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Thursday, 26 May 2005
Page: 104

Mrs ELLIOT (4:39 PM) —I rise today to raise my community’s objections to the slaughter of whales in Australian waters. This is a major issue within my community. Many people have approached me about this over the last weeks and months. On Monday I launched a petition demanding that whaling activity be stopped within Australian territorial waters; that immediate steps be taken to prosecute boats detected slaughtering whales within Australian territorial waters; that the foreign minister apply diplomatic pressure to Japan to stop it from expanding its whale killing activity; that the Howard government immediately convey Australia’s opposition to the expansion of whale killing to all members of the International Whaling Commission; and that the Howard government reaffirm its commitment to establishing a South Pacific whale sanctuary.

I am happy to say that, since launching the petition, it has received overwhelming community support. Right across the community there are so many people who are very passionately concerned about this. The people of my electorate want the Prime Minister to know that whaling is unacceptable in Australian waters. As a nation, we cannot stand by and allow these precious and defenceless animals to be slaughtered. I launched this petition to give my community the opportunity to let the government know that whaling in Australian waters is just not on.

The Prime Minister says that he is concerned. If he is genuinely concerned about Japanese whaling, it is time he steps up to the plate. The community is demanding decisive action from the government on this issue. The community want to see results now. The government should be standing up for Australian interests, not pandering to the Japanese. I do not believe that the Prime Minister is doing everything in his power to stop the slaughter of whales in Australian waters. The government sits on the sidelines of the International Whaling Commission while Japan actively encourages more pro-whaling nations to join. Let us make this very clear: the government’s negligence in its role on the IWC has in fact allowed Japan to be in a position to potentially increase its commercial whaling quota.

By not taking firm and concrete action against Japanese whaling, the government has not only put rare and precious whales at risk; it is also risking the livelihoods of ecotourism operators in my electorate—operators such as Romano Del Bianco, who runs Tweed Spirit of the Bay whale watching tours. In Tweed alone, 13,000 people went on whale watching tours last year, a 12 per cent increase. That is a huge amount of people in this area. There is a similar situation in the southern section of my electorate, in Byron Bay. Grant Hawkins from Tourism Byron tells me:

Eco-tourism like whale watching is a growing and very important part of Byron’s future.

I hear stories like this from tourism operators throughout my electorate, from Tweed down to Byron Bay. There are so many people involved in this industry who have such a deep concern for these very defenceless animals.

It has taken 40 years for the whale population to recover. If Japan is successful, the population may be set back to a point from which it may never recover. If there are no whales to see, the government can kiss goodbye this growing $300 million industry and the jobs it provides. That will be the harsh reality if the Japanese are allowed to increase this whaling. It is my job as their representative in this place to stand up for the future of this vitally important local industry. More whales are migrating through Australian waters than we have seen in decades. The government is being both environmentally and economically irresponsible to put these whales at risk. The Prime Minister must stand up for Australia’s interests and put an immediate stop to the slaughter of whales in our waters. That is why I launched this petition and that is why my community has responded to it overwhelmingly. It is such an important issue.