Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Save the whales, stuff the natives

The Australian and New Zealand governments, pious editorialists on both sides of the Tasman, and the Green Party's conservation spokesperson Metiria Turei have ganged up to berate the poor Pacific countries that voted with Japan against a global ban on whaling at the recent International Whaling Conference.

Japan has been accused of interfering in the affairs of states like the Solomon Islands by offering them money in return for their vote, and that paragon of political ethics Winston Peters has accused the natives of a lack of principle for taking the cash. The Greens talk ominously about the need for an 'inquiry' into the whole business - in other words, about yet more Australasian interference in the affairs of states like the Solomons.

But small Pacific countries are desperate for money from Japan because they have been so exploited by the very countries which are now complaining about the IWC vote. New Zealand and Australia have bullied Pacific countries into implementing neo-liberal economic 'reforms' that have devastated their economies and dried up state revenue flows. And when neo-liberalism has led to social breakdown Australia and New Zealand have landed troops and cops to keep the natives in line.

Pacific countries have also been bullied into cooperating with Bush and Howard's War of Terror. The Solomon Islands, for instance, was pressured by Australia into joining Bush's 'coalition of the willing' against Iraq, even though its security forces did not control all of the territory of their own country. I don't recall Metiria Turei or her friends in the Kiwi mainstream media complaining about pressure from big countries then.

It's no wonder that there is now a tendency for Pacific countries to turn towards Asian powers like China, Taiwan and Japan to provide some of the economic assistance that is not forthcoming from Australasia.

It is a shame, of course, that the price of this assistance is support for policies like whaling, but the main responsibility for the vote at the IWC has to sit with the governments of Australia and New Zealand. They created the economic crisis that has forced small Pacific states to choose between cash and the environment.

And I'll take the Greens' indignation a little more seriously when I see them end their support for Anzac imperialism in the Pacific, and thus do their bit to undermine the root cause of the environmental problems in this part of the world.

The Greens, and Metiria Turei in particular, are complicit in the RAMSI occupation and recolonisation of the Solomons, an operation which, by dismantling economic regulations, undermining traditional land ownership, and generally letting multinational capital run riot, has created far more environmental damage than whaling ever will.


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