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Government initiates legal action against Japanese whaling

Joint media release: Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peter Garrett MP, Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, Robert McClelland MP, Attorney-General

28 May 2010

Australia will initiate legal action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Japanese 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The decision underlines the Government's commitment to bring to an end Japan's program of so-called 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean. It also demonstrates our commitment to do what it takes to end whaling globally.

The Australian Government has not taken this decision lightly. We have been patient and committed in our efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to this issue. We have engaged in intensive discussions in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and bilaterally with Japan.

We have enjoyed the support of many other IWC members who share Australia's concerns and goals. We commend countries of the European Union, the Buenos Aires group of Latin American countries, and others who have joined with Australia in highlighting, in particular, the necessity for phasing out whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

But to date, the response of the whaling countries has not been positive. Recent statements by whaling countries in the Commission have provided Australia with little cause for hope that our serious commitment to conservation of the world's whales will be reflected in any potential IWC compromise agreement.

The Government has always been firm in our resolve that if we could not find a diplomatic resolution to our differences over this issue, we would pursue legal action. The Government's action fulfils that commitment.

Australia will remain closely engaged in the IWC process and will continue to work hard in the lead up to and at the IWC meeting in June to pursue our objectives While an outcome at that meeting which meets Australia's fundamental conservation objectives is slim, the Government will continue to engage constructively in the diplomatic effort.

Australia and Japan share a comprehensive strategic, security and economic partnership. We share a substantial commercial relationship built over many decades, growing strategic and security linkages, and work together closely in key international forums such as the G20, the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and APEC.

The Government's action today reflects a disagreement in one element of a relationship that is deep, broad and multi-dimensional.

Both Australia and Japan have agreed that, whatever our differences on whaling, this issue should not be allowed to jeopardise the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship.

At the same time, the Australian Government will keep working tirelessly to achieve an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean, and we will use all legal and diplomatic avenues to achieve our goal.

A formal application will be lodged in The Hague early next week.

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