The Attorney General was listed today in the “Name and Shame” list by the Finance Department for failing to justify her expenditures. The amount in question is $190,500.00.
What was that Nicola? The cost of recovering three Australian citizens detained on a whaling vessel inside Australia’s territorial waters was “a couple hundred thousand dollars.” That appears to be only a few dollars short of the funds she failed to account for.
And of course there is the fact that because the Ocean Protector has been sitting in port for a couple of years, when the government had promised it would be monitoring whaling in the Southern Ocean, a great deal of money has been directed away from that promise. So it seems that a small percentage of the savings could be spent on something related to the defence of the whales, as promised.
The Attorney General said that the Ocean Protector was called away from anti-poaching duties to recover the men from the Japanese vessel. What anti-poaching duties? The poachers are in the Southern Ocean, flying the Japanese flag, and killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.
And what do the Australian people really think about it? Are they outraged as the Attorney General would have us believe?
The January 17th poll by ABC radio seems to suggest otherwise:
Politics is the only reason that the Forest Rescue men have been singled out by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General regarding the cost of the recovery. They wish to demonize them and Sea Shepherd for helping them.
The government said absolutely nothing when British yachtsman Tony Bullimore was rescued in the Southern Ocean at the cost of nearly $7 million in 1997.
Bullimore even sold his story for a million pounds and did not compensate the government a single penny for the rescue.
In fact, this is what the Australian Maritime Safety Authority had to say when Bullimore made another race attempt in the same Southern Ocean:
Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Rescue Co-ordination Center spokeswoman Tracey Higgins said authorities were confident Mr. Bullimore was better prepared for his latest adventure.
"Either way, if it's the right or wrong thing to do, it's his choice."
Ms. Higgins said the authority would not hesitate to come to Mr Bullimore's aid should he require it.
"If there is an issue, an incident, or he gets himself into trouble and he's in our search and rescue region, then we will respond to that like we would with anybody else," she said.
I agree with her. Last year Sea Shepherd spent three days and over $50,000 searching for survivors from a Norwegian yacht lost in McMurdo Sound. We did not seek compensation nor whine and complain about the cost.
And the Attorney General did have a choice. She could have insisted that the Japanese ship return the men to Australia or she could have had them transfer the men to the Steve Irwin at no cost.
Instead she chose the more expensive option.
In 2008, the Australian Navy voyaged 900 miles south of Perth (the same distance travelled to recover the three Forest Rescue men) to rescue French yachtsman Yan Elies. Not a word was said about the burden to the tax payer.
In 1995, French sailor Isabelle Autissier was rescued 900 miles south of Adelaide when her yacht was dismasted during the BOC Challenge. No complaints from Canberra there.
There have also been expensive rescues of fishermen in the Southern Ocean.
Now I know that yachtsmen and fishermen are involved in far more important activities than saving whales and protecting the territorial sovereignty of Australia, so I guess that explains why they were not asked to repay the Australian taxpayers for the costs.
And of course the other big difference is that the funds spent to rescue the yachtsmen were spent on foreign sailors and not on Australians. So perhaps it’s only Australian citizens who need to be concerned about being reprimanded when Australian tax dollars are spent.
The bottom line is this. If the Australian government was actually doing what they promised to do in 2007, there would have been no need for the boarding of a Japanese whaling vessel inside Australian territorial waters and there would be no need for Sea Shepherd to be down in the Southern Ocean doing what the government signatories to international conservation laws should be doing.
The Attorney General should sit down and make a list of what she spent $190,500.00 on in her expenses before bullying three brave Australian heroes for having the courage to challenge illegal Japanese whaling in Australian waters.
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2011-12 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign