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

Australian Government's decision to initiate legal action against Japanese so-called 'scientific' whaling

E&OE Transcript
Interview with Monita Rajpal
CNN World News, London
1 June 2010

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RAJPAL: Australia says diplomacy has failed and now it is going to court to try and stop Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. An international moratorium prohibits commercial whaling but Japan kills about 1000 whales a year under an exception for scientific research. After years of negotiations Australia is taking the matter to the International Court of Justice.

Peter Garrett is Australia's Environment Minister; he joins us now on the phone from Canberra. Sir, thank you very much for being with us.

What evidence does Australia have that Japan is not - is conducting whaling other than for scientific research?

GARRETT: Well I guess Monita, the key is that in the period prior to the moratorium Japan targeted about 800 or so whales for scientific purposes. Since the moratorium was in place and they decided to exempt themselves from the moratorium under the guise of scientific research, they have killed in excess of 6000 whales. And to that extent it is our strong view that that is not consistent with the reservation that they have claimed under the IWC convention itself.

And it is also the case that we believe that it is possible to do all the research that you need to do and understand everything that you need to understand about cetaceans, and you don’t have to kill them to do it.

RAJPAL: It seems as though Australia obviously feels very strongly about this issue, so much so that it would risk its relationship with one of its key trading partners?

GARRETT: Well I think that the Foreign Minister and myself have both been very clear that we recognise the importance of our relationship with Japan. It is an enduring relationship, we are significant trading partners and there is a good deal of respect and interaction between both countries.

On this matter we do have a disagreement and it is a distinct one. And we haven’t seen, in the period of extensive negotiations, any substantial concessions or offers that have come from the Japanese on the question of their whaling, particularly in the Southern Ocean.

We think that it is appropriate to have this matter adjudicated in the International Court of Justice. We are agreeing that it is the appropriate place to have that matter settled. In the same time, we recognise that we will have, and continue to have, good and constructive relationships. We think that we can disagree about one thing and continue to have close relationships across a range of other issues.

RAJPAL: Why is it important for Australia to take the lead in this? And now you are looking for support from other countries and have you received that?

GARRETT: We have a very strong view that to be targeting 900 or so whales in the Southern Ocean, including in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, under the guise of science, is not consistent with either the IWC convention itself nor with the way in which in the 21st century we should be relating to these creatures.

We believe that is absolutely critical that the processes in the Commission are agreed by robust science. We don’t think that a country - a pro-whaling country - should just be able to just reserve, seek reservations for themselves, to carry on those activities in the way in which they have. We certainly don’t think that we should be whaling endangered or vulnerable species.

And we believe that the IWC should be a conservation focused organisation. We should be looking at the risks and threats to these animals - climate change, ship strike, habitat change and the like. And we have had some very good support from other countries.

We have got the largest ever non-lethal whale research partnership - the Southern Ocean Research Partnership, which I launched earlier in the year - and we are inviting countries to consider an alternative proposal that we have put in front of the IWC. We think that in the 21st century this organisation should be focusing on conservation, not killing the number of whales that are targeted in the name of science.

RAJPAL: All right, Peter Garrett, sir, thank you very much for your time.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia