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

Celebration of 21 years since the golden wattle was declared Australia's official floral emblem; whaling; Gorgon development; oil spill

E&OE Transcript
Doorstop interview: Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra
1 September 2009

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GARRETT: [recording failed] …congratulating the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens on commissioning this piece of work and on recognising the golden wattle. What an important emblem it has been for Australians and it is for Australians and to be at our National Botanic Gardens on a really beautiful morning to see the work that the Friends and the staff here are doing.

And to say to Australians what a brilliant capital city we have when we have all of these marvellous institutions including the National Botanic Gardens where the display of wattle has been absolutely beautiful today.

JOURNALIST: Minister could I just ask you a question about whaling? There has been a change of government in Japan after a long time with the other party. Are you hopeful that this change might mean an end or a reduction in whaling in Antarctic waters?

GARRETT: Look it is very early days with the election of the new government in Japan and Australia will continue to represent strongly the views that we have put on this issue — that we have put previously. We will continue to do that. We have an Envoy who has been active in both representing those views to governments right around the world and we have had strong diplomatic engagement and my expectation is that that will continue.

JOURNALIST: Minister Garrett, Adam [inaudible] from ABC news. What plans does the Federal Government have to increase funding to the National Botanic Gardens or change its management structure as has been called for recently?

GARRETT: Look I will have a close look at the management plan review that is underway. It is a document that will be brought through to me in the future and we will have a close look at what that review process actually identifies. But I have got great confidence in this institution. I think that it is beaut place for the collection of the plant species which are endemic to this country. We have provided some support to enable there to be a supply of water into the Gardens because of the difficulties that Canberra has experienced in terms of drought. And once that management plan review comes to my desk then I will have some thoughts about it.

JOURNALIST: Do you sympathise with calls to return the gardens to their former glory though?

GARRETT: Well look, I think the Gardens are very well managed and I think what we're seeing today is a fantastic example of that. The fact that we have a really active local community, the Friends of the Gardens, who are providing [inaudible] enthusiasm and support [inaudible] …the sort of work that I have just had an opportunity to experience in terms of the research activities that the Gardens are undertaking. I am very confident both in the way in which the Gardens are undertaking their activities and what they will be doing in the future.

JOURNALIST: Do they deserve more money?

GARRETT: Well let me have a look at the national plan — the plan review process — and when that plan comes through to me we'll have an opportunity to consider those types of issues. But the Gardens are well supported by this Government and my expectation is that the work that they are doing here is understood and appreciated by us.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the Prime Minister is on Barrow Island today. Do you think it was necessary to have the LNG development there given that they are only sequestering less than half of the emissions from that project? Why couldn't it have been put on the mainland?

GARRETT: The decision to locate the LNG facility at Barrow Island was a decision originally approved by the previous government and by the West Australian government and the geology on Barrow is suitable for carbon capture and storage. I visited Barrow Island myself prior to making my final decision in respect of the third train for the LNG disposal and the amount of work that has been done by both commonwealth and state officials and also by the relevant experts indicates that it is a suitable site for CCS and it is appropriate that the development should have been approved on that island.

JOURNALIST: In regard to the oil spill off the North West coast, why hasn't Woodside's approach to help been accepted?

GARRETT: My understanding from Minister Ferguson's office is that the jack drill that has been proposed to come in and provide the additional support in terms of drilling is the most appropriate technology for that task. That is something which will now happen and I think the fact is that the Australian Marine Safety Authority and the relative state authorities that are involved in both monitoring and in making sure that this spill is properly and quickly remediated are doing that job and they are doing that job properly.

JOURNALIST: Just on that spill, will there be any kinds of sanctions or fines for the people who are responsible for it?

GARRETT: Well look the company has indicated that it will bear the liability for the spill and that is appropriate. There will be an investigation into the spill that will have to be undertaken over time. Let us now focus on making sure that the remediation activities are concluded satisfactorily. That means getting the jack drill in place and continuing not only the monitoring but the dispersant activities that have been underway up to this point in time.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us an update on how long you think it might take to completely clear up the spill and what the final costs might be, just a ballpark figure?

GARRETT: Well look I am not going to start speculating about days in terms of this spill. We do know that it is going to take a considerable period of time and in terms of cost that is something for the authorities to determine. The fact is that we have a national plan that was enacted immediately to address any of the issues around this spill. There has been constant interaction between not only AMSA and the relevant authorities but also my department. We are watching very closely to see how the continued dealing with this spill is undertaken. I am confident that it is being done with the maximum amount of effort that is needed and my great hope is that we can conclude it satisfactorily.

JOURNALIST: Just back on whaling, do you think there is an opportunity now for you and your Government to work with the Japanese on maybe ending Antarctic whaling because there is a new Government, there's prime minister, new environment minister, new whaling minister? Do you see that as something of an opportunity?

GARRETT: Look, I think the thing to say here is that we have always had a very consistent approach about this whaling issue and we have put those views consistently to the previous government. We will put them consistently to the new government.

JOURNALIST: Will you ring the new prime minister when things have settled down to have a talk about whaling?

GARRETT: Look the phone calls between prime ministers we will leave to prime ministers. No one will be under any apprehension about the strong feelings that Australia has but it is early days in this relationship. We will continue to represent the views that we have previously to this new government.

And I have to say again that the relationship between Australia and Japan is a very significant relationship. We have agreement on many, many matters. We will continue to have a close and a cordial and a productive relationship and whilst we have a disagreement on this one question of whaling and will continue to put our views very strongly on that matter, I expect the relationship will continue to be a strong and a cooperative one.

JOURNALIST: It sounds like you don't hold out great hopes that the new government might be a bit more keen to end whaling than the old government?

GARRETT: Well we will continue to put our views strongly on that whaling issue. We have done a great deal on this matter in the last 18 months. Everything we have said we would do we have put in place or put in train. And at the last International Whaling Commission meeting in Portugal, Australia's pro-conservation agenda was strongly supported by a number of countries in the Commission. There are ongoing negotiations amongst both the supporting group and there will be negotiations within the working group in the coming months. My expectation is that Australia will continue to put its views very strongly both in the Commission and also over time to the new Japanese Government.

Thanks everybody

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia