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

Channel Ten interview
9am with David and Kim
Friday, 28 July 2006

Bald Hills wind farm, Orange-bellied Parrot, whales


(Introductory remarks omitted)

PRESENTER A:
The Neophema chrysogaster can be ranked along with the giant panda, the whooping crane and the Siberian tiger as among the rarest and most endangered of the world's wildlife. It's a small parrot with an orange belly that's created a major impediment to the future of wind farming in Australia.

PRESENTER B:
Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, recently vetoed a proposal for a $220 million wind farm in South Gippsland in Victoria, all because the humble orange-bellied parrot lives there. Senator Campbell joins us now from Perth, good morning, Senator. Now David's suggesting that perhaps it should be the ‘Campbell parrot’ now.

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
I think the parrot's had enough fun poked at it without adding another angle to it, but could I just say the decision I made on this particular wind farm proposal has not stopped wind farm development in Australia, in fact we've passed through the Federal law since I made that decision, roughly one new wind farm every fortnight, so wind energy expansion in Australia is going very well, we've gone from about 20 wind farms - 20 wind turbines, I should say, under the previous Labor Government, we're on track to build 600 in Australia now.

What we want to do is make sure we address the urgent need in relation to protecting Australia's climate, protecting the world's climate from climate change, but also ensuring that where we build these installations, we don't build them where they're going to hurt unique Australian wildlife.

PRESENTER A:
What do you say to the Treasurer, who's come out and backed your decision but saying that he thinks they're ugly?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well a lot of people do, you know, that's for the eye of the beholder, a lot of people, a lot of communities round Australia don't like having wind farms in their communities, and I've always said, if you want wind energy to be part of Australia's low greenhouse gas energy future, which it should be in my strong view, that's why we've got policies to support the construction of hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines, then you want to engage the local communities, you don't want to ride roughshod over local communities and say you're going to have a wind farm here, whether you like it or not, and that has happened in Victoria, and that is very bad for wind.

If you want that low greenhouse gas emission future, wind energy will be an important part of it, but people are not going to want it where it affects their property values, and they're not going to want it where they know that a unique piece of Australian wildlife could be made extinct as a result. And I make the point, David, that - and parrots are easy to poke fun at, I guess, you know, Monty Python and John Cleese and others made the job a bit harder for us here, but-

PRESENTER A:
[Laughs] This parrot is deceased, it's the late parrot!

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well, about a week after I made this decision, a wedge-tailed eagle got killed by a wind farm just on the other side of Bass Strait. But I ask people to think, if this was say a blue whale, and there were only 50 fertile females left on the planet, and this is the case with the orange-bellied parrot, there's only 50 fertile females left, 50 breeding pairs left, if this was a whale species, and there were only 50 breeding pairs of this whale left, and someone proposed to put huge turbines under the water to generate say, tidal energy, then it would be just outrageous to build such a facility where it was in the migratory path.

And this is a similar thing, I think the sad thing about the orange-bellied parrot decision is it's very easy to lampoon parrots, but if it was, you know, koalas or bilbies or whales, there'd be no doubt about the decision.

PRESENTER B:
But Ian, do you understand certainly the confusion of some people in the public over this? Because the research that has been sort of widely leaked into the newspapers has been that one bird - the worst possible case scenario - was that one bird in every 667 would die.

PRESENTER A:
Six hundred and sixty seven years, would die.

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well, the person who wrote the research has actually said that is totally false. What happened is that the Labor Party in Victoria took the basis of the research, and then manipulated it in their own way, and came up with that figure. The research was not done to come up with a one in 100 year, or one in 1000 year figure, they've taken our fundamental research, and played games with it, it's the old damned lies and statistics, you can do with it what you want.

The report, just to make it very clear, said to me that adding another wind farm in this migratory bird path, would put the orange-bellied parrot at risk of extinction, simple as that, I mean that's what the report says. The Victorian Labor Party who themselves stopped a wind farm because of the wedge-tailed eagle only a few kilometres to the north of this wind farm only six months ago, are very hypocritical on this issue.

And you've got to remember, this is the Victorian Government that's just approved the biggest greenhouse gas expansion at the Hazelwood Power Station in Australian history, 445 million tonnes of greenhouse gas going up into the atmosphere because of the Victorian Labor Party, and what they're trying to do, David and Kim, is make people think that by building a few wind farms you can offset that.

They've just given the tick to 445 million tonnes of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere at Hazelwood, and even if they build all of the wind farms that they want to build, they'll only save 27 million tonnes, so they're playing political games, but I say simply, let's build the wind farms, but let's not build them where they're going to put at risk of extinction unique Australian wildlife.

