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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 26035

Senator NETTLE (5:10 PM) —While we are talking at this stage about a number of environmental concerns, I want to raise some concerns with the minister and see whether he could address them. They come from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. It is a global organisation that just last week expressed concern at the inclusion of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the tariff schedule of the free trade agreement. According to its media release it is alerting the public to the inclusion of whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs in the tariff schedule. It says:

The US not only allows some trade in whales and dolphins at present, it also allows whales and dolphins to be imported for its commercial marine theme parks which hold marine mammals in captivity for entertainment. With 46 species of cetacean in Australian waters, and a trade agreement in place, Australia may become a logical source for such trade in the future.

Whilst domestic legislation in Australia currently prohibits trade in whales and dolphins for commercial purposes, permits for taking and trading on the grounds allowed, are left to the discretion of the Federal Environment Minister. WDCS expressed concern that the FTA may become a driver for this loophole to be significantly widened. Certainly the US itself has been pressured by the WTO in the past with respect of what marine mammal trade restrictions it does have.

Further, the US, traditionally a stridently anti-whaling, pro marine mammal conservation nation—did a breathtaking about-face at the International Whaling Commission meeting last month, by actively supporting the move for the resumption of commercial whaling.

According to the media release, Michelle Grady from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society says:

The move by the US to support commercial whaling at the IWC meeting this year, casts a dark cloud over its position on the protection of whales in all respects. The inclusion of cetaceans in the Tariff Schedule of the FTA must be reassessed in the light of this disturbing policy shift by the US in the last couple of weeks ...

She concludes:

If trade in cetaceans between the US and Australia is not intended, there should be no problem in taking whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs off the Tariff Schedule, in order to comprehensively rule out this risk ...

What does the minister have to say about the concerns of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in relation to the listing of whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs in the tariff schedule of the free trade agreement?