies and Sea Shepherd propaganda… even as photos proving the accusations were fired around the world.

The Labor Party, and specifically the Attorney-General, have really moved in a (perhaps too) measured but dynamic manner on this issue. They removed legal blockages, allowing Humane Society International to test the matter of Japanese whaling in the Australian Antarctic Whale Sanctuary in Federal Court. Without this commitment from the government, HSI could not have succeeded, as they now have.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has forged ahead in discussions with Japan and under a siege of sorts from media as a result of the new paradigm, under which Australia is actively, rather than just conveniently, challenging and threatening Japan’s farcical, but vicious, ‘scientific whaling‘ program.

Of course, without the involvement of Sea Shepherd, and even Greenpeace, the government’s ‘effort’ in Antarctica would merely have meant three more weeks of photos like the one above, rather than whales actually having their endangered lives protected. Because the government’s greatest input at the moment seems to be all about getting out of everyone elses’ way.

But to the conclusion I am increasingly drawing from this. Peter Garrett, referred to as the Environment Minister even though, geisha-like, he still seems better described as the Environment Minister In Waiting, has really been slapping his flippers in the referred glory of anti-whaling activity. Perhaps I should give up my cynical prickishness and say, “Good on ya Pete,” but then again, no.


Because “Good on ya” or any form of less colloquial respect should be reserved for somebody taking a risk. Opposing whaling through dialogue is no risk. Japan doesn’t recognise Australia’s claim to Antarctic waters, almost everybody in Australia loves whales, no big money is at stake, there is almost no controversy over making quasi-tearful statements about a mother and baby being slaughtered in international waters.

But it’s a lovely distraction.

From what?

From a supposedly ballsy Environment Minister whose actual decisions so far have been to:

– Approve the clearing of the Gunns pulp mill site in Tasmania at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, even though the mill itself has not yet met conditions for approval.

– Approve the dredging of Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay based, allegedly, on three days’ possession of a 550 page environmental impact report supposedly considered in detail over Christmas.

– Grant Heritage listing to Bondi Beach: a completely token and feelgood piece of onanistic frippery considering that there will be no accompanying effort to protect the beach from climate change or drunk and horny English backpackers, while awarding a similar listing to the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia – where it would actually mean something – would protect Aboriginal artworks of cultural significance and inconvenience energy squillionaire Woodside Petroleum, forcing them to relocate their gas extraction outlet a ‘massive’ twenty kilometres.

As it is for Greenpeace’s fundraising drive, whaling is also a public relations gift for Peter Garrett. Every time he makes a strongly worded statement against this universally unpopular practice, he is talking about something other than his complete acquiescence thus far to massive financial interests that depend on his support for their continued deforestation, carbonisation, devastation, and desecration of significant environmental and cultural zones.

And if you think that perhaps I’m being a hysteric bitch and that he is sincerely concerned about the wellbeing of whales, even if he has given up on forests, Aboriginal land rights, oceans, and public protest, then check this out. In the interests of immediate corporate profits, he has signed off on an oil company setting seismic explosions in endangered blue whale habitat during breeding season. Let’s face it – they wouldn’t want to wait 6 months and risk missing out on those triple-figure priced barrels of oil, would they?

Perhaps it’s no big deal to most Australians, considering that it is roughly 20 years since a federal environment minister did actually stand up to big corporate interests or choose environmental sanity over fast buck$. We led the global charge against CFCs and
hydrocarbons partly as a responsible global citizen, but perhaps mainly because we were first in line to get fried by the souther Ozone Hole.

Point being: too much modern environmentalism, even now in a time of certified crisis, is of the comfortable, feelgood, high profile, low sacrifice variety. Why ride a bicycle if you can afford a Prius? Just which chemicals does Cold Power laundry powder use to create its
Rainforest Fresh Scent? What does it say about you, that you choose the organic cage-laid eggs over the grain-fed free range ones?

Australia’s increasingly active attack on Antarctic whaling may be a very positive sign. Eleven years of social conservatism can’t be readily dislodged overnight, so perhaps this safe environmentalism is the equivalent of dipping a policy toe in a steaming bathtub of

Or perhaps it is a bunch of political bells and whistles, conveniently distracting us from the ongoing anti-democratic crap of business-as-usual.


4 Responses

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  1. […] by TypingIsNotActivism […]

  2. As one of the few who’s old enough to had witnessed first hand Peter Garrett’s previous career as the frontman of Midnight Oil, allowing him to become Australia’s environment minister is kind of scary-especially to those who don’t treat mother nature with respect. As he quotes on Midnight Oil’s Scream in Blue live performance ” I don’t need to hear from a thousand scientist to tell me that there’s something wrong with the environment”. Ironically, it took about 3,000 scientists from the UN’s IPCC plus Rajendra Pachauri and Al Gore to finally convince the whole of humanity. And we’re not yet even discussing “The Stolen Generation” fiasco. I think Australia will be purged kind of harshly because the extremist views of Pauline Hanson and John Howard will be replaced by a former “Rockstar” / “treehugger”.

    Ferdinand Sy

    February 8, 2008 at 11:59 pm

  3. “the few” old enough to see Oils pre-Olympics is at least 70% of the population, a mere 17 million or so people, without even looking overseas. Oils were aaaaaaaaawesome – no argument or doubt there at all. Many of us heard the bullroarer over the sound of generals talking but it feels like a whole bunch of species deceases thanks to the government’s short memory.
    I hope you’re right. I hope that this is a settling in period, processing the last batch of ignorant promises to let everybody get comfortable, then transitioning toward genuinely sustainable innovation as a mainstay rather than a novelty.
    BUT it doesn’t seem likely. The extremist views and the conservative fog in many areas of domestic and foreign policy began lifting at about 8:15 pm on November 24th 2008 and they have been dissipating faster than could have been hoped, but the environment is getting far greater lip service than hard commitments. That has been the problem, still is the problem, and will continue to be the problem – quite possibly beyond the point of no return, both domestically and globally.


    February 9, 2008 at 3:45 am

  4. Peter Garrett was (is?) a rock singer…he sang words to music in order to make money and said words in order to promote his band.

    He seems exactly the same now except there’s no music and he isn’t fronting a band.

    Mike Bolan

    February 11, 2008 at 2:56 pm

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