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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Southern Ocean Research Partnership; Japanese whaling; Resale Right Scheme

Doorstop Interview Maroubra Beach, Sydney
17 November 2008

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GARRETT: The Government has announced a significant contribution to non-lethal research into whales which will see us encourage other nations to join us in a special Southern Ocean Research Partnership. This announcement today represents a new model for research into the threats that whales face, but it is also about collaboration, it is about providing a strong and firm scientific foundation for the ongoing discussion about how best to understand and manage whale populations. And it comes on the back of significant actions taken by the Rudd Government to show our strong opposition to the killing of whales in the name of science.

Today's announcement is a significant contribution to scientific research, collaborative research, which says that there are non-lethal ways of understanding these animals and we do not need to kill whales in the name of science. My expectation is that we will see good support from like-minded nations who would like to be involved in this partnership. We will have a workshop on March of the coming year. There will be discussions that will take place prior to that. The invitation is going to all nations, including a genuine invitation to Japan for a new way of understanding these animals - a way that is grounded in real scientific research, properly validated and authenticated - scientific research which is entered into in a genuine way looking at the best ways we can understand these animals and doing it in a way without resorting to killing them at the same time.

JOURNALIST: Minister, obviously you put a lot of money into actual surveillance last year with the Customs vessel. Is that happening again? Is that on the table or is that going to cost too much money?

GARRETT: The Government hasn't made a decision about whether there will be additional surveillance. What I would say is that we undertook to do a number of things on this issue. We said we would have intense diplomatic engagement - we have done that and we've appointed a whale envoy. We said that we would monitor the fleet in the Southern Ocean and we did that last summer with the view to the consideration of potential legal action and we're considering that material that was gathered in that exercise. We said that we would bring forward a new agenda at the International Whaling Commission - we did that in June and we received strong support from like-minded nations for Australia's conservation reform agenda. And we said that we will provide additional support for the research that we think is absolutely necessary - non-lethal research to better understand these creatures.

JOURNALIST: As you know the conservation group Sea Shepherd is entering the waters again today to trail and harass the Japanese whalers. They have branded in some media interviews and I am sure they will in days to come, as the Government's efforts as weak and almost to the point of being cowardly. What do you say to those comments, is the Government doing all it can in a physical sense or in a diplomatic sense?

GARRETT: Look, the comments by the Sea Shepherd are wrong and I think that Australian's will understand that this Government has brought through a series of strong, fair dinkum measures on this issue because we feel strongly about it and we know the public does too.

We have a relationship with Japan which is an important relationship. They are a major trading partner for us. But we have a complete disagreement on this issue. We will continue to prosecute this issue as we said we would do at the beginning of our term of Government. Today's announcement is further indication of how serious we are, as a Government, about making sure that we don't kill whales in the name of science but that we provide appropriate resources, appropriate support, for nations together to join in the scientific research which is done in a way that doesn't see them being killed.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there was reports a little while back that the Japanese whale hunt target or total number, would be reduced this year. I know you have acknowledged those reports but are you able to confirm for us whether or not, if you know, if they are going to be targeting less whales?

GARRETT: Look, we did see some reports that there may be a reduction in the targeting of whales in this summer season but it seems as though those reports have not been authenticated. I very much hope that we can appeal to the Japanese authorities, as I did in June, to suspend the whaling operations in the Southern Ocean this summer. We believe there are better ways to understand these creatures, to understand their risks. We're providing support for other nations to join with us in a partnership - a new model of cooperation - a conservation agenda for whales which we think is the right way to go about understanding and having scientific inquiry into these animals and we don't think that having a target for the killing of whales of the numbers that have been mentioned in the media up to this point in time is at all the right way to go.

JOURNALIST: Minister, your special envoy on whaling, Sandy Hollway, what sort of projects and what sort of work is he doing at the moment in regards to his position.

GARRETT: Mr Hollway, the Special Whaling Envoy, has been to Japan on two occasions now and he has also travelled to other countries both in the northern hemisphere and in the United States. He is involved in the continuing diplomatic discussions to represent Australia's views strongly and clearly that the killing of whales in the name of science is not scientific neither is it something that has any support from Australia and a number of other nations. My expectation is that along with the diplomatic engagement that has been undertaken by the Prime Minister, by the Foreign Minister and other senior ministers when they have visited Japan, is that out whale envoy, Mr Hollway, will continue those discussions. We believe that diplomacy is absolutely essential in this debate but we also believe that bringing forward strong, clear support for like-minded nations to join together, to collaborate, to deliver science which doesn't see whales receiving the harpoon tip is absolutely critical.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just finally, just coming back to Sea Shepherd again, they are preparing to go out and harass the whalers [interrupted] basically we saw what happened last year, it was a pretty ugly science down in the Southern Ocean, and they promising to do more, what would be your plea as Minister ahead of any action they take down in the Southern Ocean? Are you concerned about potential violence?

GARRETT: It is absolutely critical that any activities that are undertaken on the seas in the summer season are done with proper respect for the law of the sea and with an absolute consideration of the safety of all those parties involved. We very strongly say that we have never had more engagement on this issue. We have never had more intensity in the diplomatic engagement, nor in providing a third way for countries to understand, research and know more about these very special animals, without having to resort to kill them in the name of science. We will continue to prosecute our case; I certainly have an expectation that any activities in the Southern Ocean should be conducted fully in accordance with the laws of the sea and with an absolute stringent adherence to the safety of all involved.

JOURNALIST: Minister, just a quick question on a totally difference issue form our Darwin newsroom, there is a petition going around about Resale Royalties for art, [inaudible] did you have any comment on that [inaudible]

GARRETT: We think that we have set the level for a resale royalty for visual artists, including indigenous artists, at exactly the right level as it needs to be, which is effective, which isn't too costly and which provides certainty over the long term that visual artists can actually receive a royalty that they are due. I am absolutely certain that the level that we have set it at is right. I am happy to have a strong debate about what this scheme ultimately should look like, but I do think that where we have set the level will work most effectively for all visual artists, including Indigenous artists.

JOURNALIST: OK, so the petition obviously raises some concerns, you're happy to talk about that but you're still going to go ahead with whatever it is that you have promised on this issue.

GARRETT: Yes look obviously we pay close attention to the issues that people raise but the design that has been brought forward from the Government is based on very careful consideration of the best means to deliver in a cost effective way, a royalty stream for visual artists, including Indigenous artists, over the medium to long term and we believe that both the percentage that we have identified for the scheme and also the cap level will do that job.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] do you have any timeframes or goals for this research, are you going to have any report out of this research?

GARRETT: My expectation is that we'll see what level of support and participation that we have from other like-minded nations. My anticipation is that there will be willingness on the part of other nations to join in that research. I expect that when we gather for a workshop in March of next year, we will be able to scope out a research program which countries and willing and ready to collaborate in. My expectation is that the research program and the research that is brought forward will be subject to proper peer review. Once that process is concluded, that research will not only provide us with additional understanding about the best way to manage, in a non-lethal way, and understand whale populations, but also engage in the IWC reform process both in the working group but also when the Commission meets again in the middle of next year.

[ENDS]

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