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

Australian position on whaling

Interview with Mike Smith, 4BC Drive Brisbane
28 January 2009

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SMITH: Let's try to understand something else. Nine minutes past five, a bit of power and passion in that voice. It belongs to the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. And there's been, as you know, a fair bit of controversy and let's hear the man himself has to say. Peter Garrett, g'day.

GARRETT: G'day, Mike.

SMITH: Thanks for speaking with us. There's been so much stuff in the press, various newspapers, front page stories, secret deal with Japan. My question for you is very, very simple on whaling. Will the Australian Government ever vote in any way, anywhere to allow any whaling at all?

GARRETT: The Australian Government will not support any policy or action by any government which is inconsistent with our view that we don't want to see any commercial whaling and we'll remain completely opposed to so-called scientific whaling. And we'll do that both in our representations through the international fora and also in the IWC itself.

SMITH: I suppose it's a longish answer to a pretty direct question. Will you ever exercise a vote that in any way allows any whaling?

GARRETT: Well the Government's position's absolutely clear, Mike, and the answer to that is that we're completely opposed to commercial whaling. We have never voted for it. The Government's position on commercial whaling and the moratorium remains in place and will always be in place.

SMITH: Okay. See these reports, and I've spoken to Greg Hunt, the Opposition bloke and he said – and the report's in the newspapers suggest that there is a scent of a deal around in which Australia would vote to allow Japan to do more whaling up north. In return for that they wouldn't do any in our backyard.

Would we ever vote in any way to support that sort of a deal?

GARRETT: Well look, let's go back one step. There is no deal and in fact what's been beaten up over the last day or so is actually a working group looking at a series of different options that different countries have brought forward. Japan has nominated coastal whaling for consideration by that group. Australia's nominated a whole range of different issues, including things like the purpose of the whaling convention, collaborative non-lethal research programs, you know, climate change impacts and the like.

So there is no proposal, there is no deal. All this is a body that is set up by some of the countries that are involved in the IWC to try and make the IWC work better. And Australia's position is absolutely clear; we're totally committed to opposing commercial whaling, we're totally committed to opposing so-called scientific whaling and we have done a great deal over the last year to actually advance Australia's agenda.

And what we want to do in the Whaling Commission meetings is have discussions about making this a conservation focused organisation, make the science rigorous that there's lots of arguments around, and get on with working with other countries in non-lethal research. We've put money towards a Southern Ocean research partnership.

Mate, I've got to tell you, you know, I look at what Mr Hunt and others did when they were in government, I don't spend a lot of time saying this, but the whale target doubled under the activities of the former government. I can't see any evidence that they were really seriously engaged in...

SMITH: Righto. Well it's not so much about them, Peter. This is about current life reality right now and I'd still just – I still feel that question hasn't been answered. I get the sense in your answer, you know, we're committed to it and all that sort of thing, that there is wriggle room and that you'd, there's room for you to say – to negotiate and still have a deal where more whales get killed.

Will you ever– will you exercise Australia's vote so that there is never - so we would never vote for any whaling at all?

GARRETT: Well the answer to that is that we do remain resolutely opposed to all commercial and so-called scientific whaling…

SMITH: Yeah.

GARRETT: … and we vote accordingly.

SMITH: You're opposed to it, but I mean if Japan came up with a deal and there no whales being killed down here but maybe whales being killed elsewhere you're open to agreeing with that?

GARRETT: No, I'm definitely not saying that, Mike. And I tell you, Australia – the Australian Government position is absolutely clear on this.


GARRETT: We're resolutely opposed to all forms of commercial whaling. We've consistently held that position and that's the way in which we conduct ourselves in the international fora, and we're also opposed to so-called scientific whaling. That's the whaling that's theoretically done with the actual approval of the IWC. So we will continue to oppose that, we will vote against it in the fora, so I am answering that question directly, but I'm also going to the question of what other people have been claiming is going on…

SMITH: Right.

GARRETT: … because it's simply not the case.

SMITH: Okay.

GARRETT: There is no deal. It's a working group, they're putting up a lot of proposals from countries including some from Japan. Australia should be in these discussions because we've got a lot of good pro-conservation, strong positions that we're putting about wanting to oppose commercial whaling and oppose scientific whaling and we want those matters to be discussed in the IWC.

SMITH: Okay, Peter Garrett, thank you very much for speaking with us.

GARRETT: Thanks, Mike.


Commonwealth of Australia