House debates

Tuesday, 28 March 2006



9:05 pm

Photo of Jason WoodJason Wood (La Trobe, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The haunting footage of the last Tasmanian tiger, pacing in its cage, is now etched, as on copperplate, in Australia’s collective memory—the footage of a species reduced to a tragic sideshow. Like the Tasmanian tiger, a number of whale species in the Southern Ocean, such as the fin whale and the humpback whale, are under threat of extinction, their stocks not yet recovered from decades of unrestrained whaling.

I stand today to praise the government’s project-conservation endeavours which have sought to protect these and other species from Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, much of which is commercial whaling by another name. I note the valiant efforts of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Ian Campbell, at last year’s International Whaling Commission meeting in Korea, as reported in the Australian newspaper on Friday, 24 February 2006. Minister Campbell was instrumental in defeating a Japanese proposal to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling which has been in place since 1986. Today, he put out a media release proving that so-called Japanese whaling research can be conducted by non-lethal means. Unfortunately, we are faced with the absurd situation that, while a majority vote of the IWC would lift the moratorium on commercial whaling, a majority vote of the IWC is powerless to enforce it.

There are, of course, other avenues of recourse available. For example, some of the offending Japanese whaling is taking place in Australian Antarctic waters. The Australian government’s position is that currently there is no firm avenue of legal recourse against Japan with respect to the international court. The former New Zealand Labor Prime Minister and current New Zealand Commissioner to the IWC, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, agrees. He was quoted in the Australian on 16 January 2006 as saying:

We have been looking at the legal theories that are available … for some months … and there is no legal theory that is available that can prevent … the Japanese from doing what they are doing.

I have met with representatives of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Professor Donald R Rothwell, Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney. Professor Rothwell is of the opinion that Australia could take Japan to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for breaches of the Law of the Sea Convention. The basis of this advice is that the Japanese plan to recommence hunting humpback whales will prejudice the humpback whales’ $300 million contribution to the Australian whale-watching industry.

In any event, Minister Campbell has stated that the government’s preference is for a diplomatic response to build international support for Australia’s pro-conservation stance, but legal options have not been ruled out. I am of the view that, if the Japanese whaling fleets decide to recommence the slaughter of the humpback and fin whales, the white gloves of diplomacy must be removed and the real fight should begin. In the meantime, I urge experts such as Professor Rothwell, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and those from the Attorney-General’s Department to work together to develop legal options.

One must not forget, of course, that Australian consumers can play their part too. The New Zealand seafood company Sealord is a name familiar to many Australians. It is part-owned by the New Zealand company Aotearoa Fisheries and the Japanese company Nissui. Nissui is heavily involved in commercial whaling and is a major shareholder in whaling fleets such as Kyodo Senpaku which are carrying out whaling in the Southern Ocean. I warn Sealord that I will personally recommend that constituents in my electorate do not purchase Sealord products if its sister company recommences the hunting of humpback and fin whales, which will have an impact on Australia’s $300 million whale-watching industry.

I would like to congratulate Greenpeace for its campaign to stop whale hunting in the Southern Ocean. I have been a member of Greenpeace longer than I have been a member of the Liberal Party, and I joined Greenpeace after watching the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean. (Time expired)