Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Liberals make excuses for violence at sea

Media release
07 December 2011

Tony Abbott should reprimand his Opposition Environment spokesperson Greg Hunt for absolving whalers and whaling protestors of their responsibility for safety in the Southern Ocean.

Mr Hunt said on 5aa this morning:

"I think that the level of conflict has escalated under the current Government rather than reduced. In part I think that's because there was this enormous promise of action and then effective paralysis and the result is that the protestors on the one hand have become more agitated, the whalers on the other hand, have become more aggressive in their response. And as a consequence, we have a real risk of a major incident at sea."

Mr Burke said Mr Hunt should be condemning any violence at sea - not seeking to absolve parties of any responsibility.

"Australia has fulfilled, and will continue to fulfill, all our international legal obligations arising from events in the Southern Ocean," Mr Burke said.

"I call on the Opposition to join the Government in urging safety at sea."

Mr Hunt also suggested Australia should throw out its court case in the International Court of Justice to stop Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean for good.

"In particular, I think the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea is a better avenue than the International Court of Justice, which the Government has taken." - Opposition Environment spokesperson Greg Hunt 5aa, Wednesday 7 December, 2011

Mr Burke said every action the Gillard Government was taking was about stopping whaling in the Southern Ocean for good.

"Australia has taken a tougher line than any other country in the world by taking action against Japan in the International Court of Justice," he said.

"This was recognised by many other nations at the International Whaling Commission.

"Throughout the entire period of the Howard Government the Liberal Party refused to take legal action against Japan.

"It's a bit embarrassing to now see the Liberal Party trying to be sideline commentators."

Mr Burke said the Gillard Government was opposed to all forms of commercial whaling including so-called scientific whaling.

"The Government considers that Japan's whaling is wrong, contrary to its international obligations and should stop," he said.

"That's why the Government last year initiated legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice to bring an end to Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean.

"The decision to take legal action demonstrates the Government's commitment to do what it takes to end whaling globally."