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

09 June, 2005
Press conference after Minister returns from the Pacific

Questions about whaling and mountain cattlemen


Senator Campbell:
*The tour concluded in Tonga yesterday afternoon and I came back to Perth in the middle of last night. I think the great achievement of the trip, so far, is that we now got higher level, a high level political 'buy in' to the decisions. In the past there's been criticism that some of the delegates of the IWC have not followed the decisions of their Cabinets. One of the *inaudible* of the trip is that now the Prime Ministers, the Presidents, the Environment Ministers and even the Foreign Ministers of some of these countries will be responsible for the decisions their countries make in the vote on the extension of commercial whaling which will occur in Korea in about 10 days time. I was very happy with the response of the Solomon Islands; Prime Minister who committed not to vote for Japan's extension of commercial whaling and support our opposition to scientific whaling. The Kiribati President has basically said that he'll carefully look at what Australia's put forward and make a decision in the coming days so I remain hopeful that he will follow the lead of the Solomons. And yesterday we concluded the tour with a very successful trip to Tonga where they have just had a whale-watching industry start to emerge; as the humpbacks have started coming back, they had somewhere between 300 and 700 whales migrate; they expect them to arrive again in the next few weeks; they've got about eight businesses around that; their hotel rooms are full; they're getting new plain services coming in. So for a region that struggles economically all the time they've already got a $2 million business built up in Tonga. We want to encourage that; we want to create a Pacific whale sanctuary and we're trying to build support in the Pacific for that.

Journalist:
What was their reaction to the pictures of our whale rescue down south?

Senator Campbell:
I think there was quite a delightful reaction. They were delighted to see it; it was something quite unique for them. As much as whale strandings are almost a way of life here for Australians as the numbers of whales keep increasing due to the moratorium, for countries that haven't seen whales for a generation they were quite spectacular and moving pictures.

Journalist:
*(Inaudible)*

Senator Campbell:
Tonga are very supportive; they've always been supportive of the whale sanctuary. There is a bit of a re-emergence, unfortunately, in Tonga of a pro-whaling lobby - we believe encouraged by the Japanese - so Australia has, part of my visit was to reassure them that we need their support, that we need this sanctuary, that the sanctuary is good for the Pacific region and good for Tonga, and really to show that we are fully behind the King of Tonga and the Government of Tonga and their support for the sanctuary and Australia.

Journalist:
How positive are you that the delegates will follow the wishes of their government?

Senator Campbell:
Well, in the example of the Solomons, the Prime Minister is writing a letter to the delegate on behalf of the Cabinet and giving the delegate an instruction, and he's going to send me a copy of that letter and to John Howard so he can't do a lot more than that. I think the important thing to note is that we will ensure that the ballot is an open ballot, that the votes of all the countries will be declared and so the whole world will see how these people and how these countries vote. The Japanese are, of course, pushing for a secret ballot so we'll have to have a ballot on the ballot. Let's hope that we win that one and that the whole world can see how these countries vote. I think that the people of the world will watch very closely how each country votes. We know, for example, that people, consumers, will not buy tuna from countries that don't support dolphin-safe methods. I think the people of the world won't be buying products from countries that vote for whaling and I think the higher we raise the political buying into their position the more likely the world opinion will press down hard on countries like Japan.

Journalist:
Do you envisage a backlash against Japanese products here in Australia?

Senator Campbell:
I think that people will, as they've done with buying tuna, will always look for countries that have environmental practices and people are not going to want to buy - particularly products like fish - from countries that don't follow high quality sustainability in relation to dolphins and I think the more that people understand peoples' politics in relation to whaling, the more that that is made transparent by ensuring we have an open vote at the IWC, people will, can make their own decision.

Journalist:
Do you think people will make distinction? I mean people*stop buying fish*inaudible*

Senator Campbell:
Oh look, I think, I made it clear to the Japanese Ambassador through their Science Minister and the Prime Minister's made it clear in his letter to Mr Koizumi that the way Australians think about Japan is something that we regard as important. We have an incredibly strong relationship with Japan and we don't want that to be jeopardised by this silliness on their behalf. The way Australians think about Japan will be coloured by their behaviour on this issue and that's not something the government takes lightly. We want there to be a strong, respectful relationship between our two countries and this activity certainly puts Australians perception of Japan at risk.

Journalist:
How many votes *inaudible*

Senator Campbell:
We think that there is - this isn't sort of building it up or beating it up - my whaling commissioner, who is literally heading to Korea as we talk, has told me last night as I got into the airport that there's still one or two votes in it, that the Solomon's decision was really fantastic news. There's literally either one or two votes, or even-stevens. In political terms it is line ball. We clearly want to have a majority. We will keep working on that until we get to Korea and beyond.

Journalist:
*(Inaudible)*Tonga*

Senator Campbell:
Well Tonga doesn't get a vote. The reason to go to Tonga was to just to support our sanctuary proposal, and we need their support. We want the Pacific Islands to buy into this sanctuary proposal we don't want it proposed by Big Brother Australia; we want it to be a partnership; we want the Pacific to own it. But the Kiribati vote will be absolutely vital; as is the Solomons vote, as is every other vote.

Journalist:
*(Inaudible)*got enough to cross the line*

Senator Campbell:
We've been working on this process since last August; we've been providing information to countries, we've been putting our position in writing, we've had our diplomats talking to them. So the latest submission was building on a very strong diplomatic work that has occurred over the last 10 months and we will continue that right up to the vote. I will be writing further letter to delegates and to ministers in the next few days. We will be having further diplomatic missions to other embassies around the world. We've got a whole series of activities that we will continue right up to the vote in Korea.

