Thursday, January 12, 2012

PM orders whalers out

Japan may recognize only the old 3 mile limit

A JAPANESE harpoon ship in Australian waters off Macquarie Island is not welcome and would shortly be leaving, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday.

The Yushin Maru No. 3 was photographed off the World Heritage-listed island late yesterday by activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Ms Gillard said the Australian Government had made it clear to Japan that the ship - which had spent at least 24 hours less than 10 nautical miles off the internationally recognised wildlife refuge - was an unwelcome guest.

"As recently as yesterday we reiterated our view to the Japanese Government that whaling vessels are not welcome in Australian territorial waters," she said.

"Now I'm aware that there has been a vessel which has been in Australian territorial waters and I'm advised that it will leave Australian territorial waters.

"It's been a long-standing view that whaling ships are not welcome in our waters, and we've said that to the Japanese Government but we've reiterated it yesterday."

Greens leader Bob Brown described the ship's presence as provocative and called on the Government to send a navy ship to assert Australia's authority. "Australian law prohibits that ship from being there Canberra knows that, Tokyo knows that," he said. "This is simply just not acceptable Australians will not want a Japanese ship wantonly and flagrantly breaching Australian law.

"It is a breach of our national environment law and it really ought to be rectified immediately."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said that a 2008 Federal Court order had banned all whaling ships from Australian waters. "A whale-killing vessel has no business in waters of a World Heritage site," a spokesman said.


Carbon tax will eat car grants, says industry

LABOR'S latest grants to the struggling Australian car industry risk being undermined by its own clean energy plans, with millions of dollars of the subsidies to be eaten up by the carbon tax and higher electricity costs associated with the new regime.

Anger in the industry over the impact of the carbon tax - and the fact that domestic manufacturers will have to absorb the cost while many importers will not - has permeated negotiations as the government has sought commitments from Ford and General Motors Holden to continue their operations in Australia.

Manufacturing Minister Kim Carr clinched a deal with Ford in Detroit this week, agreeing to contribute $34 million of federal government funds towards a $103m package to improve the efficiency of its local cars and maintain its Australian operations to 2016.

But calculations based on Ford's previous emissions suggest that, when the $23-a-tonne carbon tax begins on July 1, its maximum bill for direct emissions may be $3.3m over the next four years.

It could also pay a maximum $19.8m in higher prices as the cost of the carbon tax is passed on by suppliers, particularly electricity providers.

The government is adamant the final carbon tax bill will be significantly lower for Ford and all other car companies because not all of its operations are in facilities that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the liability threshold for the carbon tax.

The government also believes that Ford's indirect costs will be much lower as the full cost of the carbon tax price will not be passed on by suppliers of electricity or other components.

Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Ian Chalmers said that the carbon tax was expected to cost the local manufacturers $50m-$60m over the next four years. He said this would have to be absorbed because many imported cars were not facing a comparable carbon pricing regime.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt said Ford's potential carbon tax liabilities showed the "senselessness of the government's policies".

"On one hand, they are handing out taxpayers' money to supposedly protect jobs, while on the other they are taking back that money via the carbon tax," he said. "It is a ridiculous situation and will . . . put Australian jobs at risk."

Senator's Carr's rescue mission to Detroit comes as the local industry has been hit by the high Australian dollar, which has made foreign-made cars more attractive, and a global economic downturn that has stymied exports.

Senator Carr and the South Australian government are negotiating with General Motors to maintain its local operations, with a deal that could be as high as $100m. Based on the same emissions calculations, Holden's domestic operations could face a worst-case scenario of $3.1m in carbon tax over four years for direct emissions and $11.6m for indirect emissions.

Toyota, the only other local car manufacturer, faces up to $4.1m for direct emissions and $12.6m for indirect emissions. However, the actual carbon tax liabilities are expected to be much lower.

A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said it could be misleading to use company-wide emissions data, possibly aggregated from a few facilities, to determine the cost exposure of a particular facility. Facilities such as manufacturing plants will not have to pay the carbon tax if they produce less than 25,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. "Due to individual facility-level coverage thresholds, not all direct carbon emissions will be subject to liability under the carbon pricing mechanism," Mr Combet said.

