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

21 June, 2005
Interview with Fran Bailey on Radio National Breakfast program

International Whaling Convention, Korea


Announcer:
Let's talk whales now because as we discussed yesterday, of course, the situation for the minke, the humpbacks and the fin whales is about the take a serious turn for the worst, possibly, after a meeting of the International Whaling Commission that's going on this week in South Korea - as we've just been hearing on AM. Australia and Japan have been locked in a bitter struggle for the votes of a host of smaller nations as the latter throws everything into eventually overturning the international moratorium on commercial whaling. That lobbying effort will take a few more years, Japan certainly doesn't have the number for a total overthrow of the ban of commercial whaling at this meeting. But in the meantime, as we've heard, Japan will increase its whaling catch this year under the guise of scientific whaling and amongst its haul will be 50 humpback whales. Australia's Environment Minister is Senator Ian Campbell - he's at the meeting in Ulsan in South Korea. Minister, welcome to Radio National.

Senator Campbell:
Good to be with you, Fran.

Announcer:
I want to get to the current lot of votes that we have just been having overnight. Yesterday John Frizell from Greenpeace was fairly pessimistic about how the numbers were going to line up at this International Whaling meeting. Now Japan's fallen at the first hurdle with its attempt to establish secret ballots and its attempt to get rid of some of the conservation processes in place. Is that a good sign in terms of Australia's hopes for the big questions at this meeting?

Senator Campbell:
I think the old hands at the meeting - people like former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Jim McLay and Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer - told me last night it had been a terrific day for the conservation nations. They were both very praise-worthy of Australia's role but the reality is that we have on the horizon, or effectively coming into land at Ulsan Airport potentially today, three or four nations who - the 'old hands' as I would call them - the IWC International Whaling Commission watchers say are very likely to vote with Japan. I think, very sadly for Australia, Nauru is potentially one of those nations. I think Australian's would share with myself and Alexander Downer and our Prime Minister a very deep concern for Nauru's future that we find out that they have decided to join a push led by Japan.

Announcer:
Is that definite? Have you talked to the people of the Nauru delegation?

Senator Campbell:
No, look Alexander Downer has been trying to communicate with them and, as I understand it, he's put the Australian case to them through formal channels. I am literally waiting at the Commission for the Nauruans to turn up so I can talk with them.

Announcer:
It is disappointing, as you say, we have strong aide ties with Nauru; we give them a lot of support. I mean how much pressure has been brought to bear on that country, to not do this, not vote to open up whaling again?

Senator Campbell:
Well the very fact they've joined the IWC would have to ask - when Nauru have so many issues that needed attention at home - why they would choose to join this international body, the main function of which is to control whaling and conserve whales, why they would get involved? You'd have to ask yourself seriously the questions. I think the real questions today, Fran, we had some real important wins yesterday but we have these three or four other votes potentially on the horizon that could swing things today. And today is the day where the ballot will be about does the world move back towards reopening commercial whaling? And it's not just about Japan, Norway and Iceland. If we have a majority vote for this it would ultimately lead to any nation in the world wanting to get back into commercial whaling. I think the real question on the ballot today is: is the International Whaling Commission really the body that is capable of being the international forum that regulates this incredible conservation of a very important species? That's the real ballot. The longer I've spent here on the ground in Ulsan - I've spent a whole year dealing with these issues now - the more I wonder whether the IWC is a body that's suitable for this task.

Announcer:
Well just on that, I mean Japanese officials have criticised Australia's position as "extreme" and they suggest - this is the Japanese - suggesting that by taking such a strong stance against whaling Australia risks wrecking the IWC. Now, in fact, you're saying that the International Whaling Commission is perhaps gone past the point where it is the body able to really look at the fate of the whale, protecting the whale. Are you and Japan in agreement now that the IWC should be defunct; is wrecked in a sense by all this lobbying and extreme positioning?

Senator Campbell:
I think if any Australian thinks that - via me and John Howard and Alexander Downer - saying that in this era the concept of harpooning a whale with an explosive device on the end of it, blowing them up, seeing them writhe in agony, drowning in their own blood for 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes. If we call a spade a spade and say that is inhumane, that these are species that are under serious threat - recognized by all of the international scientist as being under serious threat. If we actually stand up and say that, if that is called "extreme", then I'm afraid that I think it's Japanese who are out of step with not only world opinion but also scientific opinions. The only peer reviewed, serious scientific work on these issues shows that whale stocks are under enormous stress, that whale populations were taken to the brink of extinction only 20 years ago; they're only beginning to recover, and the science also shows that there is no humane way kill a whale. So I mean that's not an extreme position; that's a mainstream position that's supported by most countries around the world. Even countries like Denmark - who are represented here - who are continually voting almost without exception for a resumption of commercial whaling; the population of Denmark in the most recent poll done on this when I was there 10 days ago shows that the people of Denmark are strongly opposed to it. What I'm talking about, Fran, is there needs to be - if the Whaling Commission is to be a body that's relevant in this millennium - there needs to be some fundamental reform but I don't think the people of the world would look at this sort of last minute branch stacking style activity that sees four or five new countries become members of the Commission on the Friday night before the meeting. I mean the possibility today the countries will actually turn up - they haven't actually paid their membership fees - today, who weren't present yesterday, and vote and change the history of the world in relation to whale conservation by having a majority for the first time in two decades for commercial whaling...

Announcer:
Just on that Minister, I just want to clarify here because you say today is such an important day for changing the history of the future of the whale and the environment, what is the vote today, the crucial vote today?

Senator Campbell:
What the vote today will be, Fran, is on this thing called the Revised Management Scheme. That is basically a program, which has been developed by Japan but with the strong support of Norway and Iceland. And quite frankly, Norway and Iceland should not be let off the hook on this, they're at least as culpable as the Japanese and I think the people of Norway, particularly the younger generation, need to take hold of this issue. But they are designing a scheme, basically what is a fisheries plan, to go out and hunt whales. And that plan would set quotas, it would have arrangements for vessel monitoring - all the sorts of things that we would have for a cod fishery or a tuna fishery or a sardine fishery - they have a plan they are putting together to organise the control of commercial whaling.

Announcer:
All right Minister thank you very much and good luck at the whaling committee meeting. We'll talk again, I hope, for an update.

Senator Campbell:
Thanks, Fran. I think we are going to need more than luck today.

Announcer:
Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, speaking to us there from Ulsan in South Korea at the International Whaling Commission meeting.

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