To hunt or not to hunt?

By MEL MARTIN

MEMBER for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker has defended the Federal Government's response to Japan's plan to add humpback and fin whales to its 'scientific research' hunts.

If approved at the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) June meeting in Korea, the proposal could see Japanese whaling ships hunting in Australian waters off Antarctica.

The Federal Government has come under fire over its response, with the Greens calling for trade talks with Japan to be suspended if their bid is successful, and Humane Society International saying the Government should create a diplomatic incident.

Australia has joined with Britain, America and New Zealand in lodging a representation to oppose the plan.

But Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out moves to forcibly prevent Japanese whaling ships from entering Antarctic waters saying it would be preferable to resolve the issue at a diplomatic level.

"There are some limits as to what we can do," he said, adding that Japan did not recognise Australia's authority in the Antarctic.

"I think everybody would agree that the first thing we should try and do is to bring about a change of attitude by Japan through diplomatic means."

Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker concurs, saying it's an appropriate strategy.

He said that whale watching was a significant industry for the Coffs Coast and that we had a responsibility to ensure whaling didn't recommence.

But he was unwilling to speculate as to what would happen to that industry, should the diplomatic channels fail and Japan won the right to hunt its main attraction.

"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it. Japan is mindful of international opinion, so let's wait and see what the outcome is first," Mr Hartsuyker said.

The number of countries at the IWC for and against whaling is very finely balanced and the small island nation of Kiribati, which joined the IWC in January this year, could tip the scales one way or the other.

While the government of Kiribati has indicated it is on the side of anti-whaling nations, Japan has been accused of buying votes from small nations in the past.

However, Australia gained another ally when the Czech Republic joined the IWC in February, bringing the total number of members to 59.

Labor's environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said that Australia should not only be putting pressure on Japan, but also on other IWC members.

"The Howard Government has sat on its hands over the past three years while Japan has increased its influence over IWC members," he said.

n You can add your voice to the fight against Japan's plan by writing to Hideaki Ueda, Japanese Ambassador to Australia, 112 Empire Circuit, Yarralumla ACT 2600, faxing 6273 1848, calling 6273 3244, or email cultural@ japan. org.au. Every voice counts.



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