The Government does not have a legal leg to stand on in the fight against whaling in the Southern Ocean, according to New Zealand's representative at the International Whaling Commission.Sir Geoff is to be congratulated for this admission, but his response, to seek to change international law, is questionable on two counts.
There has been pressure for a political response, as conflict between conservationists and Japanese whalers escalate.
Sir Geoffrey Palmer says under international law Japan is not doing anything wrong and there is no legal argument New Zealand could use to stop the whaling.
He says he has been looking at the legal situation for months, but New Zealand's only recourse is diplomatic action to change international law.
Sir Geoffrey says the Southern Ocean whales are targeted because they are more prolific and healthier than those in the Northern Ocean.
Any Contracting Government may withdraw from this Convention on 30th June, of any year by giving notice on or before 1st January, of the same year to the depository Government, which upon receipt of such a notice shall at once communicate it to the other Contracting Governments.
My personal preference is not that New Zealand's government takes this withdrawal action, but instead both accepts the text of the Convention and seeks to work constructively together with other signatories to ensure that the ICRW goals of both whale consenservation and the development of whaling industry can be met.
Would New Zealand not be showing the international community what a fine leader it were, were it to take such honourable actions?
[UPDATE 06/01/16]: I've found a direct quote from Sir Geoffrey:
New Zealand's commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, former prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, said the annual slaughter of whales, although reprehensible, was not illegal.
"We have been looking at the legal theories that are available against the Japanese for some months ... and there is no legal theory that is available that can prevent, in our view, the Japanese from doing what they are doing," Sir Geoffrey said.
"A sovereign government cannot undertake legal action unless it has a good chance of success."
A spokeswoman for Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell also ruled out legal action.
[UPDATE 06/01/17]: Even more words from Palmer on the issue.
His suggestion is that Article VIII needs to be removed from the treaty - no mention yet of what provisions he thinks should be there in it's place. Not that it matters. Sooner or later Palmer is going to come to the realization that governments that do not agree with international agreements should exercise their rights to withdraw from them. Trying to skuttle them simply will not work.
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