"In addition, 'Scope 2' electricity emissions reported in states with highly emissions-intensive generators, such as in Victoria, will significantly overstate the cost pass-through of a carbon price. It is also important to note that key emissions intensive inputs into car manufacturing, such as aluminium, steel and glass, will be provided 94.5 per cent assistance in free permits under the Jobs and Competitiveness Program."

The South Australian Liberal opposition said yesterday any state taxpayer funds used to prop up Holden's ailing Elizabeth plant should be used as a carbon tax subsidy, as the company faced massive increases in costs from July.

Opposition industry spokesman Steven Marshall said Holden's South Australian plant, which builds the Commodore and Cruze, would be the first victim of the carbon tax when it came into operation on July 1.

Last June, Holden managing director Mike Devereux estimated a carbon price of between $20 and $30 a tonne would raise the company's costs by $40m to $50m.


Eco pirates deserve a long haul, not a free trip home

Geoff Tuxworth, Simon Petterffy and and Glen Pendlebury are determined Australian pirates. They may only be passive-aggressive, but they are aggressive nonetheless. On Saturday night, under the cover of darkness, they approached a commercial vessel with a determination to board the craft and impose their will on the crew.

To do so, they acted in the full knowledge that they were operating outside the law, would be committing an act of trespass and were beyond Australian territory. They had to travel 40 kilometres to sea from Bunbury in Western Australia, well past the limit of Australian territorial waters, which is 22 kilometres. They had to get past spikes. They had to avoid razor wire. They worked in darkness. They risked tipping into an ocean swell.

Once on board they sought to dictate terms. They demanded that the vessel they had just illegally boarded, the Shonan Maru No.2, return them to Australia and abort its mission. If their demands were not met, they would go on a hunger strike.

The Japanese ship has continued to sail south. The three men are now captive and, having entered a Japanese ship in international waters, are subject to Japanese law.

I keep encountering news reports describing this as a diplomatic "crisis" between Australian and Japan. What crisis? There is no crisis.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has offered no sympathy for the protesters: "The conduct of these three Australians in my view is unacceptable." This would please the Japanese government. She has also complained that the cost of extracting the three men would run to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the expense of sending a ship to get them.

Her views will resonate widely with Australians even though the overwhelming majority are, like me, opposed to Japan's continued whale hunting, especially in southern waters far from Japan. The federal government has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice in an effort to curb its whaling operations.

We've also had dubious commentary from another pirate operating far from his home waters, Paul Watson, a Canadian who runs the anti-whaling operation called Sea Shepherd. It was Sea Shepherd vessels which took the three illicit boarders to the Japanese ship.

Having aided the trespass, Watson told the media: "I think the Australian government would be very embarrassed if an armed Japanese vessel can just pick up Australian citizens in Australia and then take them away to Japan. Japanese vessels have no right to take prisoners in Australian waters."

Pull the other one. The incident did not take place in Australian territory, and the "prisoners" went to great effort to get into their prison. Australia has a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, which the Shonan Maru No. 2 had entered, but it was entitled to do so as this zone is not the same as territorial water.

The great flaw in the environmental movement is the sanctimonious belligerence of so many of its protagonists, the lies and exaggerations, and the assumption that they are above the law and can disrupt and destroy the businesses of other people who are operating lawfully.

The three men who boarded the Japanese vessel are a classic example. They belong to a small group in Western Australia called Forest Rescue, which specialises in blockades and hyperbole. As its website states: "Forest Rescue have a no compromise approach against anything that threatens Western Australia's biodiversity … our state is on the brink of ecological collapse by native forest logging, land clearing and mining companies."

If justice were to be served, Tuxworth, 47, Petterffy, 44, and Pendlebury, 27, would be on the first leg of a long journey down to the Southern Ocean, then back to Japan, then into the care of the Japanese justice system. We might see them back in Australia in six months, at no cost to the Australian taxpayer.

If they regarded this as too great an indignity, and engaged in a hunger strike, they should be allowed to be the masters of their own fate. Let them accept the consequences of their own brinkmanship. Nobody forced them into this predicament. Nobody did them any harm.

