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Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

06 June, 2005
Press conference before Minister departs for the Pacific - whaling, nuclear, National Heritage Listing

Whaling, Nuclear Waste and National Heritage Listing


Senator Campbell
...(inaudible)...Solomon Islands tomorrow morning, I will be in Tonga in the afternoon and then Kiribati the next day, myself and my colleague will be lobbying on behalf of Australia while we are there. From my point of view this is a life and death mission for whales, we're going to be seeking a moratorium that's in place, humpback whales for example to go from about three per cent of the population that they had, they were 90 per cent…(inaudible)…wiped out, they have recovered to about 25 per cent of the population. Now is not the time start hunting them again. Now is the time to extend the moratorium - put in place a potential ban on whaling for future generations to stop whaling for all time.

Journalist
..(inaudible)..

Senator Campbell
The only reason I am going there is I have over time, the Government has welcomed my visit…(inaudible)…I am very hopeful that by sitting down and explaining the Australian position, explaining the science and explaining the …(inaudible)…build an ecologically based…(inaudible)…working together with Australia, New Zealand and France in their economic interest to save whales, that they're worth more alive than they're worth dead.

Journalist
How many votes are there and how many do you need?

Senator Campbell
The experts tell me - my foreign affairs officials and whaling officials - tell me that there is only one or two votes in it at Korea, so every country's vote counts, and the Pacific nations, it really is a life and death count. We really need their support and they welcomed my visit, they've given me very high-level access and so I am very hopeful that we can quite possibly report to the whale conservation..

Journalist
Have you got any carrots or sticks to play with?

Senator Campbell
No, we just want to use logic; we don't want to fall into the trap of doing what Japan does. We're not into giving incentives or other systems that the Japanese have been accused of delivering. We're there to argue on the logic, tell them that Australia are part of the Pacific for the long term and that together we can build an ecology-based economy that includes France, New Zealand, Australia and all the Pacific nations that want to build this as one of the great conservation zones on the planet.

Journalist
(Inaudible)..

Senator Campbell
We've heard allegations about Japan buying votes. I've got to say, in this day and age that not only would it be unfair to whales it would also be the…(inaudible)…undermining the…(inaudible)… Australia are trying to work on it in partnership with countries like the Solomon's; we're trying to build up their institutions, we're trying to build up their government structures, we're trying to make sure they've a robust, secure economy that can work with Australia for generations in the future, and as I said we want to build an ecology based economy in the greater Pacific region and we want whales to be part of that. We want good governance as part of that and we hope that these allegations of bribery and corruption simply aren't true. But two wrongs don't make a right. Australia is not going to get involved in that sort of stuff.

Journalist
Which nations do you feel could sway the vote?

Senator Campbell
As I said there's only one or two votes in it. Every single nation makes a difference; not only ones who you would regard as swinging voters but also nations like Germany who have been incredibly strong partners of ours, the UK, New Zealand - they can use their influence on some of these so-called swinging voters, so every nation counts. I will have visited 11 or 12 nations by the end of my mission, both in Europe and the Pacific, and they all count.

Journalist
What kind of a response…(Inaudible)..

Senator Campbell
I was very pleased with the response, the importance was that we got very high level access with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Environment, we are determined to make sure that the government own their position; in the past a lot of these countries send Whaling Commissioners who may or may not do what their cabinet want them to. We have to make sure the cabinet from each one of these governments are responsible for the way their country votes in Korea.

Journalist
..(Inaudible)..

Senator Campbell
We have talked…(inaudible)…we are really working hard to make sure that we firstly build that strong coalition of like-minded nations - like France, Germany the UK- but also…(inaudible)…strong conviction towards re-opening commercial whaling, they think…on commercial whaling than we do at the moment. We have to do a lot of hard work…to change their mind and I've had very good access and very good hearings. So we will see in Korea when we get there, one or two votes in it, it's a life or death struggle for whales and Australia wants to make sure that 'life' gets it.

Journalist
..Inaudible)..provide aid to Kiribati and Tonga..

Senator Campbell
We did provide aid to most of the countries in the Pacific in different ways but we're not going to play the aid card. The aid is there for very good reasons: we're there in the Solomons to rebuild that nation after a horrible chapter in its history, at the last way you build up good governance and good institution and good long partners for Australia is by getting involved in the sort of thing that Japan has alleged to do. We want to build them up as long-term partners of Australia in a region that becomes world renowned for ecology based economy; whales needs to be a part of that.

Journalist
Would Australia help develop that ecology-based..eco-tourism around that?

