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Interview with Sarah Clarke for The World Today, ABC Radio
5 March 2010
SHANE MCLEOD: Australia looks set to go head-to-head with some of its former allies at this year's International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco.
A meeting of IWC nations in Florida has just concluded with a number of them pushing for a compromise deal.
The US and New Zealand are backing the deal which would see a ban on commercial whaling overturned in return for Japan reducing its so-called scientific research.
Australia is standing firm and has rejected the plan but it may be a lone voice.
A short time ago our environment reporter Sarah Clarke spoke to the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett.
GARRETT: Well we've maintained a very strong position by way of our proposal which says that any diplomatic agreement needs to include our primary objectives of the total and permanent elimination of all whaling and steps to get there.
The meeting hasn't come to agreement. It wasn't a decision making forum but it hasn't come to agreement. But we'll maintain our strong position in the ongoing discussions.
CLARKE: Will Australia agree to a compromise that could see a ban on whaling overturned?
GARRETT: We will not agree to any compromise which sees us allow for commercial whaling under any guise, under any name.
We have a proposal in front of nations in the IWC which has got a very strong reform component, a very strong conservation component and very clear steps to ensure that we don't see commercial whaling under the name of science and also total and permanent elimination of all whaling.
We'll continue to be part of the discussions but we'll also clearly be pushing our strong position in those discussions.
CLARKE: Are you disappointed that the United States and New Zealand may or are edging towards encouraging a compromise deal?
GARRETT: Well Australia is not for compromising on the question of whaling given that we have put substantial effort into bringing forward reform proposals for the IWC; that we are very clear about the goals that we want to see in terms of making absolutely sure that any agreement is an agreement which must secure the policy goals that Australia has identified.
We think that the elimination of all whaling, total and permanent, and steps to get us to that point is what this debate should be about.
CLARKE: Okay but looking at Australia's proposal you're talking about phasing out whaling over five years. Is that good enough or do you want it stopped now?
GARRETT: Well that's in the context of our overall call for the elimination of so-called commercial whaling and scientific whaling. We certainly say that there can be a phase-down within a reasonable timeframe. But there must be a commitment to go on that journey.
Now until such time as those proposals and those steps are given appropriate space in terms of any likely agreement we'll continue in the discussions. We always have done. But we will not be compromising our position.
CLARKE: It looks like Japan is standing firm though with regards to its push to allow for small time whaling at various communities along the coast of Japan. Is this a push that Australia may consider allowing them to do that if they phase down their scientific hunt in the Antarctic?
GARRETT: Look our proposal is clear about that and we would not countenance trading off any potential additional whaling, for example small scale coastal whaling, against reductions in other parts of the country.
These are matters that will come through not only the discussion process but into the IWC. Australia has been the strongest pro-conservation voice in the IWC and our strong view has always been that in order to break the deadlock there has to be meaningful and deliberate steps taken to achieve what we believe are the necessary conservation goals that the IWC should be setting itself.
Now other countries may have different views about that but Australia's view remains absolutely firm.
MCLEOD: Environment Minister Peter Garrett speaking to Sarah Clarke.