Australia cannot condemn the Japanese for whaling as long as it permits the commercial consumption of dugong and turtle meat, says Queensland MP Warren Entsch who has lashed out at the NT government for listing the vulnerable species on a NAIDOC lunch menu.
The NT government’s Department of Corporate and Information Services’ (DCIS) Social Club’s first NAIDOC lunch is due to take place in Darwin on Thursday, and an email invitation said that for a gold coin donation lunch would feature ‘a delicious range of traditional home-cooked dishes including kangaroo satays, chilli crab, barramundi, curry goose, coconut curry chicken, dugong, turtle, chicken vermicelli and blutchung pork’.
But federal Liberal MP Mr Entsch, the member for Leichhardt in far-north Queensland, said dugong and turtle should only be consumed in the name of traditional cultural practices, and only at the site it was taken.
‘It should not be vacuum-packed and sent around the country so that people can have a taste, and it certainly should not be exchanged for a gold coin donation; these are vulnerable species, not commercial species,’ Mr Entsch said in a statement on Wednesday.
It was ‘appalling’ the event was being organised by a government department, and traditional owners would be ‘highly offended’, he said.
‘Part of the taking of these animals for cultural and traditional purposes is about affording these creatures a level of respect; clearly this is not evident when the meat is packaged and posted to all corners of Australia.’
Transporting turtle and dugong meat from where the animals were taken is against the spirit and intent of traditional hunting, Mr Entsch said, and he is calling on the Federal Environment Minister to immediately ban the take of the species unless it is for traditional and cultural purposes.
‘How can we stand in an international court and argue against the taking of whales by the Japanese, yet sit back and condone the exploitation and obvious commercial use of vulnerable species such as turtle and dugong?’ he said.
‘It’s total hypocrisy and cannot be allowed to continue.’
Section 211 of the Native Title Act permits indigenous people to hunt protected species such as dugongs and turtles for ‘personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs’.
Mr Entsch has called on the NT government to prevent the meat being served at Thursday’s lunch.
Later, the department’s CEO Kathleen Robinson said the items were removed from the menu, and the lunch had been postponed as staff were uncomfortable with the attention the event had drawn.
‘The DCIS NAIDOC lunch was organised by a volunteer committee of Indigenous staff members to showcase their culture to other staff with a lunch menu of traditional bush tucker,’ she said in a statement.
‘Unfortunately, the menu had included foods that were not suitable for the event and these items were subsequently removed.’
The DCIS has apologised for any offence caused.
‘The volunteer group worked hard to prepare for this event and their efforts and good intentions are appreciated,’ Ms Robinson said.