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

Whaling

E&OE transcript
Interview with Marius Benson,
ABC Newsradio Breakfast
24 December 2009

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MARIUS BENSON: Peter Garrett, protesters are pointing out that this is now the fourth whaling season in which Labor has been in government and whales are still being killed in the Southern Ocean.

GARRETT: Marius, we remain absolutely opposed to the activities of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. We're committed to an extensive range of measures including ongoing serious diplomacy, but as you've probably noticed, and I know your readers and listeners would have noticed, we've also said that we will go through into the appropriate international judicial forum unless we get some significant forward movement on this issue, and it remains a matter of great concern to us.

MARIUS BENSON: Ongoing serious diplomacy is the sort of phrase that these protesters have been scoffing at and they've been pointing to delay in legal action. Do they have a point?

GARRETT: Will look Marius, I think the important thing to say here is that we've never said that going into the Southern Ocean and the activities that are undertaken there will change the view that the Japanese have taken about targeting whales.

It's important to remember that despite seasons of protest and activity there and a fair amount of table thumping by our political opponents, the Japanese actually doubled their quota over the past 12 years. So clearly the measures that were being taken in the past were not effective.

We needed to come up with a multi-pronged approach, we've done that. And, in doing that we want to show very seriously that we have a conservation agenda in the International Whaling Commission - I brought that forward at the last meeting. We said that we'd send a ship for monitoring, as we did a couple of seasons back in the event that there's a necessity to take that legal step. We also said that we'd commit significant resources to non-lethal whale research. I mean we've got the world's largest non-lethal whale research program being undertaken now and we invite all countries into that particular research program. I think that's the right thing to do.

And again we're in the middle of intense negotiations. There's a small working group that's doing it, and has been doing it as we speak. We said we'd enter into those negotiations in good faith, but at the end of the day we're not writing a blank cheque for talks and we will go into the appropriate international judicial forum if we need to.

MARIUS BENSON: But the Labor Party - the now Prime Minister when he was Opposition Leader promised to take Japan to international courts such as the International Court of Justice, that was - what four years ago now nearly?

GARRETT: Well we've had a range of measures that we've undertaken in that time and I mean I think the next season saw us with the Oceanic Viking in the Southern Ocean, the next season saw us have a considerable diplomatic effort involved with the Japanese and started to bring a reform agenda through the IWC.

Marius, we've always said and we understand very well, that the resolution of this issue is extremely difficult and there's no question about that. And I think it's fair to say, you know, the previous Opposition Leader himself - Mr Turnbull - made that point quite clearly when he was asked about it in the period of time when they were in government.

I mean the previous government wouldn't even contemplate legal action. We said that we will but we wanted to make sure that we had done every single thing that we could do. Not only in terms of bringing forward alternative conservation focused policies, but also in working through what we think is a very necessary diplomatic effort through the IWC itself where we're a member nation and where we rely on and require the support of like-minded nations for us to be able to advance our agenda there.

MARIUS BENSON: Now you've pointed to a whole range of measures the Government has taken, can you point to results, is there progress?

GARRETT: Well I think the fact that we're in the midst of negotiations that have effectively taken part as additions to the IWC is an indication that the diplomatic effort is to some extent is being noted. I mean there's no surprise I guess for me to say on Christmas Eve, that we're disappointed at the views that the Japanese have taken in coming back into the Southern Ocean over this summer. I mean we have a significant process that's operating through the IWC, there's a new IWC Chair and Australia has been involved in these discussions in a small group that was set up by that Chair, to resolve some of these intractable differences.

But at the end of the day, we've also been really, really clear about it and that is that we will do everything that we need to do to properly advance Australia's cause of opposing the killing of whales in the name of science in the Southern Ocean, and we're fully committed to that task.

MARIUS BENSON: Peter Garrett, thank you very much.

GARRETT: Thanks Marius.

[ENDS]

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