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Thursday, 30 June 1949


Mr FALKINDER (Franklin) . - This bill, according to its title, provides for the establishment of an Australian Whaling Commission, but, in fact, it provides for a committee composed of three members, of whom the chairman will be appointed for a period of five years on his first appointment and, thereafter, for a specified period, whilst the other two members will be appointed to hold office at the pleasure of the Governor-General. The functions of the commission are set out in clause 15 and its powers are set out in clause 16. Clause 15 reads -

Subject to this Act, the functions of the Commission shall be -

(a)   to engage in whaling in Australian waters ; and

(b)   as an aid to the economic and stable operation of its whaling activities in Australian waters, to employ, in whaling in the vicinity of any Australian waters, vessels not required for the time being for whaling in Australian waters.

On the 2nd December, 1 946, at Washington, a protocol was signed for the regulation of whaling for the 1947-48 season. The countries which subscribed to that protocol were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chili, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa. I shall review briefly the history of the legislation which has led to the introduction of this measure. In 1935, the Lyons Government introduced a measure which was assented to on the 9th December of that year. That measure gave legislative effect to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed at Geneva on the 24th September, 1931. On the 17th November, 1948, the present Government introduced a bill to amend the act passed in 1935 in order to conform to the decisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed at Washington. The main amendments of that measure dealt with definitions of whales for various purposes. On the 20th May last the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) introduced a hill to provide for the establishment of the industry. That measure provided for the appointment of a commission to carry on whaling activities. It is proposed that the commission shall consist of three members who shall be empowered to carry out whaling operations in Australian waters and, where necessary, to employ vessels not required for the time being for whaling in Australian waters in whaling in the vicinity of Australian waters. The Government proposes to erect and operate a shore station which it hopes will be in operation by June, 1950. It does not intend to consider whaling in Antarctic waters until a later date by which time it will have had an opportunity to conduct inquiries overseas. The last serious attempts to establish the industry in Australia were made in the 1936 and 1937 seasons when two factory ships operating off the Western Australian coast captured over 6,000 whales. In 1942, when there was a lack of whale oil in Australia, the Government directed the Department of Munitions to examine the possibility of establishing a small 3hore station at Twofold Bay, New South Wales. Departmental officers, in collaboration with State officials, representatives of the firm of Nicholas Proprietary Limited, and the Pera no brothers, directors of a whaling organization in Cook Strait, New Zealand, prepared plans for a station near Eden. Preparations were well advanced. At that stage an overseas offer was made to supply the oil and the Government accepted it and the Eden project was abandoned. However, after the failure of the Eden project, a syndicate of Australian business men approached the Department of War Organization of Industry with a proposal involving the expenditure of approximately £1,000,000 to acquire a floating factory and all necessary equipment for the capture of whales and the processing and marketing of whale oil and by-products. The Government did nothing in the matter and the syndicate, finding that its plans had been frustrated, lost interest in the project. In 1946, following international conferences at which Australia was represented, the Government announced that it intended to establish the whaling industry. According to report, pressure that was exerted by the trade unions forced the Government to cancel an order that had been placed in 1946 with a British ship-building firm for a 20,000-ton pelagic whaling factory ship. The unions concerned considered that the ship should be constructed in Australia, although the cost would be £1,000,000 in excess of the cost of building the vessel in Great Britain. On the 9th June, 1947, Cabinet approved proposals for participation by the Commonwealth in the whaling industry, and decided to complete negotiations for the employment of an expert. Captain Melsom, a Norwegian, was engaged, and after eighteen months he advised the Government that he was convinced that the industry had a bright future. He envisaged a factory ship, with chaser vessels to operate at various locations off the Australian coast, and occasionally in the Antarctic. Shorebased stations, involving chaser vessels and processing factories on land, could operate either in addition to a factory ship or as a modified alternative. The Government decided to accept the second proposal, and has refused the offer of a mother ship from the United Kingdom because, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) stated on the 9th May last, the price of £2,000.000 was too high to pay for such a vessel at the present stage. In his second-reading speech, the Minister stated -

The Government has introduced the present bill because it feels that Australia should delay no longer in entering the whaling industry.