Journalist:
What about scientific whaling? Were you able to secure any support for our opposition?

Senator Campbell:
Yes, well the Solomons agreed to vote to support the Australian resolution opposing it. The trip in Europe was very solidly opposed to the scientific expansion. So even countries like Denmark, for example, who are supporting a return to tightly controlled commercial whaling because they think that is the way to get rid of scientific whaling, we disagree on that. We say that until the Japanese say that they will end scientific whaling, then you shouldn't contemplate any more toward commercial whaling. But even Denmark for example has said that they be opposing the Japanese on the increased scientific take, and supporting the Australian resolution.

Journalist:
That rescue again - do you think that it reinforces how strongly Australians feel about whaling?

Senator Campbell:
I think what it does is demonstrates that Australians have a very special relationship with whales. You need to explain it to some countries. The Japanese say that we're really emotional about it, that's a terrible thing, and we should look at the science. Well we do better whale science than just about every country in the world. So we understand the science very well. But there's no reason why you should make light of people's emotions. 85 per cent of Australians live within 50kms of the coast, about 25 per cent, about a quarter, live within 3km of the coast, and virtually all Australians have had some sort of interaction with a whale. So it's only natural that we have this strong affinity. And a lot of countries don't understand that so it's a very stark and beautiful way to demonstrate to countries in the world, landlocked European nations, Pacific nations that look at Australia and think that we're this huge continent, when in fact, as I explained to the President of Kiribati, we are in fact a bit like an atoll. Instead of having an atoll and having all the people around the lagoon, we're an atoll with millions of people spread around the central areas of very arid country.

Journalist:
A talkback caller last week, when the rescue was going on, said that we missed an opportunity, we should have killed the whales and sold them to Japan.

Senator Campbell:
Well*(laughs)*that person should immigrate. No, look, I think you get interesting people calling in from time to time, and I don't think that attitude would be in step with the great majority of Australians. I've seen this incredible surge of support for what we're doing: Talkback all around the country, people, people writing letters into newspapers, people emailing me, it's tremendous. Whales are large intelligent creatures, they're beautiful creatures, they have the right to swim free and live free, and not have to suffer the consequences of a grenade being shot into them and blown up. That's the humane position that the Australian Government takes, the position that most countries in the world take, most people in the world take. Some disagree with us, and we think they're wrong. Our mission is to try to end whaling for all time. It's going to take a long fight and a hard fight and we're in for the long haul.

Journalist:
Would you support a boycott of Japanese fish products?

Senator Campbell:
No, I don't think that's the right way to go. We actually have to work responsibly and respectfully with the Japanese to convince them to change their position and I think stirring up anti-Japanese fervour is actually quite contrary to our best interests for whale conservation. We want to have a strong, respectful and friendly relationship with Japan and stirring up that sort of fervour sends the wrong signal. They read comments by the Labor Party in Australia and Bob Brown, stirring up all this xenophobic anti-Japanese-ism, and that works against the interests that I'm trying to promote. We don't want to push them down into a trench. We want for them understand where we're coming from, understand the science, understand how genuine we are about this and work with them as two friendly nations in partnership.

Journalist:
*(inaudible)*boycott?

Senator Campbell:
No, I really think that's the wrong way to go. This isn't a fight for the next two weeks; it's a fight for the next few years. This is a, we have to win this argument and win this debate, not only around the world but also within Japan. I feel in my own heart that the next generation of Japanese will not want to be doing what this generation does and we have to make all the Japanese people think that they have friends in Australia, that we're not anti-Japanese. We just happen to be anti the operations of one very small agency in one very small part of Japan - which I don't believe is representative of all of Japan. So upsetting the Japanese people, upsetting the higher levels of the Japanese Government is absolutely contrary to the best interests of Australia and the best interests of the whales.

Journalist:
*(inaudible)*Victoria*Alpine grazing*

Senator Campbell:
I will be announcing my, making an announcement in relation to heritage listing tomorrow. All I can say is, as I've said before, the demonstrations on the streets of Melbourne today shows the psyche of the Australian people. The Man From Snowy River legend and the ethos is a totally central part of the Australian story. No one in Australia can argue that 170 years of grazing cattle in the Alpine country is anything other than a central part of Australian heritage and my own view is that just banning something altogether is a very lazy and unsophisticated way to increase and improve biodiversity. There needs to be, as in parks all around the world, a sensible middle course here that allows the heritage to exist but also protects biodiversity.

Journalist:
*(inaudible)*

Senator Campbell:
I'm not going to go into the legalities; I think we'll take one step at a time. I'll make my announcement in relation to heritage listing tomorrow; in the meantime the message is the Man From Snowy River is a vital, intrinsic part of the Australian story. This grazing has occurred for 170 years, the Alpine region is still in terrific shape * that's why they do need increased levels of protection * but I am absolutely certain that there is a compromise course. I think the cattlemen are looking for a compromise course. I think it's time the Victorian Government sat down and said 'look there's a more sophisticated way to do this'. We can protect the biodiversity and also protect the intrinsic part of Australian heritage.

Journalist:
If you do grant the listing will it set a precedent for other industries, like fishing, say to encourage them to apply for a listing as well?

Senator Campbell:
Well, look I'm going to make an announcement tomorrow and I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what would occur if I list it or don't list it. I think we'll make the announcement and then take the issue from there.

*Ends

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