2GB Breakfast with Chris Smith

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: the Japanese Government’s decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission.

CHRIS SMITH: This decision by the Japanese Government to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission really is an insult to the plight of marine conservation. By withdrawing from the IWC, Japan will be free to resurrect its commercial whaling program from July next year. And put simply, it intends to harpoon as many whales as it can within its exclusive economic zone free from the Commission's watchful eye. Of course if you ask Japan, you know what we get, they'll say they stopped all commercial whaling in the 1980s. We know that to be absolute rubbish. They'll tell you their hunting of whales around the world has been exclusively for scientific purposes. Well, I wouldn't believe a single thing the Japanese Government told me in reference to whaling.

On the positive side, Japan's withdrawal from the Commission will mean they will no longer be able to carry out so-called scientific whaling around the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean. And they've been lying about their blood-lust for whale meat for decades and now they're tired of lying so they're just going to hunt these whales in broad daylight in their neck of the woods instead.

Which brings me to Australia's role in all of this. We've got some history here; we took Japan to the International Court of Justice as a way of holding them accountable for their cruelty. In 2014 the Court ruled Japan's whaling program was not in fact for scientific purposes, and recommended all permits be revoked. But that didn't stop them for long. According to the World Wildlife Fund, Japanese whalers have killed more than 50 whales around the Antarctic this year alone. They don't care about the IWC, they don't care about the Court of Justice, they don't care about you, they don't care about us, they don't care about the whales. In a statement, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Melissa Price said they were extremely disappointed by Japan's decision to start whaling again. I wanted to speak this morning with the Foreign Minister, Marise Payne. And she joins me on the line.

Minister, thank you very much for your time and I guess after the event has taken place, merry Christmas.

MARISE PAYNE: [Laughs] Indeed, merry Christmas and a prospective happy New Year, Chris.

CHRIS SMITH: Yes, same to you. You say you're extremely disappointed - I saw that on the statement in reference to the decision from Japan - what can we do about it, though?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, we can continue to work within the Commission ourselves and under the guidelines of the International Convention to encourage Japan to come back to the table and to cooperate with the Commission. But that said, we are - as you say - very disappointed that they've indicated their decision to withdraw. We have remained resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called scientific whaling, for many years now. And we will continue to absolutely support the Commission's global moratorium. In fact in the last meeting recently in South America, that was reaffirmed and Australia was a strong proponent in that discussion.

CHRIS SMITH: But don't we have to get the likes of the US and Europe on side, given the fact that they are the major trading partners of Japan and our voice seems to kind of echo in the wilderness, doesn't it?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, certainly we need to make sure that there's an international approach to this. And that's why the Commission is such an important body. And the other members of the Commission, I think, are similarly concerned from my reading of Japan's actions. And so, we will continue to work in that context with our international partners. We are…

CHRIS SMITH: [Interrupts] Can we not go to the International Court of Justice again?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, as you said, we did go in 2010. And we will contemplate what options are available to us because the scientific scrutiny - so-called - of Japan's whaling programs was the basis for that in 2010.

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah. So, can we do that again?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, we'll have a look at those options and examine what [indistinct]…

CHRIS SMITH: [Talks over] What about trade and political pressure?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, the value of our very strong relationship with Japan - and they are a special strategic partner - is that we do have opportunities to constantly remind the Japanese government and the community of how important the international community sees these issues and how importantly they regard cessation of whaling no matter where it occurs.

CHRIS SMITH: So, we don't want to upset them too much, though?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, we want to be very clear about our position and it's not a question of how much we do or don't upset them, we're very clear about our position on this issue and our complete opposition to commercial and so-called scientific whaling.

CHRIS SMITH: But we sanction countries all the time for practices that are regarded as barbaric, why can't we do the same with Japan?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, we have raised it regularly with Japan, Chris. We have spoken with them most recently - Prime Minister Morrison to Prime Minister Abe - in Darwin. And we have worked very closely with other ministers who are represented around the table at the International Whaling Commission. This announcement was made yesterday - as you know - and we will look very closely at what options are available to us within the international mechanisms to address this with Japan. It is very, very disappointing.

CHRIS SMITH: Have you been in touch with the Prime Minister at all on this issue, and has he got a view?

MARISE PAYNE: He and I have spoken on this issue very recently and he is equally concerned, Chris…

CHRIS SMITH: [Talks over]Because earlier this year…

MARISE PAYNE: …that's why he raised it with Prime Minister Abe.

CHRIS SMITH: He has spoken to the Prime Minister already on it?

MARISE PAYNE: No previously…

CHRIS SMITH: [Talks over] Previously.

MARISE PAYNE: …when it was flagged.

CHRIS SMITH: Because earlier this year Japan killed 333 whales during its annual so-called research hunt in the Southern Ocean - which is just a crock - 120 of those whales were pregnant. They won't let up, they don't care about the Commission, do they?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, they seem to have decided that the Commission does not represent a body of interest for them. But the bottom line of the Commission is it has a great deal of work to do in terms of managing the growing range of threats which exist to whales globally which are not acknowledge, perhaps, in these statements made by Japan but are certainly acknowledged by Australia and other members of the Commission. They are killed by what is called bycatch, that is opportunistic catching and other fishing by fish strikes, by entanglement, by noise and of course by whaling itself. So, the management of whale populations and the conservation of whale populations occurs at a whole range of levels which are things that we very focused on. And whaling - whaling, which is completely avoidable - is one of the most important ones that we need to address. And that's why we have consistently raised our concerns with Japan and why we have been so strong in the international commission.

CHRIS SMITH: Tell me about their withdrawal from the Antarctic. What's the strategy there and why would it mean that if they pulled out of the Commission they couldn't conduct whaling in the Antarctic? Explain that for us.

MARISE PAYNE: Well, they have- they've indicated that the work that they had done in the Antarctic under the [indistinct] of scientific whaling is something which they will bring to an end. Now that is a positive from our perspective in terms of the fact that the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and our own Australian Whale Sanctuary will end up being true sanctuaries for whales. Because we have said for years in the International Whaling Commission - as you referred to earlier - we have increased the scrutiny of those whaling programs and finally it would appear that by withdrawing to their own areas they have taken notice of that increased scrutiny.

CHRIS SMITH: So, I guess it's a consolation that they do that. But at the end of the day, the Japanese whale because there's a huge demand for whale meat and it's the dollar, isn't it, that really is motivating their concern and their, I guess, total infatuation with whaling?

MARISE PAYNE: I understand from some reports that there is diminishing demand for whale meat in Japan. And certainly the tradition has declined in recent years. And that point has been made in their discussions. We are- we will work with our international partners to continue to remind them that they are one of the very few countries in the world that continues to engage in this practice, and the international community - very, very broadly, almost comprehensively - regards it as completely untenable.

CHRIS SMITH: Just one quick thing before we let you go. We're told today that Chinese telecommunication company Huawei is so critical to Australian mobile networks and infrastructure that it could cripple - or has the potential - to cripple our country in the event of a conflict. Should we be concerned over this?

MARISE PAYNE: Well, we made our decisions in relation to 5G entirely based on national security. And I think that was explained at the time by myself in my previous capacity and also the Prime Minister and the Treasurer who made that announcement. And we will always be focused on national security and protecting Australia's interests. If there are implications in relation to those engagements, then the Commonwealth government will work with businesses in Australia to minimise those vulnerabilities. We've done it before, we've done it in relation to infrastructure around the country prior to this. And we will continue to do that.

CHRIS SMITH: Suffice to say that we've got our eyes on them.

MARISE PAYNE: Absolutely.

CHRIS SMITH: Okay. I appreciate your time. All the very best for 2019. And thank you.

MARISE PAYNE: Thanks, Chris. The same to you.

CHRIS SMITH: No problem. Federal- or Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the decision by the Japanese. I just wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them in reference to whaling.


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