Earlier, he had said that with the prevailing high prices of whale products, the cost of the enterprise should be recouped within a short period. I hope that when the enterprise is established, according to plan by June, 1950, it will not be shown that the Government has dilly-dallied too long.

Having successfully discouraged an early attempt by private enterprise to enter the whaling industry and having also made known over a period of years its plans to engage in the industry, the Government, as it has done in respect of many other industries, claims that it has no intention of establishing a government monopoly in the whaling industry. As the Minister has power to issue licences for vessels to engage in the whaling industry, it is open to grave doubt whether a government that has shown itself so addicted to socialist restrictions and monopolistic practices as the present Government has done, will allow this opportunity to continue to do so to pass. The Government may deny this contention, as it was announced last February that a licence would be granted to Messrs. Moore and Sons, a Western Australian firm, to begin whaling in Australian waters from a shore base at Point Cloates. But the issue of one licence at the present stage of the development of the industry is scarcely to be accepted as evidence of the Government's willingness to provide opportunities for private enterprise generally to engage in it.

With the establishment of the whaling industry the Government will have an opportunity to evolve some form of incentive payment for the employees. The work will be arduous and of an uncertain nature, and, therefore, the adoption of a system of special awards i9 warranted. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) wrote in the foreword of a. publication that was recently released by his department -

Wage incentive systems have a place in Australian industry provided the interests nf the worker and the objectives of the trade union movement are safeguarded.

The International Whaling Agreement contains certain wise provisions for the protection of particular species of whales. The agreement defines the seasons when whaling 'operations may be undertaken, the waters in which whaling may take place, the size of whales that may be caught, and, generally, the methods, gear and apparatus that may be used. Honorable members may be interested to hear a brief account of the history of the Australian whaling industry. In the early days, Australia was the principal whaling country in the world and it is regrettable that we have ignored the industry during the last 50 years. Other countries have not neglected it. For example, in 1936-37, Norwegian-manned American vessels caught 6,000 whales off the Australian coast. The first whaling operations in Australian waters were conducted in 1804, but what I may describe as the golden era of whaling occurred between the years 1830 and 1860. During that period America alone had 7,000 vessels in Australian and Antarctic waters. That figure is a true indication of the great extent of whaling operations in those days. Bay whaling was the fundamental basis of all operations, and Tasmania was the busiest centre. In 1S.41 there were 35 bay whaling stations in that State. Twofold Bay, in New South Wales, was also a famous centre. Tt is interesting to recall that, at Twofold Bay on one occasion, 21 boats belonging to various companies chased one whale.


Mr Hughes - When was that?


Mr FALKINDER - In 1840. Eventually, the industry changed over from bay whaling to Antarctic whaling. That began the revival of the industry which, at the turn of the century, was declining. With the advent of Captain Larssen, a famous Norwegian, real efforts were made to exploit the va?t riches of the Antarctic. The development of a harpoon gun and the construction of larger ships enabled those persons who were engaged in the industry to hunt whales in the Antarctic. Thenceforth, whaling was conducted in the Antarctic in a substantial way. The natural result of so much indiscriminate slaughter in bay whaling and Antarctic whaling necessitated the formulation of regulations in order to prevent the whale from becoming extinct! The first action was taken in 1927. when the League of Nations appointed a committee of experts to collect statistics relating to and to investigate the problems of the industry. In 1930 a whaling convention was promulgated. Since then, an endeavour has been made to control the industry, and at present, a wise measure of control- has been instituted.


Mr Hughes - By whom?


Mr FALKINDER - By the Interna^tional Whaling Convention. I turn now to the more modern features of the industry. One of the very real problems for Australia is the part that the Japanese are to be allowed to play in whaling. As honorable members are aware, General MacArthur gave permission for the Japanese to conduct whaling operations in the 1946-47 season. This Government sent Mr. Coonan as an observer with the Japanese fleet, and he submitted a. lengthy report about his experiences to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Mr. Coonan's report is not entirely satisfactory to the Japanese. He indicated that the Japanese had committed breaches of international conventions, that he himself was not treated particularly well by the leaders of the expedition, that he considered that the expedition was financed with American capital, and that he was blocked on many occasions from obtaining information that he should rightly have had access to. I believe that we have to take a firmer stand than we have taken on the question of the Japanese re-entering the whaling industry. It is true that this Government and the Governments of Western Australia and Tasmania have protested against Japan's resumption of whaling; but, unless we take a firmer stand, Japan will encroach to a very great degree upon our natural rights.

