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Thursday, 4 February 2010
Page: 427

Senator SIEWERT (10:00 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum and to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Once again this summer, Australians were outraged by the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean. Many Australians were further appalled when it was revealed that Australian air services were used by a company with connections to the whalers to assist in the slaughter.

The assistance provided to the whalers was to track the main protest vessel of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society so that a ship from the whaling fleet could hinder the Sea Shepherd’s pursuit of the main fleet. Without the Sea Shepherd on its tail, the main whaling fleet could undertake its mission of killing whales more easily.

In response to the information that the Japanese whaling fleet had hired Australian planes from Hobart and Albany to track the Sea Shepherd ships’ movements, Senator Bob Brown announced that the Greens would introduce a bill banning activities associated with whaling in Australia.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Support for Whaling) Bill 2010 (the Bill) fulfills this commitment. The Bill amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to create a new offence related to providing assistance for whaling.

Currently the EPBC Act provides for a series of offences related to whaling. Division 3 of Part 13 creates the offences of:

  • killing or injuring a cetacean,
  • intentionally taking, trading, keeping, moving or interfering with a cetacean, and
  • treating or possessing a cetacean that has been killed contrary to the Act or unlawfully imported.

The above offences are punishable by 2 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $110 000.

However, there is no offence of providing services, support, or resources for the killing of whales. The Bill seeks to rectify this serious omission.

The Bill creates a new offence of providing any service, support or resources to an organisation engaged in whaling. Whaling is subsequently defined broadly to mean any activity undertaken as part of a venture, the intention of which is to kill, injure, take, trade, or treat whales for commercial purposes or other purposes. The definition includes the intention to contravene the offences already in the EPBC Act mentioned above and any activity undertaken by or on board a foreign whaling vessel.

The penalty for the new offence is consistent with the other penalties in the Division, that is, 2 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $110 000.

The amendments will not make unlawful the provision of assistance to vessels in an emergency. The exemptions contained in section 231 of the EPBC Act relating to when certain actions are not offences will apply to the new offence. Section 231 includes circumstances such as where an action is reasonably necessary to deal with an emergency involving serious threat to human life or property, or an action reasonably necessary to prevent a risk to human health.

The intention behind the new section 229E is to make unlawful the provision of any assistance to a whaling venture, including surveillance information, communication, financial and material support. The provisions are designed to be sufficiently broad to capture the type of situation that prompted that Bill, that is, the hire of air services in Australia by a company which then provided the information gathered to a vessel which was part of the whaling fleet.

There is broad community support for the measures contained in the Bill. An on-line petition on the Australian Greens website received over 3500 signatures supporting the ban on activities associated with whaling. A number of signatories left comments on the website expressing their support. The depth of feeling on this issue is captured by comments such as:

“I still remember with horror inspecting the whaling station in Albany. Such slaughter now continuing with impunity in Australian Antarctic waters and in a whale sanctuary, at that, makes a mockery at any pretence that the Government is upholding relevant laws. Please ensure that the proposed law prohibiting support for whaling is passed, implemented and that compliance is monitored and enforced.”

“It is totally inappropriate and unacceptable for our country to provide any support to those carrying out such barbaric slaughter of whales.”

“I support the introduction of a bill banning activities associated with whaling in Australia - please ensure whales are protected in Australian waters.”

“To object to commercial whaling, but to continue to permit support to be provided from Australia for whaling activities would be the height of hypocrisy. I therefore fully support the proposed ban. I also feel that the government could and should be more pro-active in its opposition to whaling world-wide, and should take specific action to prohibit whaling in waters over which it claims jurisdiction.”

“Please stop allowing the ongoing slaughter of whales in Australian waters and make it illegal for Australian businesses and organisations to be involved in supporting these activities either logistically or financially.”

“It should be illegal for any Australian national, either at home or abroad, to assist in the hunting of whales, no matter what the stated purpose of such activity, in any way. This should also include the leasing or use of assets such as aircraft and ships, or facilities, such as airfields and ports, to another individual or group for the potential use in aiding, either directly or indirectly, the hunting of whales.”

The Australian Government must do all it can to prevent the killing of whales in our territories. The Bill fixes a glaring gap in our current laws and is a necessary measure to ensure that those responsible for the slaughter of whales in our Southern Ocean receive no assistance from Australia.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Senator SIEWERT —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.