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Scoop Feedback: Election, AIDs, Budget And Whales

In This Edition: Letter to the Editor - Get Your Own Act Together - Fiscal Irresponsibility - The 'Anti-Whaling Fanatic' Responds

Scoop welcomes reader feedback. Please send to editor@scoop.co.nz.

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Letter to the Editor

Sir,

How dare the Labour Government taunt the Opposition on their election loss. Is it not enough that they won the election? When was the last time we saw the All Blacks gloating in their victory and bad mouthing the team they beat?

We the voters have a right to expect graciousness from the people we put in government, not contempt for our parliamentary system.

Perhaps some voters didn't know what National stood for, but the other thing they didn't know is that Labour stood for nothing. No values, no strength of character, morally bankrupt.

Mike Williams Howick

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Get Your Own Act Together

The AIDS Foundation has been unable to reduce the incidence of AIDS in the homosexual community yet the Executive Director, Kevin Hague has the gall to tell heterosexual men how to behave responsibly. Most do. That is why very few heterosexual men have contracted AIDS in New Zealand.

I do not know what planet let alone what country Mr Hague is from but in New Zealand heterosexual men who have not had sex with women from high-prevalence countries are considered to have a low risk of being HIV+. That is why when I give blood I am asked if in the last ten years if I had sex with another man even “safer sex” using a condom (if you are a male) not if I use a condom.

Mr Hague’s advice to heterosexuals is not only offensive but misleading and dangerous. I note he uses the term safe sex rather than safer sex used by New Zealand Blood Services. If the AIDS Foundation were serious about reducing AIDS in New Zealand they would support screening on immigrants. They would also put as much emphasis on male homosexuals reducing their number of sexual partners and refraining from anonymous sex.

Chuck Bird
Auckland

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Fiscal Irresponsibility

Sir,

The debate on super-annuation continues while Helen's Rome is burning as those eligible rises at an unsustainable rate.

Those, as a percentage of the total working-age group, actually working continue to fall.

Those, again as a percentage of the total working age group, living off a benefit of one kind or another excluding super-annuation continues to rise.

The latter contribute little if anything toward the super-annuation fund, yet will receive the same benefit as those who have spent a lifetime contributing to both welfare and super-annuation (many through private schemes as well as taxation).

There has to be something wrong with a system that allows you to pay thrice and receive once if you work all your life, yet receive thrice and not pay even once if you never work.

Despite this, we have Green Party co-leader, Rod Donald suggesting we exacerbate the situation by introducing yet another category by being "more flexible, so groups like Maori or manual workers - with a traditionally lower life expectancy - could retire earlier and in "dignity"".

On top of that, the Government is pressing ahead with plans to relax eligibility criteria for the domestic purposes benefit and the widow's benefit.

There has to be something fiscally irresponsible in all of this.

Mirek Marcanik

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The 'Anti-Whaling Fanatic' Responds

… From NZHerald.co.nz

From Paul Watson - co-founder of Greenpeace in 1972, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

On September 3, the Herald published (and on September 2 Scoop published) an opinion piece about me by Barbara Sumner Burstyn entitled "Anti-whaling fanatic fighting yesterday's battle".

It was an easy research project for Ms Sumner Burstyn. She simply had to go to the website of the World Council of Whalers, a group funded by the Japanese and Norwegian whaling industries, to get the so-called "facts".

The column was based on distortions, misinformation, and outright fabrications, which I would like to challenge.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not protest whaling. We oppose illegal whaling operations. Japan is openly violating the moratorium on commercial whaling and DNA evidence has proved conclusively that whale meat from endangered species is being sold in Japan.

The Sea Shepherd Society has never sunk a ship on the high seas, and we have never caused an injury or a death. Yes, we did sink two ships in Iceland, and I turned myself into the police in Reykjavik afterwards. I was not charged, however, because to do so would have put Iceland on trial for illegal whaling in the court of international opinion and they knew that.

The accusation that I am a terrorist is absurd. I travel freely on a Canadian passport, and am a legal resident of the United States.

I have never been convicted of a felony anywhere in the world, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a registered charitable organisation in the United States and Europe. We have absolutely no links with the so-called Animal Liberation Front, and we are not being watched, nor are we listed as a threat, by the FBI.