I turn to a consideration of the future of whaling. Ninety per cent, of the world's whales are in the Antarctic. The biggest catch was 46,000 whales in 1938. From 1933 to . 1939, 250,000 whales were caught. In 1948, sixteen whaling fleets wore operating. They were owned by Norway, Great Britain, Holland, Russia, Japan and South Africa. We have an advantage over other countries in that we are close to the Antarctic. That makes for cheaper freight and many other incidental costs. It is intended to set up a shore station in Western Australia, where we hope to make ourselves, in the fairly near future, self-supporting in whale oil. Professor Dakin, Professor of Zoology at the Sydney University, sa id -

One becomes more optimistic when one considers Tasmania as a base for Antarctic whaling.

The Eastern World of August, 1947, contained an interesting article from which the following passage is an extract : -

The whaling grounds lie close to Australia's southern ports. And Australia has a greater stake in Antarctica than any other country. More than a third of the Antarctic Continent - an area of 2,472,000 square miles - is Australian territory. Australiahas done much exploration and research there and is now preparing another Antarctic expedition for 1947- 1948, to open the way for a larger one in 1948-1949.

The natural base for Australian whaling in the Antarctic is Hobart, Tasmania. Thiscity, with its magnificent harbour, lies in 43 degrees south. It was Hobart that the Norwegian whaling pioneer, Captain Carl Anton Larson, used as his jumping-off place in November, 1923, when he sailed to open up the great whaling grounds of the Ross Sea.

At Hobart, Larsen shippeda number of young Tasmanian seamen. With them went Alan Villiers, Victorian by birth and Tasma nian by adopt ion, who wrote the story of the venture in his Whaling in the Frozen South.

Hobart has a long record as a whaling port of the old harpooning days. A century ago it was the greatest whaling port in the British Em pi re, and took second place, in those days, only to the great whaling ports of the United States. As farback as 1832, a whaling vessel from Hobart, the Venus, is reported as going as far south as 72 degrees in the Ross Sea.

Pending a decision on her claim to a whaling fleet as reparations from Japan, the Commonwealth and States in Australia are planning to revive, with modern methods, the shore-based whaling (bay whaling) which longflourished in Australia. Small vessels winking from such bases as Twofold Bay in New South Wales and Albany or Point Cloates in Western Australia, wouldcapture the whales which migrate up and down the eastern and western coasts of Australia. These whales wouldbe brought into the base for treatment.

The yields and the profits from such stations, dealing mainly with black and humpbacked whales, wouldbe small compared to those securedby float ing factories and chasers working in the Antarctic Seas.

It is worth while noting some of the uses to which the by-products of the whaling industry can be put. An astonishing range of articles can be made from the carcasses of whales. The range includes lubricants, paints, candles, cosmetics, soap, glycerine, chemicals for explosives, tempering ofgun barrels, fertilizer, and brushes. Whale meat canbe eaten. One of the mostimportant medical products derived from whales is, of course, insulin, which is so effective in combating diabetes. Before the war, the average price of whale oil was £15 a ton, but, to-day, the top world price is £137 a ton. So, within the next few years, Australia can expect to reap a great harvest from whaling.

One contentious point of the bill is the provision relating to the control of whaling licences. As I have already indicated, the Government has discouraged one enterprising private company from embarking on whaling. Its proposal was rejected during the war by the Department of War Organization of Industry. I should like to receive from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the assurance that, at all times, it will be open for private enterprise, if it can show that it is capable of doing the job, to obtain licences to conduct whaling operations. The Government is to be castigated for having so long delayed entering the whaling industry. I concede that this Government is not entirely responsible, but Australia has unfortunately allowed Japan to get into the whaling industry far ahead of it. My concluding note is that we have an unanswerable case for the re-establishment of whaling with Tasmania as the centre of operations.







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