Sunday, June 22, 2008

Garret must rock Oz, and not Japan

When Peter Garret walks into The International Whaling Commission meeting in Santiago, Chile this week, he will be carrying the weighty electoral expectations on his shoulders. Eighty seven per cent of voters thought Australia should take legal action against Japan to stop whaling and of these, 91 per cent said it should be done even if it meant compromising our relationship, according to Essential Research.

Then there is his job as a politician. That 91 per cent would more likely read 19 per cent if the relationship with our second biggest trading partner really was compromised once all the emotion dies down. The realisation he can't be a rock-star activist in Rudd's cautious government have caused his groupies to fall away and grumble he has 'sold-out'.

Even on this, Garrett has something to prove. A recent Essential Research poll found 71 per cent of people thought he was not doing a good job in trying to stop Japanese whaling.

So, if he doesn't deliver on the whales, but keeps the relationship good with Japan, he's in trouble. And, if he does brilliantly on the whales, but pisses off Japan too much, he's in trouble.

Oh the power and the passion, oh the temper of the time
Oh the power and the passion
Sometimes you've got to take the hardest line

He's got to do brilliantly on the whales, and make Japan happy about it. Good luck.

One thing going for him though, is the government's recent decision to freeze IWC legal prosecution and let diplomacy work. As Michell Grattan points out, we could be acting out of Australia's self-interest than for diplomatic relations.

This could be partly due to the risk of the case failing. Campbell says that in 2006, he and then attorney-general Philip Ruddock examined this course and found it was highly unlikely such an action would succeed. Failure of the court action would help the Japanese. Australia would hardly want to dramatically escalate the whaling conflict with Japan, only to end up giving legitimacy to its activity.

All is can say is that guy is lucky to be bald going into this meeting.

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