WIKILEAKS: Leaked US government documents show Australian officials were willing to accept a compromise deal with Japan over whaling – despite then-environment minister Peter Garrett, publicly rejecting the idea.
Fairfax newspapers say documents obtained by WikiLeaks show Mr Garrett’s former chief of staff, David Williams, told the US Australia could accept a deal.
The agreement would have overturned the ban on commercial whaling, in return for Japan reducing its so-called scientific research program.
The deal had the backing of New Zealand and the US in the lead-up to International Whaling Commission talks in the middle of last year.
The documents also show Mr Garrett believed he was more committed to ending whaling than the Australian Government officials who were negotiating with Japan.
Mr Garrett’s office has been contacted for comment.
The latest US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks also show Japanese and US officials discussed ways of reining in the militant anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd.
Sea Shepherd has been successful in hampering Japanese whalers during the annual Antarctic hunt.
The cables reveal the US envoy to the International Whaling Commission, Monica Medina, held talks with the head of Japan’s fisheries agency, Katsuhiro Machida, in late 2009.
The two sides discussed the possibility of revoking the tax-exempt status of the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
In the cables sent from the US embassy in Tokyo, the Japanese were said to have appreciated the American idea to remove the group’s tax exemption.
The documents reveal Ms Medina believed the US government could demonstrate the group did not deserve tax-exempt status based on its aggressive and harmful actions.
This week the body that runs Japan’s scientific whaling program called on Australia to restrain Sea Shepherd activists harassing its fleet in the Antarctic ocean.
The two sides have clashed for the first time during this season’s Antarctic hunt.
Sea Shepherd says the whaling ships used water cannons on their inflatable boats during high-speed chases.
But the whalers have accused the group of dangerous and violent tactics, calling on Australia and the Netherlands to take criminal action against the activists.