Maybe the government knows more than you do

Photograph of Oceanic Viking

The various whinges from the commentariat about the MV Oceanic Viking‘s “late” departure amuse me. One, it shows how shallow their “analysis” is. Two, it shows how poorly Australia’s defences have been managed.

The Oceanic Viking is going to monitor Japanese whaling off Australia. But it hadn’t left port by early January, and the civilian charter aircraft also tasked to this surveillance role hadn’t yet received regulatory approval. Newspapers started saying it’s all talk and no action from the Rudd government.

Perhaps. But there are other possibilities.

Perhaps with the civilian monitor ship in port, the Japanese will be lulled into a false sense of security when in fact they’re already being monitored by a navy submarine or a RAAF P-3 Orion. Perhaps the “late” departure is planned according to whatever intelligence we have on the movements of the Japanese whaling fleet to use the ship’s time most effectively — rather than spend weeks on a pointless Antarctic cruise.

Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

But, Dear Armchair Warriors of the Daily Press, if the mission isn’t unfolding as you in your “expert opinion” think it should that doesn’t automatically mean incompetence. It might just mean your part-time understanding of the mission is less sophisticated than the folks who deal with these issues full time.

On the other hand, it does worry me that fisheries surveillance is handled in what appears to be such an ad hoc manner.

The need to monitor our fisheries zone and international waters beyond is hardly new. While blue-water fisheries patrol boats and aircraft aren’t as sexy as jet fighters and main battle tanks — or as capable of generating lucrative kickbacks — they’re a more immediate and obvious need.

Just why, after a decade of so-called effective management by A Certain Conservative Government, do we have to mount this whaling monitoring mission using a leased ship and a chartered airliner? Why don’t we have specific resources designed for the task?

[Photo by Nachoman-au courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]

6 Replies to “Maybe the government knows more than you do”

  1. Because dear boy, the new government is just as conservative as the last, and we are a quivering mass in our collective fear of these arrogant, Japanese economic bullies who don’t give a damn about Australian concerns or about our whale watching industry.

  2. We do. Our new Customs boats, are decently armed and the Govt has given approval that all reasonable force may be used in future. ie. they can shoot at them if they fail to comply with an order to stand to and stop.

  3. The Navy has mounted successful operations against illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean since 1997 (Google ‘Operation Dirk’). They’re used to long-range deployments, and even then they’ve found it challenging. If there are delays, let’s remember this is a BIG undertaking.

    However, I feel your fourth & sixth paragraphs are spot-on. Methinks many aspects of this job will never be publicised.

    By the way, leasing (or even chartering) ships & aircraft is common practice for Fisheries/Customs, and indeed the RAAF has leased many aircraft in recent years. Leased assets do have their advantages, and I’d rather we leased stuff than bought garbage like the Seasprite outright.

  4. Just read a comment elsewhere suggesting that, given Scandinavian gastronomic history, ‘Oceanic Viking’ may not be the best name for a ship on an anti-whaling mission….

  5. Meanwhile the Steve Irwin of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is out there searching for the Japanese whale killers all alone in the silence. While the illegal Pirates of Profit are slaughtering happily away somewhere out there in the whale sanctuary without a care in the world.

  6. @Mystie: Ah but if the Rudd government is quivering in fear, why are we sending a ship to collect evidence? It actually seems they’re being the opposite of fearful — they’re actually doing something!

    I don’t give a damn about our “whale watching industry” either, to be frank. I call it the “whale harassment industry”. As I’ve said in other contexts, I think Australia has a lot more to offer than being a place for the great unwashed to come and gawk at stuff while we stiff them for over-priced beers.

    And as for Sea Shepherd, don’t get me started! While the rhetoric of calling the Japanese whalers “pirates” is great for stirring the emotions of potential donors, the Japanese are working within the framework of the international rules — like it or not! — whereas Sea Shepherd are the ones ignoring the rules of safe navigation and putting the lives of mariners in peril.

    I know who I’d attach the label “pirate” to: the bunch of self-righteous adrenalin-junkies with the vigilante complex.

    For a similar reason, I no longer support Greenpeace. Greenpeace say they were rammed by the whalers, but I don’t see why they were within a nautical mile of another ship in such dangerous waters. It may satisfy the participants’ need for feeling as if they’re “taking action”, but I suspect that it’s less productive in terms of actually changing things.

    Glad you’ve commented, though — hope to hear more from you.

    @Menkit: The Bay class patrol boats do look rather useful, yes. Thanks for joining us.

    @Richard: I sometimes think the media commentators think an Antarctic surveillance mission is something akin to a trip on the Manly Ferry on a rough winter’s day. And this only a short time after the MS Explorer sank after hitting an iceberg.

    The other thing that seems to be forgotten is that if you actually want to prosecute the Japanese you need evidence. Stuff that’ll stand up in an international court under cross-examination. It may not be as exciting as TV-shock images of whale flesh being flensed and blood in the water, but it’s what eventually achieves the result.

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