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The Centre De Congres
23 June 2010
GARRETT: Clearly there have been a number of very recent developments in relation to the leadership of the Labor Party and the Government in Australia. Now that a spill has been announced I won’t be able to cast my vote, I’ll be here in morocco, so I do wish the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister all the best. But I do think that Julia Gillard would make an outstanding Prime Minister if the Caucus so chooses.
QUESTION: So if your vote counted you’d back her?
GARRETT: If I was in a position to vote I would be supporting Julia Gillard, I think she would be a terrific Prime Minister. As it is I will be in Morocco, it will be up to the Caucus of the ALP to make that decision.
QUESTION: Somewhat frustrating to be here when so much is happening at home?
GARRETT: Well that’s the way things turn out, I think we have had an important meeting here. This International Whaling Commission meeting was an absolutely critical meeting, and it was important for Australia’s voice to be heard. And we’ve also seen a compromise proposal which Australia didn’t support not succeed. So, it was very important for me to be here to lead the delegation. I accept that there have been very recent developments taking place in Australia, they are of course developments that we’ll watch with great interest, I won’t be able to cast a vote, if I were able to cast a vote it would be for Julia Gillard.
QUESTION: Should she reshuffle? Do a Cabinet reshuffle? Would you be hoping to keep your job, or would this be the last IWC meeting you would attend?
GARRETT: Well that’ll be a matter to be determined, and the Caucus hasn’t met yet. What I would say is that Australia, both the Government, our officials, and many that have supported us, is playing a really vital role here at this IWC. We are providing strong leadership in the area of determining those things we can agree on in the IWC, and work on.
We have a vision for the IWC, one which we are inviting other countries to join. We have a vision of the IWC as a 21st Century conservation organisation where we work collaboratively on conserving whale populations, and on better understanding them.
And on building the capacity of countries to have economic activities like whale-watching. That’s an important agenda, so I’m very glad I can be here to prosecute that agenda, and it’ll be up to the Caucus to make its decision in the morning.
QUESTION: Along those lines, with this meeting [inaudible], you don’t see any value in intercessional meetings anymore?
GARRETT: My own view and the view of the Government is that we ought to close the door on this and now start to focus on things which we can reach common agreement, and which are positives for the Commission. It will be up to the Commissioners and other nations to determine how they want to treat that proposal and whether they want to come back to bits of it or not.
Of course we’ll participate constructively in discussion, but it’s been an intensive process, it’s been underway for nearly three years. We’ve participated every step of the way in this process, it did not deliver consensus, and the arguments and the views that Australia put were supported by many others.
That says to me that it was a compromise that had too many flaws to give it sufficient credence to be looked on in the near future. Whether people want to come back and refer to it later on is entirely in their hands.
QUESTION: Will you be backing up your proposal that there should be an examination of the governance IWC [inaudible] with an actual resolution or recommendation on the floor? Will Australia be doing that?
GARRETT: I’d like to have discussion with other countries to determine what might be the best way forward and whether we can arrive at a consensus to determine that. What I’ve said very clearly is that there is obviously a need for this body to consider improving its governance and that’s something which I think most would agree with. Now the manner and form in which that takes place is up to the Commission itself to determine through the member parties and the Commissioners.
We’ll certainly be a part of that discussion, I think it’s an important one, and I know that there’s a fair amount of support for it in the room.
QUESTION: Sounds like a decision that is going to have to wait though?
GARRETT: Well let’s see what happens over the next day or so, this is one of those organisations where much can happen in a reasonably brief period of time, somewhat similar to what we’ve seen at home.
QUESTION: On leadership, are you surprised that something like this has happened so soon? Is it unprecedented that a Prime Minister has been put to this position in his first term?
GARRETT: Look again, all I’ve got to say about these most recent developments is that I’m not going to be able to cast my vote, it will be the responsibility of the Caucus as it ought to be to the make those decisions. I certainly would support Julia Gillard, I think she’d make an outstanding Prime Minister. The Government’s record is a solid one, but in these instances, in this situation, if someone is going to contest the leadership of the calibre of Julia Gillard then she would’ve had my support.
QUESTION: And you want to keep your environment portfolio?
GARRETT: I want to continue to do the job I was elected to do – the representative of the people of Kingsford-Smith.
QUESTION: Scientific whaling will go ahead this summer, isn’t it time for Australia to seek provisional measures to stop whaling now?
GARRETT: Well we don’t know what the level of activity will be in the Southern Ocean this summer, and we certainly have always said that we don’t need to kill whales to better understand them.
We’ll have more to say about our Southern Ocean Research Partnership in the course of this commission meeting. I’m not going to be disclosing the legal tactics behind Australia’s case, other than to say, it’s a well prepared case and we’ll continue to argue very strongly, both bilaterally and in these forums, that the level of activity in the past that has been contemplated by Japan ought not be at those levels, and that we phase down to zero.