The Australian Government must have a plan in place to ensure the safety of all ships in our waters as the Sea Shepherd fleet prepares to leave Australian ports to defend hundreds of whales from Japanese whaling ships, Greens Leader Bob Brown said today, alongside Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson.
"We know the Japanese Government is sending a patrol boat from its Fisheries Agency to ‘strengthen the protection' of its whaling ships as they illegally hunt whales in Australia's territorial waters," Senator Brown said in Hobart.
"I have serious concerns that the presence of the patrol boat may escalate tensions when Sea Shepherd tries to protect the whales the Japanese ships are slaughtering."
"What we don't know is what the patrol boat has been tasked to do and what equipment it carries on board. I put questions about this to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, on 13 October but I am yet to receive a response, despite the 30 day time limit for answers [see questions below]."
"I have also written to the Foreign Minister to express my concerns and request an Australian naval presence to ensure the safety of all vessels.
"As Tasmanians flock to the Hobart waterfront to farewell the flotilla to celebrate 100 years of the Mawson expedition to Antarctica, so too will they want to see off the Bob Barker as it heads into its risky mission to save whales in Antarctic waters," Senator Brown said.
Question on Notice 1277, 13 October 2011
Senator Bob Brown: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs-In regard to the Japanese Government's recent announcement that it will send whaling ships to the Southern Ocean again in 2011 with a ‘patrol boat' from the Fisheries Agency to strengthen protection:
(1) Can a copy be provided of the Australian Embassy's translation of the comments from the Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries about Japan's intention to send whaling ships and a patrol boat to the Southern Ocean in 2011?
(2) Does the Australian Government know what sort of military capabilities the Japanese patrol boat has?
(3) If it is a Hayabusa class patrol boat, is it true that such a vessel has three gun housings and surface-to-surface missiles?
(4) If it is a long-range Shikishima class patrol boat: (a) is it true that it has a helicopter pad; and (b) does this sort of vessel have military capabilities; if so, can details be provided?
(5) Has the Australian Government sought clarification on what Japan's Minister meant when he said the patrol boat was being sent to ‘strengthen the protection given to the research whaling ships'?
(6) Has the Australian Government taken legal advice on its duty of care to activists protecting whales in Australia's territorial waters and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary; if so, did the legal advice detail any duty on Australia's behalf to send its own patrol boat to ensure the Japanese vessel does not endanger peaceful protests in its territorial waters?
(7) Has the Australian Government had discussions with the New Zealand Government following Japan's announcement that it will strengthen the protection of its fleet and the public comments made by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs about the danger this could pose; if so, who was involved and when did they occur?