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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4253

Mr DRUMMOND (Forrest) - I understand that the proposed amendment has been circulated to honourable members. I trust that the Government will readily accept it. According to the second reading speech of the Minister, the amending legislation clarifies the intention of the Government. Without the proposed amendment there would be in the minds of many people a question mark as to just what power the Government would have under this Bill in relation to some of our industries, and particularly to the whaling industry in Australia. Obviously this legislation is concerned primarily with the whaling industry.

It is well known that some Ministers and some members of the Opposition, probably because of a lack of knowledge and of a lack of the facts, are opposed to whaling under any circumstances, not only in Australia but anywhere in the world. Without the proposed amendment the legislation makes no reference to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to which reference is made in the Minister's second reading speech. I believe that this is the whole thrust of this piece of legislation.

It is conceivable, in view of the attitude held by certain Ministers of this Government and possibly by Ministers of a future government, that they could, by regulation under this legislation, close down the whaling industry of Australia. The proposed amendment seeks to emphasise and make clear just where the responsibility for which this legislation provides lies. Many industries, including the whaling industry, come under pressure. They are misunderstood and misrepresented, and this can quite easily build up a hostile public reaction. To those honourable members in the House tonight, to those members of the public who are listening to this debate and to those who send to this House petitions on whaling, I would like to say a word or two on behalf of the whaling industry and the conservationists on the International Whaling Commission who seek true control of the whaling stock throughout the world.

Australia has been an active member of the International Whaling Commission since its inception. Its main purpose is stated in the convention to be:

Safeguarding for future generations, the great natural resources represented by the whale stocks' by means of 'a system of international regulations for the whale fisheries to ensure proper an effective conservation of whale stocks - and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.'

The members of the International Whaling Commission are advised by a committee of 25 scientists from 10 countries. This committee is chaired by a member of the United States delegation to the International Whaling Commission. These scientists are recognised not only as world authorities on assessing whale populations. They are also recognised as the leading marine biologists of the world and as the leading conservationists of the world. This committee made the following report to the International Whaling Commission in London in June 1973:

Because the concept of individual species management is now operative, the Scientific Committee agreed that at the present time there is no biological requirement for the imposition of a blanket moratorium on all commercial whaling. The majority further considered that, for the same reason, there is at present no biological justication for such a blanket moratorium. The Committee has repeatedly pointed out to the Commission that effective management can only be achieved if such species, and, indeed such individual stock is managed and exploited separately in a way appropriate to its condition. Any blanket management, such as a global moratorium, would be in direct contradiction to this principle.

In view of this very sound argument the United States proposal for a 10-year moratorium on commercial whaling to commence in 3 years did not obtain the required majority at the 1973 meeting of the International Whaling Commission. Accordingly the United States Commission has stated that the United States would abide by the decisions of the International Whaling Commission.

The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on the catching of white and grey whales in 1946 and this decision still applies. In 1955 a prohibition was placed on the killing of blue whales in the North Atlantic Ocean for 5 years. This was extended for a further 5 years in 1960 and in 1966 it was extended for another 5 years. At the same time waters covered by the prohibition were extended to include the North Pacific Ocean. This prohibition was extended progressively to 1967 when a total prohibition was imposed on the killing of blue whales and this prohibition is maintained by all member nations of the International Whaling Commission.

From 1954 the killing of humpback whales has been prohibited in certain areas and these were progressively extended until a total prohibition on the catching of humpback whales was imposed in 1965. In addition to the total prohibition on the killing of white, grey, blue and humpback whales the International Whaling Commission has imposed quotas on each species of whales at present being exploited, and these quotas have been fixed below the maintainable yields of the stocks as advised to the Commission by its Scientific Committee. At the last meeting the International Whaling Commission reduced the quota of fin whales to be taken in the Antarctic and agreed that a moratorium on the catching of these species would be imposed in 3 years time.