Senator Campbell
That is what we want to do we have tried to convince many of these South Pacific nations that there are specific …that there is a tremendous opportunity for ecology based tourism, that Australia is doing very well out of it, the Pacific nations should be a partnership in that, so whale based tourism is something that we know in Australia is incredibly sensible, it attracts people from around the world and there's no reason why the Pacific shouldn't be a part of that. It's a magnificent part of the world and we border onto it, we want to be long term partners with the Pacific nations, building an ecology-based economy that is sustainable.

Journalist
So you're not offering in-kind support to develop that kind of eco-tourism?

Senator Campbell
I want to talk with them about their needs in relation to whales in particular. I want to try to encourage them to see that whales, firstly, after threats to their fish stock…(inaudible)… scientifically proven to be true. We need to convince them of that. And we also have to convince them that whales alive, and therefore tourist watch, are part of building an ecology-based economy in partnership across the region with countries like France and New Zealand.

Journalist
Minister, we have seen images of lately on the TV of whales being eaten...does that upset you? How do you feel about that?

Senator Campbell
Well, I think Australians that flock to beaches like Busselton last week - over a thousand people helping a hundred whales - who have a deep love for these animals would be shocked. I get shocked and sad when I see that, and quite frankly I think most Japanese would as well. So we have to share that message and share the vision that whales are an incredibly important animal, they are a very intelligent animal, they're not like another fish and that they do not deserve the next generation to be hunted and harpooned and blown up with grenades. It's a terrible thing to show children and I think that virtually all people of the world, Japanese included, would share that emotional view.

Journalist
How convincing is the science that whales are endangered? Do you think that's compelling?

Senator Campbell
I think when you look at the sort of expert science that Australia has done with our Antarctic division that's been studying whales since the war years shows conclusively that humpbacks have been taken to about 97 per cent of their population has reduced - but that has rebuilt to about 25 per cent - shows overwhelmingly that we have a long way to go to get whales back to where they were prior to their hunting.

Journalist
Are they endangered now?

Senator Campbell
Oh yes, virtually all whales species are endangered. You can't take a species like humpbacks down to nearly 3 per cent of their population and not regard them as being very vulnerable, you only need a disease to come into them, you only need climate change impacts, for example, to take the percentage right out. So these are vulnerable and endangered species that are being hunted. We've got to put an end to it; we've got to make sure commercial whaling never, ever occurs in the history of mankind it was something that was a big mistake when it took place and we're just beginning to heal the wounds.

Journalist
The reason I ask is because it is an emotional issue for some people and I just want to be clear that it's science you believe is separate to the emotion.

Senator Campbell
There's no reason you why you shouldn't have emotions about this. Anyone who - we get accused of making this emotional issue - anyone who is a giant, highly intelligent creature getting part boned, having a grenade set off inside its head or inside it stomach, if it doesn't get killed in the first 20 to 30 minutes they then stick an electronic lamp; if someone doesn't get emotional about that then there's something wrong with them. But there is also very good science to show that their species is at risk and there is also very good science to show that they way these animals are killed is entirely inhumane.

Journalist
Minister, where is the government at in terms of the dumping of nuclear waste?

Senator Campbell
I understand from reading the newspapers today that the cabinet may be discussing it tomorrow…general rule, as you know, that we don't discuss Cabinet discussions until they take place.

Journalist
Nuclear waste being dumped in WA?

Senator Campbell
I am not going to rule anything in or out for nuclear waste but it's something that Cabinet has given long consideration to. Due to short term populism, factionally agreed plans to have a single waste repository was scuttled and the Federal Government has now got to determine where our waste goes, in terms of Geoff Gallop's nuclear waste that gets created here in West Australia he'll have to decide where he puts that.

Journalist
offshore..

Senator Campbell
I'm not ruling anything out. I noticed reading the papers today that the Cabinet might be discussing tomorrow, I won't be at Cabinet, I'll be trying to save whales in the Pacific.

Journalist
Northern Territory..

Senator Campbell
I am not going to go through every state and every territory in the Commonwealth ruling things in or out. The Commonwealth Cabinet will discuss it tomorrow and will be deciding where to put our waste and obviously WA and Northern Territory and other States will have to figure out where to put their waste since Labor scuttled the very sensible plan for a single national repository.

Journalist
This is a quite different position to what you said before the last Federal election when you ruled out storing nuclear waste on mainland.

Senator Campbell
We never ruled it out, we always said our preference was to put it offshore and Cabinet will obviously be deciding where that waste goes when they meet tomorrow.

Journalist
And we're talking about Heritage listing in Hobart?

Senator Campbell
Yes, I am pleased to announce today that we are adding to - I think it's the ninth listing of the National Heritage list - the Port Arthur site. It's a very important listing of course, it's an enormous part of Australian history, enormously important to Tasmania and an enormously important national tourist attraction, and of course made infamous through the tragedy that occurred there in 1996.

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