May 30, 2005

Question without notice: Whaling


30 May 2005

Mr ALBANESE (2.52 p.m.)—My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Is the minister aware that last Friday the Federal Court stopped action against Japanese whaling companies who are breaching Australian law and slaughtering whales in our waters? Is the minister aware the court relied upon the government’s submission that enforcing Australian law ‘would be likely to give rise to an international disagreement with Japan’? Why was the government willing to take court action against Japan to protect southern bluefin tuna in 1999, and was in fact represented by the then Attorney-General, Daryl Williams during that case, but has now intervened to stop action to protect whales?

Mr TRUSS—The government’s position in relation to whaling is well known and respected internationally. We have stood up to be counted and have made it abundantly clear that we are opposed to any measures to extend the whaling arrangements. We have been vigorous critics of the Japanese scientific whaling program, which clearly goes way beyond what anyone could consider to be a matter of science. Let me say, Mr Speaker, as a representative of an electorate which has a substantial whale watching industry—in fact, it is the home of the whale watching industry in Australia—that there is a particular commitment and concern in my own region to ensure that the whales of the world are effectively protected and that this very important industry in Australia is also recognised and appropriately protected.

The minister is currently involved in a range of activities to help underpin Australia’s commitments in relation to these matters. There are a range of complex legal issues in relation to jurisdiction, concerning particularly the Antarctic territories, which make it difficult for Australia to be able to respond as comprehensively as we might wish to in some of those areas. But this government’s commitment to protecting Australia’s whales is resolute and determined. We have taken significant action over many years in what up until now I thought was a bipartisan spirit to protect this vital species for future generations to enjoy.