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

PM - Thursday, 20 January, 2005

Whaling ban in danger as Kiribati joins IWC

TANYA NOLAN: The future of commercial whaling could be decided by the tiny island nation of Kiribati.

Kiribati has joined the International Whaling Commission, which has been wresting with the highly contentious issue of turning over the global ban on commercial whaling.

And its 58 member states are finely divided over the issue.

Anti-whaling nations, including Australia fear that precarious balance could be tipped, if Kiribati follows the lead of its South Pacific neighbour Tuvalu, and votes with Japan, for a resumption of commercial whaling.

I spoke a short time ago to Federal Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell, who says he will be talking to Kiribati in the lead up to the June meeting of the International Whaling Commission, to encourage it to help protect whales.

IAN CAMPBELL: I'm very worried about it. I think the world needs to know that this is something that is being pushed very strongly by powerful interests around the world. It is something that Australia will stand and fight against.

We believe that the so-called lethal research that takes place, or so-called scientific whaling is a disaster, a disgrace, is an insult to science at a time when Australians and New Zealanders, you know, get themselves into icy cold waters in Bass Strait trying to save whales, we have fishing, we have slaughter of minki whales being undertaken by the Japanese.

We want to see that ended and we call on Kiribati to join us in this very important fight.

TANYA NOLAN: Kiribati says its decision to join the International Whaling Commission was based on growing pressure from both sides of the whaling debate. What pressure has Australia applied to Kiribati?

IAN CAMPBELL: Well I'm certainly not applying any pressure at all. I'm not aware of any contact that the Australian Government's had with them on this issue. All I say is that I will be working with Kiribati as the new Australian Environment Minister to share with them our strong view and my own strong view that we share with the Pacific Island Nations a very keen concern to address issues like climate change that affect the whole globe.

One of the reasons we do that is to ensure that we maintain an environment where all species can continue to thrive. If you are to spend literally trillions of dollars pursuing an attack on climate change, trying to stop climate change, you do so because you want to save species and make sure that whales can survive, it is therefore entirely opposite that important push on climate change to then go out and preside over the destruction of a species which is what lethal whaling, commercial whaling and scientific whaling all achieve.

TANYA NOLAN: Could the level of development aid that Australia provides to Kiribati be affected in any way by decision by the country to either vote for or against a resumption of commercial whaling?

IAN CAMPBELL: Australia will never use those tactics. We will appeal to any other nation in the IWC and people outside the IWC to look at themselves as human beings and judge themselves based on how they treat other species, and whales in particular, who are highly intelligent mammals who have been taken to the brink of destruction by previous generations. And we want this generation to have achieved something substantial for future generations and that is to save whale species from destruction and extinction and we ask the people of the Pacific Islands to share Australia's passion for that outcome.

TANYA NOLAN: How likely do you think that Kiribati could follow the lead of its South Pacific neighbour Tuvalu, which also joined the International Whaling Commission last year and vote to abolish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and allow for a resumption of commercial whaling in these waters?

IAN CAMPBELL: Well, we were of course very disappointed by Tuvalu's decision. We treat each country with respect. They've made a decision which we think is a very bad decision. We certainly hope the people of Kiribati would not support that sort of decision.

TANYA NOLAN: Federal Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell

Commonwealth of Australia