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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4327


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (14:19): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brandis. Last Friday the parliament of Japan unanimously passed a bill regarding the implementation of commercial whaling. Is the government aware of this bill? If so, please advise the Senate if the government sees this as an escalation of Japan's whaling efforts and what action you are taking in this regard.

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:19): Thank you for that question, Senator Whish-Wilson. I am aware that on 16 June Japan passed a new domestic law affirming the Japanese government's responsibility to support special permit or scientific research and ensure public funding for whaling research. That legislation makes it likely that scientific whaling is for the purpose of obtaining knowledge to implement commercial whaling. The new law also included measures to improve security provided by the Japanese fisheries agency to the Southern Ocean whaling fleet during the whaling season in response to anti-whaling activities of activists, in particular Sea Shepherd. I am aware also, Senator Whish-Wilson, of your observations that Japanese whaling is an assault on Australia's interests, our marine life, our territorial interests and our pursuit of a rules based global order.

The government is concerned about the recent passage of that legislation in support of so-called scientific whaling. The Australian government does not consider that Japan's whaling program is for the purposes of scientific research nor is it convinced that the program is consistent with the principles of the International Court of Justice's 2014 decision or of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The Australian government will continue its efforts in the International Whaling Commission to promote whale conservation and uphold the general global moratorium on commercial whaling.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Whish-Wilson on a supplementary question.

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (14:21): As noted by Senator Brandis, this whaling bill includes provisions giving the right for Japanese government agencies to dispatch government vessels to prevent interference in whaling activities from organisations like Sea Shepherd. Does the Australian government support Japan in despatching customs or naval vessels to the Australian Whale Sanctuary to provide security for whaling vessels?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:22): I do not have a brief on that particular issue. I told you that the government is disappointed with the law that was passed by the Diet last week. In relation to the specific issue of protection of the Japanese whaling fleet as provided for, as you say, by the bill, I will get some specific instructions from Minister for Foreign Affairs and come back to you.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Whish-Wilson on a final supplementary question.

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (14:22): Thank you, Minister. Yesterday in Senator Payne's statement on maritime security and our trilateral defence cooperation with the US and Japan, she said that both these governments share our commitment to the rules based order and to strengthening our regional security architecture that underpins our region's stability and prosperity. Does the minister consider that thumbing your nose at the International Court of Justice ruling that Japanese whaling is illegal is a commitment to a rules based order by Japan? (Time expired)

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:23): I can emphatically reaffirm what Senator Payne told the chamber yesterday. The relationship between Australia and Japan is a very important relationship for us and for them. We are strategic partners. We have common interests. We are like-minded as democracies. We are important powers in the East Asian region. And both governments, the Japanese government and the Australian government, are committed to a rules based global order. That is not to say, however, that from time to time friendly and like-minded governments which share a commitment to a rules based global order will not have differences. We do have a difference with the Japanese government about whaling. We point out to the Japanese government firmly but civilly the position of the Australian government. We contest the Japanese government's position in international tribunals including the International Court of Justice and the International Whaling Commission. (Time expired)