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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 66


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (15:30): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Payne) to a question without notice asked by Senator Whish-Wilson today relating to a meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

This was the second question the Greens have asked this week around the International Whaling Commission. It's no secret that the Japanese government for many years have been trying to overturn a moratorium on commercial whaling. It's no secret that they have been conducting so-called scientific research on whales as a disguise for commercial whaling. Everyone has seen this coming.

In Brazil right now, a number of meetings are occurring. Negotiations are occurring between many parties who have a choice to vote tomorrow on overturning a moratorium on commercial whaling. I'm pleased Senator Ruston has made a statement that Australians wouldn't tolerate a decision by our government to have any part at all in overturning the ban on commercial whaling—a ban, may I say, that was led by this country more than 30 years ago, by a previous Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser.

The movement to conserve whales, to protect whales and to bring many of them—such as the humpback whale—back from the brink of extinction is part of our national identity. We used to hunt whales like other countries, like Japan, do. We have a history of hundreds of years of killing whales. But we turned our back on that. We showed global leadership through the International Whaling Commission, as did many other countries with a history of whaling.

We are proud of that achievement, and it is part of our national identity. That achievement—the emotional attachment we have to, the value judgements we put on, conserving cetaceans in this country—is part of who we are as a country. Japan know that. Yet they insist on thumbing their nose at Australia and pushing ahead with this very aggressive, very bold stance, no longer even hiding behind the fig leaf of so-called scientific whaling. They want to see full commercial whaling resume. That's because they feel that stocks have recovered to a point where they can actually sustainably harvest whales. We know we don't need to sustainably harvest whales. We should actually leave them alone. They are a very important part of a healthy ecosystem.

The questions I asked today were very specific. Why did Senator Ruston not stay the whole week? I'll of course see her afterwards.

Senator Ruston: Sit down and I'll answer it.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Well, I wasn't happy with the answer. I would have thought that the negotiations going on right now were extremely important, given that the vote is going to be tomorrow. I would have thought it was extremely important to have at least one government representative from parliament sitting in those meetings, especially with our neighbours and our friends. I would have thought it was extremely important, considering Japan, as you know, Senator Ruston, had a delegation of nearly 70 people, including nine parliamentarians and two senior ministers. It's not your fault that you were sent over there, Senator Ruston. I'm glad you went over there. But I do believe this government sent a signal of weakness—that we would only send an assistant minister in the place of a foreign minister, an environment minister or a Prime Minister, which is what we've sent previously.

Senator Ruston: So you don't think I'm capable. It's so insulting.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: You shouldn't take this personally, Senator Ruston. It's not your fault. It is the government's fault that they have sent a message to Japan that we are not ridgy-didge about protecting our whales. I hope that it doesn't backfire.

My question was also very specific about why some countries in our region, such as Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands, have voted against the protection of whales in the Northern Hemisphere. They may well do so tomorrow. Is this a sign of our waning influence in the region, Senator Ruston? I certainly hope it isn't. I hope also it's not a sign of a lack of respect based on our lack of action on climate at the Pacific Islands Forum recently, which they made very, very clear they were very angry about.

My third question was also very important. If Japan, as they have threatened to do this week—and you're aware of this, too, Senator Ruston, through you, Chair—walk away from the International Whaling Commission if they don't get their way or they can't get a majority vote system in place, that means they walk away from the jurisdiction of an international rules based order around the protection of cetaceans. They have threatened to do this in the past. If they do that, if they go down that road, how will we respond? How will we respond as a country? What are our options? I put to the Senate that the most important thing we can do is let them know that if they do that we will not be buddying up to them on the Tran-Pacific Partnership Agreement, an agreement that Shinzo Abe, their Prime Minister, has led. We will walk away from the agreement: 'If you're prepared to do this by overturning a ban on commercial whaling, Australia will send the strongest possible message and walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.' It is easy to do. I will wait and see how we progress tomorrow.

Question agreed to.