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

Remarks at National Whale Day celebrations, La Perouse Museum

E&OE Transcript
Sydney, NSW
5 June 2010

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Thank you very much Erica, and it is a great pleasure to be here on National Whale Day in 2010, with IFAW and with the community that's come here to this museum in my electorate of Kingsford-Smith — a very special place.

Can I add my acknowledgments to Traditional Owners, and my respects to the local Lapa community, and say that Australia remains absolutely and profoundly committed to ending whaling in the Southern Ocean — so called 'scientific' whaling.

We will continue up to and in the IWC, to very strongly both argue what we think the core principles of whale conservation that are necessary, and as well put up an alternative set of proposals for the International Whaling Commission to consider.

We see the footage on our television screens of whales being killed in the name of science. We know that people in this country and around the world believe that there are betters ways to understand these majestic creatures.

As for our efforts so far, they have been considerable.

When we came into Government, we said that we would take unprecedented action in opposing commercial whaling, and opposing whaling in the name of science in the Southern Ocean.

We said that we'd send a vessel to the Southern Ocean to survey those whaling activities, and we did that.

We said that we'd intensify the diplomatic effort, and we did that, including appointed a Special Whale Envoy for Conservation — Sandy Hollway — to engage in intense discussions with both our neighbours, like-minded countries, and of course Japan.

We said we'd bring a reform agenda to the IWC — we have a vision for the International Whaling Commission that it becomes an organisation that focuses primarily on the conservation of whales, where we get a greater and deeper understanding about the threats and challenges that these creatures face, that we work with one another cooperatively in scientific research, and that we have robust scientific procedures and assessments that characterise the consideration of all issues in the Commission.

We brought a reform agenda to the IWC for the first time, and we will continue to champion that reform agenda in the run up to the IWC meeting later this month in Morocco.

But as well as that, we've launched the largest ever research partnership of its kind in the world, Non-lethal research in to whales — the Southern Ocean Research Partnership. And in January this year I launched that Partnership in Wellington, and we invited all nations of the IWC to join us in that particular research effort.

What is Australia proposing? Amongst other things, there should be no whaling of vulnerable species, that we should immediately phase-down within a reasonable period of time, whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, that we need to have rigorous accredited and agreed scientific procedures in the International Whaling Commission. And, thatcountries cannot reserve for themselves the right to kill whales in the name of science.

We have a $30 million package committed to showing that we can learn everything we need to know about whales, about cetaceans, and we can do it in a non-lethal way.

Today we are announcing the research package of some $660,000 plus as part that commitment we've made both to the Southern Ocean Research Partnership and the Marine Mammal Centre in Hobart.

I'm very please to take this opportunity to announce the granting of the first Bill Dawbin Postdoctoral Fellowship in cetacean research to Dr Amanda Hodgson who will be doing work on cetaceans using unmanned aerial vehicles, to get a deeper and more valuable understanding of their passages and their activities.

As well as that we have a commitment to some four countries of over a quarter of a million dollars for Indo-Pacific whale research. That includes countries such as Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Fiji and Pakistan.

We are at a crossroads when it comes to the maintenance of the moratorium on commercial whaling. We are at a crossroads when it comes to our efforts to strengthen the protection of whales worldwide. And we are at a crossroads when it comes to the upcoming IWC meeting where countries will be considering proposals on the table, which would see, if agreed, a return in effect to commercial whaling. A step which Australia believes is backward, and a step which we will vigorously and stringently oppose.

So can I encourage all Australian's on National Whale Day to get out there and express your support for these creatures. We believe that there is an extraordinary potential for many countries to derive great economic benefit from activities like whale-watching, to work together in cooperative research — non lethal research — to better understand whales and dolphins, but also the pressures that they face.

We also think that now is the time to recognise that a couple of decades ago the International Whaling Commission did agree to the moratorium on commercial whaling. It is now the time for the International Whaling Commission to agree on additional measures to protect the great whales of the world's oceans.

Australia, the Australian Government, and this Minister, is totally committed to that task.

So on World Environment Day, and on National Whale Day as well, thank you very much Erica for hosting this event, and we look forward to continuing the work we have undertaken so far.

Thank you.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia