Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Answers to Questions on Notice


3:39 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Whish-Wilson today relating to Japan and whaling in the Southern Ocean.

I might start with the response by Senator Brandis to my third question. Just as a little bit of background, last week on Friday the Japanese parliament unanimously passed a new bill essentially authorising what they call 'scientific whaling' to facilitate commercial whaling. We all know that this guise of scientific whaling has been found to be illegal by the International Court of Justice. This issue has been dealt with by the International Whaling Commission, but it seems as though the Japanese government and the Japanese parliament are flexing their muscles.

My question to Senator Brandis was about Senator Payne's comments in the chamber just yesterday that were assuring us that countries like Japan and the US, who we have what is called a trilateral defence relationship with, are countries that are committed to the rules based order and to strengthening regional security architecture that underpins our region's stability and prosperity. So it seems to me that we have a very clear and very concerning contradiction here where one of our regional allies is happy to be a defence partner and part of the architecture of defence in the South China Sea and in our region but, in the same breath, is now passing a bill unanimously through parliament not only authorising and legitimising commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean but also enabling them to send security vessels with their whaling fleet—with their harpoon boats—which means patrol boats and, potentially, naval vessels.

I do not know how that is a commitment to a rules based order by our partner Japan. It does not make sense to me. No doubt, if Japan is getting on their high horse and talking about issues in the South China Sea, people might want to be aware of what they are doing in the Southern Ocean in our own whale sanctuary. I have been very vocal about this, as have the Greens for many years—in fact, as have both parties of government. The Liberal-National Party went into the election in 2013 with a policy that they would send a customs vessel to the Southern Ocean every year to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet. What are we going to do this summer if the Japanese government send an armed naval or customs vessel with their whaling fleet? This is a significant point of concern.

Sea Shepherd go down there, and have been going down there for many years now, to do the government's job for us and for the Australian people—that is, monitoring the activities of the Japanese whaling fleet and going even further to do whatever they can to prevent the slaughter of whales, many of them pregnant whales with calves, by grenade-tipped harpoons. We know this has been a very controversial issue for Australians, but, nevertheless, we are united in our opposition to illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. In fact, many of us oppose whaling anywhere in this day and age, as does most of the world. So this is concerning.

I am thankful for Senator Brandis's answer. I am glad the government is concerned and they acknowledge this new legislation. No doubt I will be following this up with them as to what issues they have raised diplomatically at the highest levels. This is something that the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, should be directly raising with Shinzo Abe in Japan. I actually met Shinzo Abe at an official function a few years ago here in Parliament House and gave him a letter from Paul Watson asking him to cease and desist with his government's illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean. Luckily for me, it did not set off any diplomatic incidents. But, nevertheless, I do believe the message was clear, not only on behalf of Sea Shepherd but also all Australians, that, in this day and age, we do not have to kill whales to conduct scientific research.

During our estimates, it was made very clear, from our Antarctic division and from our science and research institutions, that we can actually do research on whales using non-lethal methods. It is absolute rubbish that they need to kill whales for research. Nevertheless, this bill that passed through the Japanese parliament last week is clearly saying they want to continue commercial whaling. So what does that mean now that humpback whale numbers have recovered? Does that mean humpback whales are now going to be commercially harvested by the Japanese government for food? This is totally unacceptable, and I would expect Senator Brandis's strong words to be backed up with action by this government to send the strongest possible signal to Shinzo Abe but this is not acceptable for the Australian people. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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