The Senate has referred the Australian Greens' Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Support for Whaling) Bill 2010 to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry and report, which would make it a crime to provide support to whaling operations.
The Committee will now examine the Bill, which was introduced by the Greens in response to the use of air services based in Australia to assist whalers in their annual slaughter last summer.
We were disturbed to learn that assistance was provided allowing the whalers to track the main protest vessel of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and hinder their work. There is no doubt that this made it easier for whales to be killed.
Each summer, Australians are appalled by the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean. This Bill is designed to stop support from Australia facilitating the killing of these magnificent animals.
It is currently an offence to kill whales but not an offence to provide services, support, or resources that assist in the killing of whales. We regard this as a serious omission, which our Bill seeks to rectify through an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The amendment makes it illegal to provide any assistance to a whaling venture, including surveillance information, communication, financial and material support.
It important to not that the amendments will not make it unlawful to provide assistance to vessels in an emergency or where human life is at risk.
Currently the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provides for a series of offences related to whaling.
Division 3 of Part 13 creates the offences of:
• killing or injuring a cetacean,
• intentionally taking, trading, keeping, moving or interfering with a cetacean, and
• treating or possessing a cetacean that has been killed contrary to the Act or unlawfully imported.
The above offences are punishable by 2 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $110 000.
The Bill creates a new offence of providing any service, support or resources to an organisation engaged in whaling.
Whaling is subsequently defined broadly to mean any activity undertaken as part of a venture, the intention of which is to kill, injure, take, trade, or treat whales for commercial purposes or other purposes.
The definition includes the intention to contravene the offences already in the EPBC Act mentioned above and any activity undertaken by or on board a foreign whaling vessel.
The penalty for the new offence is consistent with the other penalties in the Division, that is, 2 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of $110 000.
I look forward to the committee examining this bill to ensure that the provisions will accomplish the aim, that is preventing assistance to whaling activity with the ultimate objective of stopping whaling in our Oceans.