In fact, I was presented with the President George Bush Daily Point of Light Award in 1999, and I was recognised as one of the environmental heroes of the 20th Century by Time magazine.

Sea Shepherd's official spokesperson is actor Martin Sheen (star of the television series "The West Wing"). Our Board of Directors includes a lawyer, a UCLA science professor, a Los Angeles trauma surgeon, and television actor Richard Dean Anderson ("McGyver"). Our Board of Advisors includes New Zealand photographer Tui De Roy, Dr Louise Leakey, Dr Roger Payne, Dr Birute Galdikas, Australian philospher Peter Singer, and actors Pierce Brosnan, James Cromwell, Rutger Hauer, and Linda Blair. Would these people be involved with a terrorist organisation?

The accusation that the Dutch sentenced me to 120 days in prison is also false. I was arrested in the Netherlands in 1997, and spent 80 days awaiting judgment on an extradition request by Norway. Norway was denied the request and I was freed. I was never in violation of Dutch law.

As for Norway, they sentenced me to 120 days in prison without giving me the right to a trial. This issue has been resolved. I have papers from the Norwegian Ministry of Justice stating that there is no longer any demand for my arrest. I am quite free to travel to Norway or anywhere else for that matter.

I was charged by Canada in 1993 with chasing Cuban and Spanish drag trawlers off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, even though it was outside Canada's 200-mile limit. I was acquitted on the charges and a year later the Canadian Minister of Fisheries sent his ships to do exactly the same thing.

I was never charged with ramming a Norwegian Coast Guard vessel as the writer claims. Nor was I ever charged with "attempted murder" by Costa Rica. Perhaps if the writer had bothered to contact the Ministry of the Environment or the Coast Guard in Costa Rica, she would have discovered that Sea Shepherd is working in partnership with the Costa Rican government to protect Cocos Island National Park.

We are also working in partnership with the Galapagos National Park where one of our ships is jointly crewed by Sea Shepherd volunteers, National Park rangers, and officers of the Ecuadorian Navy.

My only criminal convictions were for documenting the Canadian seal hunt. (It is a crime in Canada to witness or document the killing of a seal.) These were minor charges.

Our record is well documented. The false accusations and misinformation being distributed by the World Council of Whalers is part of a disinformation service they have been providing on behalf of the Japanese whaling industry for years.

Ms Sumner Burstyn describes Sea Shepherd as a self-appointed policing organisation. This is not the case. Our activities are authorised by the United Nations World Charter for Nature which states that individuals and non-governmental organisations are authorised to uphold international conservation law.

Section 24 states: "each person has a duty to act in accordance with the provisions of the present charter; acting individually, in association with others or through participation in the political process, each person shall strive to ensure that the objectives and the requirements of the present Charter are met."

One of those objectives is the enforcement of laws in international waters as in Charter Section 21(e) "safeguard and conserve nature in areas beyond national jurisdiction".

It is precisely this charter that I used in my defence for protecting the Newfoundland Grand Banks. I set a precedent in Canadian law in 1995 because I was acquitted by virtue of colour of right by acting in accordance with the Charter.

The charges of racism in the column are also ludicrous. Am I a racist to oppose illegal whaling by indigenous people? I have never opposed legally sanctioned Inuit whaling in Alaska and Russia, although in 1981 we were active in Siberia in opposing illegal Soviet whaling.

I would in fact be a racist if I did not oppose an illegal activity because the perpetrators were non-white.

As for being anti-native, I was a volunteer medic for the American Indian Movement during the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 and I put my ship at the disposal of Canadian Indians in 1991 to blockade the Columbus re-enactment caravels near Puerto Rico. I am presently working with Indian groups in British Columbia to oppose salmon farming that threatens their fishing rights. One accusation that your columnist made about me is true. I believe that all whaling is bad and all anti-whalers are good. I will go a step further and say that whaling is an obscenity and it should be ended completely by all people everywhere.

As for minke sushi, I would like to remind Barbara Sumner Burstyn that eating whale meat is illegal in New Zealand, and if she wishes to eat whale, I'm sure the Japanese would be very willing to serve her jaded palate with their contraband delicacy, but she will have to go to Tokyo.

ENDS

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