Every year, as images of the Japanese whaling fleet in the southern oceans doing battle with the Sea Shepherd fill the TV screen, I find myself feeling more and more helpless and frustrated. I have tried to support the anti-whaling movement by writing letters and by making donations, but every year the ships come back under the guise of ‘Scientific Research.’ This year I decided to write to my local member to express my concerns.
Mr. Graham Perrett is the Federal Member for Moreton, the area I belong to. I went to see him at the start of the year to express my concerns over the situation with Asylum Seekers and I found he was prepared to see me and hear me out. While I know what he can do is limited given he belongs to the Labor Party and our current government is Liberal, I have more faith in the Labor Party taking social concerns seriously than I do in the Liberal Party. My hope is that in raising my concerns, I can influence the agenda of the Labor Party, when they return to office. In reading Mr. Perrett’s opening speech to Parliament, accepting his election, I was encouraged to find a concern for social justice. To that end, I wrote to him concerning this issue of Japanese Whaling. What follows is his reply:
Thank you for writing to me to raise the issue of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean – I appreciate your feedback.
In 2010 the Labor Government of Australia brought legal action against Japan over its ongoing whaling program in the Southern Ocean. In March this year, after a long legal battle, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a historic and resounding decision in favour of Australia. The ICJ upheld our arguments that Japan’s whaling program in the Southern Ocean was in breach of Japan’s international legal obligations and must be brought to an end. In 1986 a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling was negotiated and agreed under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
Although Japan agreed to be bound by the moratorium, it then continued to hunt whales in the Antarctic, claiming that it was doing so under a legal exception to the moratorium that permits whaling for “scientific purposes”.
Australia has never accepted that Japan’s whaling program was for scientific purposes. We have maintained in the decades since the moratorium came into effect that Japan has in fact been continuing its commercial whaling program, cloaked in the lab-coat of science. This has not only resulted in the ongoing slaughter of thousands of whales by Japan, but it has made a mockery of international law.
Australians from all sides of politics should be proud of the principled position our nation has taken against commercial whaling, a position we have fought for since the time of Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke. And Australians from all sides of politics should be proud that with this legal victory in the ICJ we have brought an end to Japan’s whaling program – a program that has killed over 10,000 whales under the guise of scientific research. Australians believe strongly in the rule of law, and in this case we argued for the rule of law to be upheld on the international stage. Japan has indicated that it will abide by the Court’s binding judgment.
I agree with you that any attempt by Japan to recommence whaling in the Southern Ocean in breach of the ICJ’s ruling should be strongly resisted by the Australian Government. Unfortunately, the Abbott Government has to date demonstrated little interest in protecting the environment, either here in Australia or in places beyond our borders, such as the Southern Ocean. The Prime Minister passed up the opportunity to unequivocally reinforce Australia’s opposition to whaling when he met with Prime Minister Abe of Japan earlier this year. However, you can be assured that I and the Labor Party will be doing all that we can to hold the government to the commitment it gave the Australian people to side with Labor in opposing Japanese whaling. The Labor Party and I will do all that we can to ensure that Australia stands firm in upholding the judgement of the ICJ that brought Japan’s whaling program to an end.
Graham Perrett MP
Federal Member for Moreton