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

New South Wales Riverina River Red Gums decision; Japanese whaling

E&OE Transcript
Doorstop Interview
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
20 May 2010

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JOURNALIST: I just want to ask in regard to the River Red Gum forests decision by the New South Wales Government, how much pressure was exerted by you on the New South Wales Government to reverse its decision?

GARRETT: Look I welcome this decision by the New South Wales Government. It is a really good decision for the River Red Gums. It is the case that the Commonwealth had some serious concerns about existing logging practices, particularly in relation to national environment legislation. But I am really pleased with the step that has been taken by New South Wales and I think it is a very good conservation result.

JOURNALIST: So if the Commonwealth had some concerns does that mean you exerted pressure on the New South Wales Government to reverse its decision?

GARRETT: Look I think the best way of characterising it is to say that we were very keen to see the long term environmental values in these forests sufficiently protected. We recognise that they are genuinely of environmental importance and significance. There was going to be the need for a restructuring package and there was going to be the need for decisive action to be taken by New South Wales. Now that has happened, and I am pleased that it's happened.

JOURNALIST: So there was some influence from Commonwealth departments?

GARRETT: Well we certainly were making our views known about those matters and clearly we have some legal responsibilities that we raised in terms of issues there. But ultimately, at the end of the day, the New South Wales Government has made a very, very big decision and it is a good step.

JOURNALIST: So there were conversations had between your office and the New South Wales Government?

GARRETT: Well we always have ongoing discussions between ourselves and our state colleagues. I am pleased that we have reached the point where the government of New South Wales has decided to take this step. It reflects the strong views that have been put to it both by the community at large and also the interactions that we have had.

JOURNALIST: And also I realise that the $97 million compensation package is coming from the State Government but there are some councils there that have said that they are just not happy with it, that only $20 million will actually go into the area. What do you say to those concerns that it is just not enough?

GARRETT: Well I just think it is a matter of councils and others working it through with the New South Wales Government. I know Minister Sartor has visited the area. I think the package is a good one. But if there are issues that people want addressed and issues that need to be talked through then I encourage them to have those discussions with the New South Wales Government.

JOURNALIST: Could we see the Commonwealth put in some money if there are ongoing concerns?

GARRETT: Well our view is that in relation to the management of the forests there it is primarily a matter for the State. The State has come through with a package, with a timeline and a decision and I think it is up to the parties who are involved in making that decision now to work any outstanding issues through.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Stephen Smith is meeting with the Japanese PM today. Is it your understanding that whaling will be on the agenda?

GARRETT: Look I am not sure whether specifically whaling will be raised by Minister Smith. I do know that in the past it is an issue that has been raised at senior ministerial level and that has been reflected in the remarks that we have made previously. So whether it gets raised or not, it has been raised consistently in our interactions with the Japanese. But my expectation would be if there is sufficient time then it probably will be discussed.

JOURNALIST: So at this point we are no clearer as to whether or not we'll pursue the Japanese Government in the International Court over the issue?

GARRETT: I think the Prime Minister's comments on that are fairly clear and that is that if we haven't seen significant progress in terms of the discussions and processes that are in front of the IWC at the moment, then we will initiate appropriate legal action before the whaling season at the beginning of summer.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia