A Greens senator has told a Japanese audience that whaling is the biggest barrier to a closer relationship between Australia and Japan.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson on Wednesday spoke at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan while on holiday in the country.
On his trip, he has so far met the country’s Environment Minister Tomokatsu Kitagawa and opposition MP Taro Yamamoto, who has taken an anti-whaling position.
In his speech, Senator Whish-Wilson said Japan’s persistence with commercial whaling was impacting upon the country’s reputation.
“Given international opposition to continuing whaling, Australians genuinely don’t understand what drives Japan’s determination to pursue this practice,” he said.
“Japan’s continued insistence on carrying out whaling, particularly Southern Ocean whaling, is the single biggest barrier to Japan having closer ties to Australia, and particularly to the Australian people.
“It still seems incongruous to many Australians that Japan has, for all intents and purposes, thumbed its nose at the 2014 International Court of Justice ruling against Japanese whaling by questioning (its) jurisdiction and competence on marine matters.”
He told the audience that the Australian Senate had recently passed a motion which called upon the federal government to send a customs vessel to monitor and deter Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer.
“While we have no Sea Shepherd in Antarctic waters this summer – which no doubt many in Japan will be happy about – we may have armed Australian and Japanese vessels ...facing off over whaling activities,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
“This should be avoided and can be avoided.”
At the press club, Senator Whish-Wilson praised Japan on its action on climate change.
“Japan, following Kyoto, is still respected internationally as a leader in the climate debate,” he said.