Defence Minister Stephen Smith has ruled out sending a navy ship to keep watch in Antarctic waters despite a dramatic high seas clash between Japanese whalers and protesters.
Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has accused the Nisshin Maru of ramming three of its vessels in an act of "road rage" as the protesters tried to prevent the whaler from refuelling.
Japan has now temporarily suspended its annual whale hunt, ABC television reports.
It had in the past sent a ship to collect video and photographic evidence of whaling hunts to build a case before the International Court of Justice.
That case was now running and the government would wait for the ruling, he said.
"Our argument is that whaling in the Great Southern Ocean is unlawful," he told ABC television on Thursday.
"It is a reckless situation," Captain Watson told ABC television.
"It's almost like the captain of the Nisshin Maru is doing a road rage out here."
He said there wasn't time for the Australian navy to help this time around but if the Japanese returned next year a ship should be sent to "keep the peace".
Environment Minister Tony Burke also ruled out naval intervention but said Japan's conduct in the Southern Ocean was "disgusting".
"It's not something that we try to settle in a carpark, we settle it in a court," he told Sky News on Thursday.
"That's why we've taken the legal action that we have."