Friday, January 18, 2008

Ye gods and little fishes

“THE two anti-whaling campaigners held hostage onboard a Japanese whaling vessel will be freed after the [Australian] Federal Government last night ordered a Customs vessel to rendezvous with the ship.”

This was the first international incident the Rudd government had to deal with, and one which the hard talking Howard government avoided like the plague. No doubt Rudd would have preferred a different approach, but protesters are obviously running out of patience.

The incident gives an interesting insight into the style of the seemingly mild mannered Rudd. Negotiations were at Prime Minister level between Australia and Japan. Japan ordered the whaling ship’s captain to release the hostages, an order which was ignored.

At some level the decision was made that an Australian customs vessel should intervene to ensure the release. None of the detail has been released, in fact it was our foreign minister who was sent to take credit and issue a half arsed statement about very little at all.

We will probably never know exactly what Rudd told his counterpart, what trade offs. Either way the ships captain loses face and everyone gets back to business. Well not the whale hunters perhaps, they are under intense scrutiny now.

Japan must be realising now that whaling is no longer a viable industry. MacWhale burgers are no longer a big seller and we don’t do much with lye and whale blubber soap. As far as I know Boston has even scuttled its old whaling fleets.

I’m just fascinated by the ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ approach of Rudd. I hope it portends good things. We aren’t likely to get ringside seats or running commentaries, it seems. As long as we get results.

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