Dec 22, 2005

The World Today – Federal Government urged to take legal action against whalers

Federal Government urged to take legal action against whalers

Thursday, 22 December 2005 12:46pm

The World Today

Reporter: Peta Donald

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, has again ruled out taking international legal action against Japan, over whaling in Australia’s Antarctic waters.

There’s been a skirmish over the past few days between Greenpeace ships and a Japanese Whaling fleet, within Australia’s self declared whaling sanctuary.

And the Labor Party is calling on the Federal Government to take Japan to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

But as Peta Donald reports, the Minister says that would not be effective.

PETA DONALD: When it comes to trying to stop Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, Australia’s Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, favours taking a diplomatic approach.

But for Labor’s Anthony Albanese, more than just tough talk is needed.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, what he should do is take immediate action against Japan and other whaling nations before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea.

It was good enough in 1999 for Australia to take that action against Japan over the issue of southern Blue Fin Tuna. That led to a successful resolution of the conflict that existed then, and Australia needs to recognise that diplomacy simply isn’t working, that in spite of the Minister’s rhetoric after the International Whaling Commission meeting this year, there will be more whales taken this season, and not just more Minke whales, but an expansion to include Fin whales in this so-called scientific program.

PETA DONALD: Anthony Albanese is relying on recent legal advice from a respected expert in international law.

Professor Don Rothwell, from Sydney University, prepared the advice for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

DON ROTHWELL: If Australia did take such action it would be something of a test case. However, I believe, and in the advice that I provided to I4, I argued that the abuse of right argument in an environmental case such as this would have very strong grounds for succeeding.

And in particular, if Australia was to seek to resolve this matter through an international body called the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea based in Hamburg, Australia would stand a very strong chance of success in initially gaining provisional measures, which would effectively shut down of the Japanese whaling program for the current summer season.

PETA DONALD: So that would be an injunction?

DON ROTHWELL: Yes, effectively an injunction ordering the Japanese to halt their whaling program until such time as the matter was determined more conclusively by that tribunal or by another tribunal established by the party.

PETA DONALD: But the Minister, Ian Campbell, has had a look at Professor Rothwell’s advice and dismisses it.

IAN CAMPBELL: Well, people have argued that in the past but equally lawyers across the globe have argued that it would ineffective and counter-productive.

There’s much other advice in the report that has been given to me, that is legally very (inaudible).

One of the bits of advice that was given was that we should use the convention for the conservation of marine or living organisms in Antarctica to take action against the Japanese, and that is basically (inaudible), it’s bad advice.

I mean of the 12 or 14 bits of advice that were written in that report, at least half of them had fundamental constitutional flaws in them.

So quite frankly, if that advice was sound, if I thought that taking legal action could stop the destruction of whales that’s occurring off Australian territory and Antarctica right now, I would do it, I would have no reservation about doing it if I thought it’d be effective. My advice is that it would not only be ineffective, but it would be counterproductive.

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell ending that report from Peta Donald.