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Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

17 June 2006

Statement by Senator Ian Campbell to the 58th International Whaling Commission meeting

This is a statement by the Minister for the Environment, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell to the 58th International Whaling Commission meeting in St Kitts and Nevis on 17 June 2006.

Senator Campbell was responding to a proposal by Japan to 'normalise' the IWC .

Senator Campbell:

Australia will be a constructive part of any proposal to modernise the IWC. The IWC has from time to time been very good at modernising itself and if Japan is able to give Australia more information about the meeting in the 'Tiger Room' in the 19th June, then I can ensure Japan that Australia will be a constructive nation - a nation that does in fact uphold all of the Convention as was written back in 1946. But we do recognise that much has changed since then and the IWC has changed. The world has changed, the IWC has changed. The IWC has evolved. It has incorporated the concept of sanctuaries. It has of course, as Minister Carter has said, created an historic moratorium which is something that most of the world is very proud of. It has also done a lot of very good, very worthwhile internationally recognised conservation work. But the IWC, Mr Chairman, also in its early years from 1946 through to the 1950s and into the 1960s and even the 70s presided over what can only be described as one of the most greatest international environmental catastrophes of all time, and that was the reason the moratorium was in place. We saw some of the world's greatest creatures and greatest species nearly wiped out for all time. The blue whale for example has yet to recover from the devastation that the world wrought on that species back in the 50s and 60s.

What else has changed Mr Chairman is that the world has a very clear focus on the environment. It was only 34 years ago that all of the world's environment ministers got together and met at Stockholm under the auspices of the United Nations and one of the resolutions that the world's environment ministers passed at that conference was, and it wouldn't be a surprise looking back at what happened in the 40s, 50s and 60s to see what it was, that was in fact to bring an end to commercial whaling for all time. So when the first meeting of the world's environment ministers was convened, they chose to take that action. So that is something that has changed.

So when Japan talks about normalising this body by taking it back to where it was in 1946, it is in my view a strange concept. And I don't think the contradiction should hide itself from us. I think Minister Carter has once again drawn attention to it. You can't talk about taking us back to the very narrow reading of the international Convention that occurred in the 1940s and then say you want to go forward and use ecosystem management techniques.

When the quite clear occurrences that have occurred under the IWC as it is now see, and we see in Japan's paper if I can refer to that Mr Chairman. Japan says that 'as a matter of course, no commercial whaling will be allowed for depleted and endangered stocks.' And yet Japan came to this body last year and proposed to go and kill 50 endangered fin whales, recognised by the expert bodies in the world as an endangered creature, to go and kill 50 fin whales, this is per year, and to kill 50 humpback whales per year that are listed as vulnerable. So if you call that a modern ecosystem based approach to the conservation of whales, then you can see why Australia is somewhat confused as to Japan's motives.

Can I say Mr Chairman, in conclusion that we do not accept this is a failed organisation or to use my friend from Japan's language that the IWC, and I quote, "is on the verge of collapse". It is an organisation where there are strongly held views. The United Nations is such an organisation. There are many other organisations of nations where nations come along and hold strong and opposing views. Does it mean that we should collapse that organisation, or wreck it or seek to take it back to where it was in 1946? No, it means we have got to be mature about the fact that we do have strong views and that they can in fact be considered in a mature organisation. Mr Chairman, it is an insult to the countries of Marshall Islands, Cambodia, Guatemala and Israel to say this organisation is on the brink of collapse. Do these four proud nations come along to join an organisation on the brink of collapse? No of course they do not. Do they hold different views on this? Of course they do. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It is a good thing. We have to be robust about the future. But Australia has been in this organisation for the long haul, is in it for the long hail. If Japan wants to have a fair dinkum debate about the future of this organisation, we will be part of it. Thank you Mr Chairman.

Commonwealth of Australia