I say this even though I believe Japan's whaling operation is pointless and cruel and the three men acted with physical courage, are not seeking personal gain and are not engaging in violent acts.

As I write, the Australian Customs ship Ocean Protector is on its way to an ocean rendezvous with the Shonan Maru No. 2 to collect these three men. So the Gillard government is doing what it does best: wasting taxpayers' dollars while managing to achieve the worst of both worlds - not sending a strong message to Japan and not sending a strong message to law-breaking, grandstanding, moral blackmailers.


Australian Jews complain to broadcaster about TV series ‘The Promise’

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has complained with the Australian broadcaster SBS about the British-made television series ‘The Promise’, which it says conveys anti-Jewish stereotypes. ‘The Promise’ was produced in association with SBS, ECAJ says. In a letter to SBS, the Jewish umbrella body alleges that the series “promotes, endorses and reinforces demeaning stereotypes about Jews as a group. All of the principal Jewish characters (and thus by implication Jews generally) are portrayed negatively and, ultimately, without any redeeming virtues. They are cast as variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical.”

The complaint adds that “The ancient libel that holds all Jews throughout history to be collectively guilty of killing Jesus has been segued into the equally ludicrous proposition that all Jews are collectively guilty of the wanton shedding of innocent blood, a staple of contemporary Palestinian propaganda. The series also panders to stereotypes about Jews being immoderately wealthy and having acquired their wealth unfairly.” The letter goes on to say that the “cumulative effect of these consistently negative portrayals of all of the principal Jewish characters and of the series’ numerous misrepresentations of the relevant historical background in a way that consistently casts Jews in a negative light is to demean Jews as a group.”

“The relevant historical events (and their misrepresentation) and the principal Jewish characters are vehicles for attributing negative traits to Jews generally across time and space. ‘The Promise’ utilizes and reinforces racist tropes about Jews that, but for a brief post-WWII respite, have been embedded in western civilization since pre-Christian times and are not in any way comparable to negative portrayals of other groups,” the letter states.

The four-part series ‘The Promise’, written and directed by British filmmaker Peter Kosminsky, tells a fictional story about Erin (played by actress Claire Foy, pictured left), an 18-year-old British girl who visits her Israeli friend Eliza, Eliza’s parents and brother Paul in Israel in 2005. Erin carries and progressively reads through the diary of her grandfather, Len, which describes Len’s experiences while serving as a sergeant in the British army in the 1940s.

First screened in the UK in February 2011 and in France in March 2011, critics and Jewish organizations in both countries condemned the series. Jonathan Freedland of the UK newspaper ‘The Guardian’ accused Kosminsky of using anti-Semitic stereotypes. The Board of Deputies of British Jews also complained, but Ofcom, the UK’s regulatory watchdog for the TV and film industry, said the program was not in breach of any of its guidelines. Kosminsky rejected the criticism, saying that his plot was based on interviews with 80 British veterans who served in Mandatory Palestine until 1948 and who he says had become more and more anti-Jewish during their service there.

In its complaint, which is backed up by a detailed documentation, ECAJ says that ‘The message to the audience is that the British (symbolized by Len) were implicated in depriving the Palestinians of their ‘rightful ownership’ of the country (symbolized by their loss of the key) in the late 1940s and accordingly the British, and the West generally, are now morally obliged to ‘restore’ ownership of the country to the Palestinians (symbolized by Erin returning the key to the Palestinian family).”

The letter adds that the TV series “does not even pretend to address the deeper historical justification for Israel’s existence as the State of the Jewish people. Nor does it portray (let alone question) the decision of the Palestinian leadership and the Arab League to use force to prevent the implementation by the UN of its resolution in favor of partition in November 1947.”


1 comment:

Paul said...

Criticism of Israel becomes an "anti-Jewish stereotype". The promise was a good show because it portrayed a healthy dose of reality. I didn't actually pick up on any serious stereotyping. This kind of complaint about it has been repeated by professional Jews all over the world. Seems to be a policy to deflect any and all critique of Israel as being "anti-Semitic". It seems refusal to assimilate is not the exclusive preserve of Muslims.