16/01/2008 - 22:00

Australia whales on its opponents

16/01/2008 - 22:00


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The Australian cricket team has been a wonderful example of professional sport at its best and worst in recent years.

Australia whales on its opponents

The Australian cricket team has  been a wonderful example of professional sport at its best and worst in recent years.

There’s no doubt our nation has a wealth of talented cricket players with depth to match.

But that depth seems to lie largely in sporting ability, and is found lacking in the other elements of character that we, rightly or wrongly, come to expect from our sporting heroes.

Perhaps it’s unfair to expect too much of people who are, after all, only sportspeople – making a living doing something most people play for fun – but cricket has always been at a higher plane in the national psyche.

Having visited the Bradman Museum at Bowral over the festive season, I couldn’t help wonder what the Don would have made of the recent antics of the Aussie team.

Causing a near-diplomatic row with one of our great trading partners and a future global giant is quite an achievement for a sporting team, though I admit Bradman’s XI also ended up in the midst of something similar, as the victims, during the bodyline series against the English in 1932-33.

The furore over cricket got me thinking about other ways Australia manages to undermine its oncebenign international reputation.

One area I just don’t get is our massive carry-on about whaling.

The hypocrisy of our stance on this has bugged me for years.

Whales have been making a comeback for decades since we stopped slaughtering them for commercial gain.

Having brought these majestic mammals to the brink of extinction, there was little to gain from keeping the industry alive…so the government of the day suddenly got all whale friendly.

Pragmatic rather than pure, I would have thought.

Three decades later, the whales have returned.

They offer reasonable business for tourist craft, with those of us who catch a glimpse feeling good that nature can rebound from man’s impact.

But that doesn’t make the whales my next of kin.

That was the kind of stuff we were fed back in the 1980s, when there seemed to be some sort of belief that we’d soon be talking to these huge mammals and learning from them how to live in harmony.

In the end, they are animals.

As much as it may upset some people for me to say this, I just can’t believe federal governments – notably the former Liberals – have made such a big deal of this issue.

Perhaps it’s easy to be pop environmentalists when you have nothing to lose.

Our whaling industry is long gone, after all.

The worst aspect is the nationalistic jingoism that has become part of this debate, with the Japanese being portrayed as some sort of barbarians over their desire to hunt these creatures.

Let Greenpeace berate a nation for fishing, but is that really where our federal government should be going? Telling off one of our major trading partners over something that is, arguably, their right, commercially and culturally.

Next thing we’ll be telling the Chinese they shouldn’t eat dogs.

This is very dangerous ground and invites critics to find issue with Australia’s own animal management practices, which ultimately has a flowon effect to how we are perceived overseas.

Perhaps I’m wrong to suggest that a nation’s trading status should get in the way of our moral outrage, but I really do wonder what the point of this exercise is? Customs ships shadowing Japanese whalers.

Give me a break.

We don’t own the seas or what’s in them.

While the science may suggest a return to commercial whaling is a long way off, let’s not rule this out just because their stocks are only now recovering.

What happens in a few decades when the oceans are teeming with whales? Do we continue to hold this view that they are beyond exploiting? Right now, I’d rather see the government encouraging Indonesian fishermen not to kill whale sharks.

That might actually protect an asset of Australia’s, the wonderful drawcard for tourists that swim with this species off the reefs of Ningaloo.

And I don’t mean through undiplomatic attacks; pay for them to stop.

This is an extension of the property rights issue that pervades so much of society today.

If we want to remove the rights of others (which are their assets), there’s a simple way to do it – pay them out.

Rather than acting like the Aussie cricket team and attempting to sledge our way to victory by belittling our opponents, we ought to do the honourable thing and pay for what we want.

Just as the Japanese have bought the votes of so many non-whaling nations to keep themselves in business, why can’t we offer something to the Japanese to stop this practice? If we are so appalled by whaling, this shouldn’t be hard.

I have no idea what the cost would be and I’m not prepared to venture a view on what it would be worth to Australia because I don’t have a problem with whaling if it is sustainable.

I hazard a guess if most Australians were asked to pay a few taxes to save the already saved whales, most of the population would find there are far more pressing environmental issues to deal with back home – including the uncontrolled growth in the number of feral cricketers roaming the nation’s playing fields.


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