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Wednesday, 4 April 1979

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) (Prime Minister) -by leave-On 20 March 1978, I announced the establishment of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, to be headed by Sir Sydney Frost. The report of the Inquiry was tabled in Parliament on 20 February 1979. I wish to outline the background to the Inquiry's establishment and the Government's response to the report. There is a natural community concern about an activity which threatens the extinction of any species, particularly when it is directed against a species as special and intelligent as the whale and where there is a fear that the continued existence of these special forms of wildlife are threatened by continued exploitation.

The harpooning of these mammals is offensive to many people who regard killing them as inconsistent with the ideals of mankind and without serving any valid economic purpose in mitigation. On the other hand, the livelihood of a number of Australians depended on whaling. A whaling station operated from Albany in Western Australia for many years. It was of longstanding importance to that region. Australia's policy on whaling has been to maintain an active role on the International Whaling Commission to regulate strictly whaling activity within the rules of the Commission and to ensure the continuance of whales as a renewable marine resource.

Given these differences between the whaling industry and conservation considerations, and also the considerable debate as to what was happening to whale populations, the Government decided that the appropriate course was to commission an independent inquiry to examine every aspect of whaling. The Government has now completed consideration of the report and has accepted all the Inquiry's recommendations. The Government is to prohibit all whaling within the impending 200-mile Australian fishing zone, including any extension of the zone to include a fishing zone off the Australian Antarctic Territory.

The Government upholds the central conclusion of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, namely, that Australia should pursue a policy of opposition to whaling and that this policy should be pursued both domestically and internationally through the International Whaling Commission and other organisations. The Government will continue to be an active member of, and to support, the International Whaling Commission and to support efforts to revise the 1 946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In particular we will seek the extension of the Commission's charter to the conservation of all cetacea. Satisfactory substitutes are readily available for nearly all whale products. Therefore, the importation into Australia of all whale products and goods containing them are to be banned from 1 January 1981. Subject to normal budgetary considerations, government funding for research on whales will be continued at no less than present levels.

Arrangements will be initiated soon to implement the Government's decision on the report. The Whaling Act 1960, which is basically concerned with the regulation of whaling, is to be repealed and appropriate protective legislation to succeed the Whaling Act is to be developed for discussion with the States. A little later, the administration of this protective legislation is to become the responsibility of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster). The Government's decision represents a change in policy from one of conservative utilisation of whale stocks controlled by international agreement to one committed to a vigorous and active policy of protection of whales. This change in attitude has been influenced by community concern not only in Australia but throughout the world for the need to preserve these unique creatures.

I am sure that this change of policy will be favourably received by most Australians. The Government's deliberations have been immeasurably assisted by the hard work and dedication of many individuals and the conservation organisations, in particular Project Jonah. I would like to pay tribute to Sir Sydney Frost for the dedication and thoroughness with which he conducted the Inquiry. All who have read the report will agree that it is a well reasoned and comprehensive document. I present the following paper.

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