Govt must protest Howard’s license to piracy

Green MP Keith Locke is calling on the Government to protest strongly against John Howard’s proposed Maritime Identification Zone, which could legitimise piracy on the high seas.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has unveiled a plan to force any ships within 1000 nautical miles of Australia to provide a detailed report of their journey and their cargo. Australia’s Offshore Protection Command could then order the boarding of those ships deemed suspicious.

“It is deeply concerning that John Howard is claiming the right to demand information from, and even intercept, ships travelling well outside Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone,” Mr Locke, Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson said.

“It is an affront to the Law of the Sea, which guarantees free passage, and it can’t be tolerated.

“Mr Howard is also challenging our sovereignty because the 1000 mile cordon reaches deep into New Zealand waters, even touching the coast at Milford Sound.

“The sovereignty of South East Asian nations, particularly East Timor and Indonesia, is also infringed. As a part of the plan announced yesterday, Australia will be provocatively putting warships into waters claimed by East Timor around the oil rigs in the Timor Sea.

There would be chaos if the Howard model were adopted by other nations, Mr Locke said.

“Allowing countries already at odds to make unreasonable demands on each other’s ships in international waters is a recipe for conflict.

“We risk going back to the days when might was right on the high seas. The British Navy, in the days of Empire, blew any ships it didn’t like out of the water. We can’t give today’s superpower, the United States, and its deputies like Australia, the right to similarly throw their weight around. The illegal invasion of Iraq, with Howard’s backing, should make us deeply suspicious of this latest move.

“As a proponent of world peace, New Zealand should strongly uphold the legal right of nations to free passage on the high seas, without interference or being subject to unreasonable demands.”