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Goff goes soft on Aussie maritime meddling

16 December 2004

Goff goes soft on Aussie maritime meddling

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff's attempt to justify the new 1000-nautical-mile Australian Maritime Interdiction Zone is unconvincing, the Green Party says.

"Mr Goff fails to recognise it as a threat to international law and the sovereignty of nations," Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke said.

"It is one thing to ask planes and ships arriving in New Zealand to give us some information prior to arrival. It is quite another thing to establish a surveillance zone in international waters and ask those in it to supply information on their crew and cargo, as the Australian government intends.

"Those in the zone that are to visit Australian ports will be 'required' to give the information, even if they won't be visiting Australia for some time. Mr Goff tries to reassure us that for other ships the provision of information will be 'voluntary'. But doesn't he understand that the Australian government simply has no right to ask ships transiting international waters such questions, or to put a black mark against them if they don't respond?

"As the proposal is currently outlined, even ships in the Exclusive Economic Zones of New Zealand, East Timor or Indonesia could be asked for the information, because they will often be within the 1,000 mile cordon around Australia.

"Mr Goff says there won't be illegal interception of ships, but when you link this latest move with the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative, under which the boarding of ships is being practised, we are moving down a dangerous track.

"Other nations will not take kindly to Australia interrogating the captains of their ships as they carry cargo through international waters."


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