Jun 20, 2005

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2005-2006 – Whaling


Consideration in Detail – Whaling

20 June 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.31 p.m.)—This is a critical week for Migaloo, the white humpback whale, and for all the humpback and other whales that are regularly sighted off Australia’s coasts. As we speak, in South Korea there is a meeting of the International Whaling Commission, and we will see whether Japan has been successful in its attempts to stack that commission.

The apparent success of Japan in bringing this issue to the point where they are actually arguing to hunt humpback whales and other species and to expand their quota of whales slaughtered for so-called scientific purposes raises a number of issues. One issue, which is agreed by everyone in this parliament, is that whaling is an activity which should be consigned to the dustbin of history; that it is inappropriate to hunt and slaughter whales in the cruel way in which it is currently being done by a small number of countries. It is also true to say that there is a consensus across this parliament that diplomatic means are always the first step—that is the preferred measure; Australia should be doing all that it can to lobby on the diplomatic front. But I must say that there is considerable concern that inaction has brought us to this point.

It appears, from Senate estimates last month, that the foreign minister did not make any representations to Japan on this issue between 1996 and 2004. We have also seen the environment minister undertake a last-ditch attempt to travel around the world in the couple of weeks leading up to the IWC. This suggests that the government has been asleep at the wheel while Japan has been busy recruiting countries who would vote for its pro-whaling position. It is also the case, I believe, that mixed messages have been sent. In particular, I refer to the Humane Society International case, in which the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, intervened and made a submission stating that the case should not be allowed because it would ‘lead to an international disagreement with Japan’. We do have an international disagreement with Japan when it comes to the issue of whaling. The legal intervention on whaling stands in very stark contrast to the action in 1999 where the government took Japan—the same country—to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over southern bluefin tuna and were, in fact, represented in that case by the then Attorney-General, Daryl Williams

It seems to the Labor Party that it is entirely appropriate that diplomatic measures not only take place but be backed up by legal measures. In particular, the government should take action in the International Court of Justice to stop whaling. At the IWC meeting held in Adelaide there was a legal opinion given to suggest that the actions of Japan and other whaling nations were a clear breach of the provisions in the IWC which outlawed whaling and that so-called scientific whaling was clearly not occurring and was an abuse. Given that the government made much of the changes to the EPBC Act 1999, which the Prime Minister was prepared to quote in the 2001 election policy of the coalition, saying that the slaughter of whales and dolphins in Australia’s territory should be stopped, why hasn’t the government been prepared to take legal action to stop the illegal slaughter of whales in Australian waters? (Time expired)