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Japan denies whaling bribery

New Zealand will push ahead with attempts to get a diplomatic solution to whaling in the Southern Ocean at the International Whaling Organisation despite new revelations of corruption.


Allegations of chequebook diplomacy are nothing new at the IWO and Japan has been accused in the past of of buying support from small Pacific countries such as Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati.

Now undercover reporters say they have had some success when trying to buy the votes of representatives from poor countries at the IWC.

The representatives told the reporters, from the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper, they would have to pay more than Japan, which gave generous aid and travel allowances in exchange for support at the IWC.

Japan has denied it hands out bribes.

Prime Minister John Key said the claims had not been verified.

“Certainly there are always allegations that those who give money, whether it’s in Africa or other parts of the world, the Pacific from time to time, are looking for payback or favours. Whether that’s true or not I really don’t know,” he told reporters.

“From New Zealand’s point of view all I can say is we are continuing down that diplomatic pathway, we will attempt to find a diplomatic solution that would see eventually the eradication of commercial whaling. If that’s not possible then we will consider our options when it comes to potentially joining Australia in the International Court of Justice.”

Australia is using the ICJ to try to block Japan from whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The IWC meeting in Morocco next month will consider a controversial proposal to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to openly hunt whales despite a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, but to reduce the total catch over the next 10 years. So far the numbers Japan has put up have been too high for New Zealand to stomach, but the Government has not ruled out yet reaching an acceptable deal. Australia has rejected the idea.

New Zealand’s commissioner to the IWC, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, has been critical of the IWC in the past and has expressed concerns that it could collapse and leave no organisation to regulate the killing of whales.

Australia has called for a fundamental overhaul of the organisation. Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who will attend the summit, said today the media report showed it was time to change the IWC.

“The fact is that for decades the IWC has been riven by these types of claims and gridlock on key issues,” a spokesperson for him told AAP.

“We have advanced a robust reform proposal and we’ll be strongly advocating that reform agenda in Morocco next week.”

Australia wants the IWC to refocus on conserving whales and to tighten restrictions on so-called scientific whaling.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully will attend the Morocco summit.

“We want to see a significant improvement on the status quo, with an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean at the earliest achievable date,” he said.

“The outcome is by no means certain, but New Zealand has committed to seeing the process through.”

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