PRESENTER A:
Sure, but Ian, I read some of that report, which was written by your department, and your first assistant secretary, Gerard Early, and he said that there did not appear to be direct evidence of any impact on the orange-bellied parrot. Now does this not raise the concern, that you are on your own, taking things into your own hands, and one man has the power to veto this?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well, as the minister you've got to make these decisions, and I take advice from my department, I also took advice from an independent consultant who looked at the cumulative impact of wind farms across that piece of coast, and that report said that to add further turbines in this migratory path, would in fact hasten the potential extinction of this species. So I listen to all sorts of advice, if you just always took - only took the advice of your department, then you could be in the position of Sir James Hacker, you'd be a Yes Minister. You're paid as minister to look at all of the information, and make a decision.

These are hard decisions, but I want to balance getting climate change policy right for Australia, that's why we're spending $2 billion trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, while the Victorian Government on the other hand, is making decisions to increase them, but also to protect our wildlife. And I actually think we're smart enough and clever enough in this day and age, to save our wildlife, and also save our climate. You should be able to do both.

PRESENTER A:
All right, well what is being done to eradicate the more threatening danger that exists for the orange-bellied parrot - the ‘Campbell parrot’ - by the introduced species such as the house sparrow, the European gold finch, the green finch, who deny the parrot its food source, and also the predators such as the red fox and the feral cat?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well, that's why we've got the Natural Heritage Trust, that's why we're spending $3 billion on trying to protect the biodiversity, trying to protect the habitat, trying to get rid of the feral animals. We've in fact spent in excess of $1 million on orange-bellied parrot recovery programs in recent years, so even though it's a new name to many people in Australia because of my decision, the Australian Government has been working very hard with Birds Australia, with local bird groups, with local habitat groups.

I mean the locals down at Bald Hills had been working to build up the quality of the habitat for orange-bellied parrots for, in some case, decades, and so you can understand how they felt very angry when someone came along and said we're going to put up over 50 turbines, which would be a direct threat to them. You can't spend millions of dollars on one hand building up their habitat, getting rid of feral animals and other introduced species that compete for food against them, and then put wind turbines up that are a direct threat to them.

PRESENTER B:
Alright Ian, time is going to beat us, but just quickly, I wanted to talk about this new report that's come out about Japanese whaling, and all of the pregnant whales that have been caught in the, in the process.

PRESENTER A:
It's a Japanese Government report too, isn't it?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
It is. They don't, they're not sort of coy about what they're doing. They're very proud about going and slaughtering innocent whales.

PRESENTER B:
It's extraordinary isn't it that that, that that would come out from the Japanese Government; they'd happily release it.

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well they're pretty proud about it you see. There's a huge cultural gap between the way we think about whales and how they, how those particular people - I don't think Japanese people generally share that view - I think it's a government view, or a Fisheries Authority view. The point to me is that we have seen the minke whale numbers, which the Japanese have said are a really abundant species going down as a result of the hunting that the Japanese have been doing under the guise of science over recent years.

What this tells you is that makes sense that that's occurring, because they're not just killing individual animals, they're often getting two animals with one harpoon - one being the mother and one being the, the calf in the womb. And a number of the mothers are being killed while they are lactating - in other words, feeding calves that can't survive by themselves. So we're losing a lot of calves because their mothers are being harpooned while they're still feeding.

So it is a tragic story. It's one that I will continue to fight to bring an end to, and it's a fight worth, worth taking up to them.

PRESENTER A:
Just quickly Ian, what can the Australian people do about this? How can we raise hell?

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Well, I think that ensuring firstly that your local council, if it's got a sister city relationship with a Japanese city, it's great to get those people to people contacts; get the community - put pressure on your local council to write to their Sister City Council. We've got, on our, or if we haven't got it there we'll get it put up on the website, a list of all the Sister City relationships we've run this campaign. I think that, you know, basically send, continuing pressure on the Japanese Government by letting the Australian Ambassador know the views of local communities. This is a long-term fight. We have to keep battling away at this, probably for some years to come, and maintaining the pressure, maintaining the anger in relation to this, is the best thing that your viewers can do just on a daily basis.

PRESENTER B:
Absolutely...

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
And if they want to, go to our saveourwhales.gov.au website that, and order a wrist band. They're still, still going strongly.

PRESENTER B:
Brilliant. Well done. Lovely to talk to you, as usual.

PRESENTER A:
Thank you Ian. Always good to see you. Thanks for your time.

SENATOR CAMPBELL:
Have a great weekend.

PRESENTER B:
Yeah, you too.

Commonwealth of Australia