The Australian industry is based solely on sperm whales which are abundant in the Southern Hemisphere where the population is estimated to be over 300,000. Those countires which supported the global moratorium at the International Whaling Commission's meeting voted in favour of Soviet Russia, Japan, South Africa and Australia continuing to take the same number of sperm whales in the Southern Hemisphere as were taken last year. This action was taken on the advice of the Scientific Committee chaired, as I pointed out, by a member of the United States delegation. This quota is split up amongst the 4 nations on the same basis as in 1972. If Australia ceased whaling its quota would be split amongst the 3 remaining nations each of whom voted against the moratorium. The scientists agree that whilst the catching rate of sperm whales remains at present levels the present stocks will be conserved. The United Kingdom, which supports the moratorium, has banned trade in all whale products except those from sperm whales.

On the local scene, the directors of the Albany Station have in the past co-operated fully in providing facilities 'for scientific research. In fact, recently the company agreed to match the Australian Government contri bution of Si 2,000 to finance an expedition in the Southern Indian Ocean to tag sperm whales. This work is being done in cooperation with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and South Africa. If Australia ceases whaling, these tags will not be recovered in the eastern section of the survey area and the investigation will prove ineffective. The United States of America and the United Kingdom which voted for the moratorium would not have financed the cruise if the tags were not to be recovered.

Albany has the only land based whaling station in the Southern Hemisphere and the only whaling station in Australia. The Albany station directly supports over 100 families who received $700,000 in wages last year. Payments for services rendered by the town amounted to $380,000. Therefore honourable members can see that whaling is a most important industry to Albany. Albany is not a town that is going ahead as one would hope and expect today. The town's life blood would be taken away if it were to lose the whaling industry. Export earnings from whaling in 1971-72 were valued at $1,200,000. Sales of high protein stock food in Australia totalled 4,200 tons last year and by-products, might I add, were not used for pet food. We know just how important any type of protein is in the world today. I visualise that if for some reason the International Whaling Commission ceased to exist because of action by this Government or world governments we would have a set of circumstances that would react against the whaling stocks of the world rather than for them as anticipated by conservationists. I believe that if a global whaling moratorium were proclaimed the major active whaling nations would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and continue whaling. Who on earth would stop them? International trade in whale products would not stop them. Big nations such as Russia and Japan could probably use all of the whale products that they could harvest themselves.

It is also likely that if a moratorium were imposed on all whaling the observer scheme which the International Whaling Commission has really got off the ground in the last few years and is operating would break down. Australia and South Africa were the first countries to take up the challenge of allowing international observers to keep a very severe eye on their activities. Another effect of a moratorium would be that the International Whaling Commission scientists and members of its Scientific Committee would have no records of catch details. Stocks could not be assessed and the world would not know the condition of the stocks. Also, distant water fishing fleets would step up the mechanical harvesting of krill in the southern oceans for animal protein concentrate which could lead to a shortage of food for the increasing whale population. The mechanical harvesting of krill is engaged in by Russia on a large scale in the northern oceans of the world. This is one of the very live eventualities that could happen in the future. I believe that the only possible way to control whaling is to support fully the continuing existence of the International Whaling Commission, to support our own whaling industry and to ensure that active whaling countries do not withdraw from membership of the International Whaling Commission. There will be no control over whaling operations in the world without participation in and continuation of the International Whaling Commission. Without this there will be no true conservation, or conservation of any kind, of our whaling stocks.

I am pleased that I have had this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the Australian whaling industry and the International Whaling Commission. I would be very concerned to think that this legislation could be used by a Minister of any political persuasion in a manner hostile to the whaling industry. That is why I support the proposed amendment fully. I believe that it is designed, and I hope the Government accepts that it is designed, to eliminate any doubt from the legislation as it is presented to us, and that it will help to safeguard the species of fauna and flora of the world that have been agreed upon in the Convention. Who would not support this legislation? I believe that all of us are conservationists at heart. I would be quite prepared to make any sacrifice to ensure that the fauna and flora throughout the world are maintained for future generations and throughout the ages. I am prepared to second the foreshadowed amendment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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