Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Speech on Japan's decision to end this season's whale hunt
18 February 2011
TONY BURKE: Good, good. Thanks very much for your patience. I know that there was a whole lot of traffic problems in getting out here today. In the last few hours we've now had confirmation from Japan that they have finished their whaling for the current season. In short, it's good news, but not good enough. Australia's position remains, the fact that it's, they've finished whaling for this season, that is good news but we want whaling to finish for good. Australia does not accept the argument that somehow this is so-called 'scientific whaling'. I don't think anyone can build an argument that somehow scientific knowledge is going to suffer because they've finished the whaling season early. We believe that the whaling that has been going on from Japan is against international law. That's why we've taken them to court. We're in that court case with the intention of winning it, with the very simple intention that we want the moratorium, we want the end of whaling, to be something that is respected worldwide.
JOURNALIST: Has Japan said how many animals have been killed this season? Are there any figures like that from them?
TONY BURKE: That's not information that I have but Australia's position is simple: the moment, the moment you're involved in the slaughter of one whale, that's too many. Since 1986 tens of thousands of whales have been saved because almost every nation in the world has respected a moratorium on whaling. Japan has not, we believe they should and we don't accept for a minute this concept of so-called 'scientific whaling'.
JOURNALIST: Have you been given any indication on how long the moratorium will take?
TONY BURKE: Well, at the moment, what we have from Japan is simply a decision relating to the current season. It has no bearing on our determination to take the legal case and to continue with the legal case, with the intention of stopping whaling for good.
JOURNALIST: Would you, would you congratulate them, though, for finishing early?
TONY BURKE: I'm pleased, I'm pleased that they've finished early but there's no cause for celebration until we get the announcement that whaling is over for good. That's what Japan should do, that's what most of the rest of the world has done and the concept that somehow that this has been contributing to scientific knowledge by sticking harpoons through whales is a notion that Australia doesn't accept. We believe it's illegal, we're running a court case in the International Court Justice with one simple intention: whaling should end.
JOURNALIST: Have you had a look into the review into Labor's election campaign in 2010?
TONY BURKE: No I haven't. I've been in Dubbo today for some meetings with the Murray-Darling association and I've, I've come back and then been getting across the details of the updates of what's happened in respect to whaling.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, what's the significance of the changes in policy from your point of view in terms of the buy-back plan?
TONY BURKE: Well the first big difference is that it's a down payment to basin communities to let them know quite clearly that the consultation we've been engaging in is real. The Irrigator's Roundtable- the people who've turned up to community meetings I've held- (Do we want to start that again? Did we lose it?) [Inaudible]. The consultation is real. What we've heard from the Irrigator's Roundtable- what we've heard from shared meetings that I've been holding up and down the Basin, what's been presented to the Windsor Inquiry has asked for some different approaches on the way we conduct the buyback. Let's make no mistake- the buyback still needs to happen. We're still dealing with the problem of over-allocation, but we want to make sure that we bring communities with us on this. We want to make sure that the reform that is decades overdue delivers healthy rivers but still delivers strong communities and sustainable food production.
JOURNALIST: Can you go through with me in a bit more detail, some of those changes?
TONY BURKE:There's a couple of different things that have been announced today. The first is the way we used to conduct the buybacks is we would go in with hundreds of millions of dollars at a time and launch a very big tender. Then we disappear from the market for quite a while and people weren't sure when we'd come back. Instead of that I'm now getting in to the market with a more modest way. The tenders that'll be in the papers tomorrow are for $40 million across the Southern Connected System with the intention that we will now be constantly in the market. At the end of each tender we'll very quickly announce the next tender. So that if somebody's unsuccessful they know that the next opportunity where they've chosen to want to sell their water to government is just around the corner. That stops, that minimises the capacity for us to be involved in distorting the market and allows us to work with those people who want to sell part of their entitlement to be able do it at a time that works for them. We've also announced some changes to taxation rules that effectively unlock what has been a very good program but hasn't been able to get going in a whole lot of catchments, particularly in New South Wales. It's called the "Private Irrigators' Infrastructure Operators' Program" and what this program does is that it allows irrigation authorities to take the lead on prioritising some of the purchases in the outer channels. This avoids so-called 'Swiss cheese effect' where you end up with the danger of some areas having stranded assets; where you've got someone in the middle who's sold their water but you still need to run the water past their property to be able to get it to people on the outer channels. It allows that prioritisation and strategic buy-back to be lead by local authorities.
Okay? Thank you very much, thanks for your patience.