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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 64

Senator SIEWERT (3:33 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Special Minister of State (Senator Faulkner) to a question without notice asked by Senator Siewert today relating to Greenpeace activists imprisoned in Japan.

I rise to take note of the answer of Senator Faulkner, representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to my question about the Tokyo Two, the two Japanese activists that were arrested earlier this year for their antiwhaling activities. On 15 May, as Senator Faulkner pointed out, Greenpeace undercover investigators and the testimony of informers resulted in the exposure of the fact that large amounts of whale meat were being smuggled off the Nisshin Maru to the private homes of crew members of the whaling boats. The Tokyo Two intercepted one of these boxes which contained whale meat that was estimated to have a value of about $4,400. The two of them took it to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor in an effort to expose this scandal.

Since then, these two people, who are the ones that were trying to expose the scandal, have been prosecuted. They were put into jail for 26 days. As the minister said, they had been released on bail but they are now subject to house arrest. They have had their liberty denied for 145 days. I add that they did nothing wrong. They are the ones that were exposing this whale meat embezzlement scandal. Here we have two people who were trying to do the right thing and expose an illegality. They are the ones who are now facing prosecution. I am given to understand that the Japanese prosecutor has, in fact, stopped all investigations into the whale meat scandal. Here we have two people that have been arrested for trying to expose this, and the actual scandal itself is being covered up.

You have to think that there is a political motivation in the arrest and continued detention of these two protesters. We strongly believe that this is an attempt to cover up and quieten down the opposition to the whale hunt. However, this has not happened—in the last couple of months, over a quarter of a million people have called upon Japan’s Prime Minister to drop the charges and release the activists. In the past week, the Japanese government has received criticism from the United Nations Human Rights Committee for what they believe are unreasonable restrictions placed on freedom of expression and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs.

I very strongly agree with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. I think that this is an attempt to unreasonably restrict these peoples’ right to freedom of expression in drawing attention to these issues. I strongly believe that the federal government should be taking up this issue with the Japanese government on Australia’s behalf, because both we and Japan are co-signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We believe that this is an issue that should be taken up with the Japanese government.

The other issue that needs to be taken up is the actual scandal itself. We believe that the Australian government should call for a full investigation of the whale meat scandal by the International Whaling Commission. We believe there is a very high probability that this in fact constitutes a breach of the so-called research provisions of the convention. I would be quite surprised if the government has not taken it up with the IWC. There has been an IWC meeting since these two activists were arrested. We believe it breaches the Joint Aquatic Resources Permits Applications—that is, JARPA I and, in fact, JARPA II. I am extremely concerned if the federal government has not already taken it up with the IWC and asked for an investigation. If the government has not, the Greens are calling on the federal government to take it up with the IWC and require an investigation of this whale meat scandal—because it is a scandal.

It is also a scandal that these two activists have had their liberty denied for 145 days for trying to expose this. The very people who were exposing this scandal are ones who are now being prosecuted—not, in fact, the people who were perpetrating the scandal in the first place. I might add, that it is the work of Greenpeace that has exposed this. And, now, two hardworking campaigners are, as I said, having their liberty denied because they had the guts to stand up. They were the ones who were trying to get the evidence to take to the public prosecutor and then it turned around onto them and they are the ones who are being charged. How does that make sense? Again, as per usual on whaling issues, it is the community that is having to stand up for whaling. Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd have been down in the southern oceans trying to stop whaling. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.