There is nothing more insincere than a politician just before an election. They will fire promises from the hip with a veneer of passion and resolve that is peeled quickly away after the votes are counted.

Australian Environmental Minister Peter Garrett is a case in point. When Mr. Garrett was an activist musician with Midnight Oil he was a man to be proud of, a person to be deeply admired for his dedication to the cause of conservation. I once stood with him on the logging roads of the Clayquot Valley on Canada’s Vancouver Island to oppose clear-cutting. Midnight Oil performed a concert in 1993 in the middle of a logging road. Damn but we loved them and we loved Peter Garrett. He was the man!

In November 2007, I advised all of my Australian supporters and friends to vote for Labor because according to Mr. Garrett, a Rudd government would actually do something to protect whales from illegal Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.

Now so many them feel betrayed by Mr. Garrett after a year of anti-environmental stands ranging from being pro-dredging of Port Phillip Bay, to supporting logging and new pulp mills in Tasmania, to condemning kangaroos, to appeasing the Japanese whalers.

How was I to know in November 2007 that Peter Garrett had been turned to the service of the darkside? He seemed like the knight-errant of modern Australian politics, a man of integrity and courage ready to fight for justice and the planet.

What we have now is the same old, same old. Just another reined in, subservient pawn in a political machine, who does what he is told and seeks to flatter and favour his political handlers instead of the people who elected him.

The statement below was issued by Peter Garrett when he was Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage on September 18 2007:

Government must stand up and stop Japanese whaling

A Rudd Labor Government would not stand in the way of Humane Society International’s (HSI) legal challenge in the Federal Court to request an injunction to stop Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd from killing whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

Labor has a clear policy position that we will enforce Australian law banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Therefore, Labor would enforce any injunction the courts decides to grant against Japanese whalers.

I wish to send a powerful and clear message to the Australian public that Labor believes in enforcing Australian law. This is the right and obvious thing to do.

The Howard Government has made a mockery of our laws by refusing to enforce the Whale Sanctuary protections, and it’s just not good enough, frankly.

There is an ocean of clear water between the Howard Government and Labor on the issue of whaling.

Labor has the guts to stand up to the Japanese whalers – the Howard Government will do no such thing.

Mr Turnbull is all talk and no action. All pretty pictures of whales in his election material and no results.

We expect the Government will not show support for this hearing. You wouldn’t see such timidity from a Labor Government.

If elected, Rudd Labor will not stand in the way of enforcing Australian law banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

It’s now hard to believe that this man Peter Garrett made this statement.

When Senator Ian Campbell was Environment Minister he did much more than Mr. Garrett and he actually gave assistance to us in our efforts to protect the whales.

All that has changed as the Rudd government and Peter Garrett use passive-aggressive tactics to hurt the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society financially and to force us to not utilise Australia as a base.

This week Australia and Japan announced that they would be seeking a “diplomatic solution.”

Translated this means more talk and little or no action.

According to an AFP wire story:

A Japanese foreign ministry official privy to the discussion confirmed that both countries were employing diplomacy in the row.

He also affirmed that Smith had sought to distance the Australian government from militant environmentalists who have vowed to stop the Japanese hunt by force.

“Foreign Minister Smith stressed that the Australian government is making a clear distinction from the illegal action taken by anti-whaling groups,” the official said.

It is very interesting to hear that Australia is referring to Sea Shepherd actions as illegal when there is no specification as to just what illegal action Sea Shepherd is allegedly doing.

The situation is clear. Japanese whalers are targeting endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global commercial whaling moratorium and in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling prohibiting Japanese whaling in the Australian Antarctic Economic Exclusion zone.

Where is the difference between what Mr. Garrett accused Mr. Turnbull of not doing in 2007 and what Mr. Garrett is also not doing today?

I especially like what Mr. Garrett said in the conclusion of his statement of September 2007: “You wouldn’t see such timidity from a Labor Government. If elected, Rudd Labor will not stand in the way of enforcing Australian law banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.”

We are seeing such timidity again but this time, it is a timidity dressed in hypocrisy. The Rudd Garrett government not only has failed to stand up for the whales, they have now decided to weaken and harass the only group in the world that is actually saving the lives of whales in the Southern Ocean.

A spokesperson for Mr. Garrett told the media that Sea Shepherd was a group of extremists.

But the question must be asked. What is extreme about upholding international conservation law against illegal whaling activities? What is extreme about doing so without causing physical injuries to the whalers? What is extreme about doing the job that the government of Australia should be doing but clearly does not wish to do?

It is frustrating beyond measure to struggle to raise the funds to voyage to the Southern Ocean while Greenpeace collects tens of millions of dollars to supposedly do the same thing and then announces two weeks before the Japanese fleet is scheduled to depart that they will not be doing what they were collecting the money to do.

It is frustrating to have supported a politician based on promises he has refused to deliver and to suffer the insult upon injury of having this same politician repay our support of him with hostility and harassment.

On November 30th, our ship representing people from around the world and including a number of Australian citizens will depart from Brisbane to do the job that the Australian government refuses to do, the job that Peter Garrett only a year ago derided Mr. Turnbull for not doing.

For when all is said and done, it appears that Mr. Rudd and Mr. Garrett do not wish to answer to the people who elected them. They are more interested in appeasing the demands of the Japanese government and choosing to surrender in the face of trade threats than to do what is right for the whales and what the Australian people elected them to do.

At least Mr Garrett has had a lesson in real politik this last year. He has discovered that talk really is cheap and that his real masters are in Tokyo. He has discovered that the midnight oil he is now burning is whale oil and the lives of the whales are secondary to the business of business.

I wonder what he will be saying when the next election rolls around and some shadow minister reads a similar statement to the one he read last year to Mr. Turnbull.

It seems that in politics the more things change the more they really do stay the same.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey