Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 00:54 | SYDNEY
Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 00:54 | SYDNEY

Whales and science


Fergus Hanson


19 June 2009 11:10

Australians aren't known for their passionate outbursts or radicalism especially when it comes to foreign policy, but on one issue, at least, we are at the far end of the spectrum: whales. Our own polling showed just how passionate we are about the issue and why it is such a political football. Asked to think about the Australian government’s efforts to stop Japanese whaling and which of the following statements came closest to their own view Australians responded as follows.

Given the strength of public sentiment on this issue it's an unfortunate coincidence for Australian governments that the country that is our largest export market and an important regional ally is also a big fan of whaling. That has led us down the path of pursuing all kinds of interesting policies like chasing Japanese ships around the Southern Ocean and threatening to take them to international courts.

The latest initiative in this curious battle is the establishment of the world's largest non-lethal whale research partnership announced by the Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett at the Lowy Institute in February and whose first Antarctic whale research expedition was announced yesterday. In the press release Garrett stated the initiative would support the position that 'so called ‘scientific whaling’ is unnecessary'.

The government is clearly up against strong public opinion but I'm a little sceptical the research will have the desired affect on the Japanese. As the debate over climate change has shown, policy is not always made according to science. Despite the mountains of scientific evidence pointing to the enormous risks posed by climate change, even the Australian parliament can't come to an agreement to do something about it.