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Australia willing to soften whaling stance

Australia willing to soften whaling stance

Australia's legal action in the International Court of Justice against Japan's whaling activities very nearly didn't happen, according to the latest string of documents released by…

Australia's legal action in the International Court of Justice against Japan's whaling activities very nearly didn't happen, according to the latest string of documents released by WikiLeaks.

According to leaked US diplomatic cables obtained this week by Fairfax, New Zealand and the US had agreed to reach a compromise with Japan in regards to its controversial whaling activities.

Under the agreement, which was discussed in the lead up to the meeting of the International Whaling Commission in mid-2009, the ban on commercial whaling would have been overturned if Japan agreed to cut back the number of whales culled under its so-called scientific research program.

At the time, Australia's minister for the environment, Peter Garrett, came out and publicly condemned the agreement. However, the documents reveal that Garrett's former chief of staff, David Williams, had indicated to US authorities that Australia could also be a party to such an agreement.

The Australian Government ultimately decided not to forge a compromise and, on 1 June 2009, it filed legal action against Japan at The Hague.

WikiLeaks documents also revealed that the US and Japan were discussing ways of countering the actions of the environmental activist group Sea Shepherd, which has been successfully hampering Japan's whaling efforts over the past year. Such plans included removing the group's current tax-free status.

In May last year, a Sea Shepherd activist, New Zealander Peter Bethune, pleaded guilty to charges of trespass, vandalism, obstructing commercial activities and carrying a knife. Bethune was arrested in February 2009 after he scaled the deck of a Japanese whaling vessel, the Shonan Maru II.

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