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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Whale research by the Australian Government's Australian Antarctic Division

Senator Campbell:
Thank you for coming along. Today is an opportunity to share with the Australian people, in fact the people of the world, the first outcomes of one of the largest Antarctic ecosystem scientific programs ever. Doctor Nick Gales joins me today; he is the man in charge of our Antarctic, particularly whale and cetacean research for Australia and our Antarctic Waters. The program has run for ten years, it's involved many scientists, the deployment of 140 sonar buoys and world-leading research on the eco-system. And of course whales are the peak of the food chain in the Antarctic food system, they are a vital part of that ecosystem and we regard the work we do within the Australian Government's Antarctic Division on whale research as being vital to our understanding of this vital ecosystem.

The importance of this ecosystem is underscored by the worlds increasing focus on climate change as an issue. What happens to the ice caps in the Artic circle and Antarctica is a vital part of how we manage the number one environmental issue for the planet. Climate change's impact on ecosystems is an incredibly important environmental issue, and this sort of research its impact is one of the most important things that my department and the Australian Government's Antarctic Division do.

The other importance of this is that it demonstrates once and for all, if it needed to be demonstrated that, the so called scientific programs of countries like Japan, Norway and Iceland are a sham. The research that Dr Nick Gales and our team of Australian Government Antarctic Division scientists have done in fact covers for example, the first three objectives of the Japanese Jarpa II program, which is all about understanding the Antarctic ecosystem. It has collected the material and gives us the evidence we need to in fact build the understanding that the Japanese in particular say that they need to kill literally thousands of animals to achieve. I will be providing Dr Nick Gales - and the Australian Government's Antarctic Division - will be providing to the Japanese, Norwegians and the Icelanders all the important material that comes from this research. I will be making sure that this occurs before the next IWC meeting in St Kitts in June and it needs to underscore to all of the people of the world - members of the IWC and everybody else in the world - the incredible importance of whale conservation and the fact that destroying them, blowing them literally out of the water and off the planet, is in fact not science, its not justified and, worse, it's done in the name of science but if you care as we do - and I think most people of the world care about the ecosystem around Antarctica - and you want to understand it and help to preserve it and conserve it for the benefit of those ecosystems but also for the benefit of the whole planet because it is a matter of life and death for the whole globe with climate change as a risk, serious risk - then doing that science is very important. And going down there and destroying in massive numbers a critical part of that ecosystem, the top of the food chain, the whales, is in fact working against very important environmental science. If you're doing science, just to try and put it more succinctly, if you're doing science on the Antarctic ecosystem you don't go down there and blow off the face of the planet these threatened species and a crucial part of the ecosystem. The so called 'science' is in fact working against the interests of science.

Is this now going to give you some evidence, some ammunition ahead of the IWC meeting to persuade some nations to run against commercial whaling?

Senator Campbell:
I think 'ammunition' is probably the wrong word in English language, particularly when you're talking about using explosive devices, being exploded inside the bodies of these beautiful creatures. But what it does is, after ten years of really hard scientific work by Australian scientists and in some cases in collaboration with other countries, and I might say we do science with the Japanese Polar Institute, they do very good science, we have very good collaboration with them and one of the offers I will make to my friends in Japan is that we can do fantastic science together, we can do really good work on whales together - we already do it - and here's an offer to build that collaboration without destroying a single whale. What it does is builds the evidence for us, we need to distribute that to other members of the IWC and other friends around the world who care about whale conservation but who aren't in the IWC, to ensure that they understand that our arguments that you can do really important research on whales, non-lethally, is the way for this century, not the way for the past century which is to wipe them off the planet. And we nearly wiped them right off the face of the planet; we came within a couple of years of wiping some species off the planet for ever more.

Now I'm happy to field any other questions. Dr Nick Gales is also happy to take questions in relation to detail of the research.

Scientific whaling is kind of widely seen as a sham, do you think that this preaching to the converted, or will it be able to get you the votes you need at the IWC meeting.

Senator Campbell:
Look, it was very close last time; we won by a handful of votes. And on paper we probably would have lost. We won because a couple of people didn't turn up and because we did convince a number of votes to either abstain or we convinced them with our logic. This will help build a logical case. I think some of the Pacific Island and Caribbean nations have been, I think, duped by propaganda that says that whales are denuding their fish resources. This research can in fact build the case that the sort of whales that are being taken in the name of science are not whales that are attacking the fish resources of Caribbean and Pacific Island nations. Australia respects the fact that fishing resources for those countries are absolutely imperative for their sustainability as an economy, so we do need to not just propagandise that whales don't eat fish; what we do need to do is show hard, serious evidence about the ecosystems which whales live in. I have enormous respect for my Ministerial and other colleagues from the Caribbean and Pacific Island nations and what I have to do is demonstrate in good faith and with good science, what we know about the whale ecosystem. So this research can be very helpful there, Nick, in winning that argument and hopefully winning the votes.

It sounded that (…inaudible…) in signing up more nations to the IWC (…inaudible…) are they more likely to vote with them (…inaudible…)

Senator Campbell:
I think spokespeople for the Japanese Fishing Authorities have said that is one of their modus operandi; I have to work on this assumption. Since I turned up to the IWC - and there were some two, three or four last-minute memberships that we were all aware of, in fact the day before I left Australia, all of a sudden I turned up and there were a few new member nations of the IWC. Whether Japanese or Norwegian or Iceland are behind those new memberships is something for people to speculate about but it's not unusual for last-minute memberships, and there's of course accusations made that the Japanese and others are behind that. We have to try to make sure that whatever the membership of the IWC that we seek to win the arguments. I openly urge any nation in the world who cares about whale conservation and the Antarctic ecosystem, the ecosystems of the Northern Hemisphere as well where Norway is causing destruction to these beautiful creatures, to think about joining the IWC themselves. It's an incredibly important environmental battle that we're waging and although some people join the IWC, I of course say to the people of the world well maybe if you care about whales, get your governments to think about joining as well.

Minister, on another matter it appears that a deal with China is fairly imminent on uranium. How can we guarantee that uranium that goes over there won't end up in nuclear weapons?

Senator Campbell:
I think it's incredibly important that we do, they're issues for the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Prime Minister to deal with in terms of nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards around that. My portfolio deals with cleaner energy issues and most importantly greenhouse gas emissions. For the world, we need to produce roughly double the amount of energy were producing at the moment if we're to see people living in poverty and people dying of starvation and disease get lifted out of poverty we will see energy demand grow by roughly double in the next 25-30 years. To ensure that both human life and the life of the worlds ecosystems and biodiversity is maintained, the consensus of the science says that in the next 50-60 years we also need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 50 per cent below what they now. So you're going to need a doubling of energy supply and half the greenhouse gas emissions we're making at the moment. That is going to need technological breakthroughs in a whole range of areas, it's going to need massive increases in the efficiency of renewables and it is going to mean in the nuclear area, the building of a lot of new nuclear capability around the globe. That is reality. It has to be done in a way that's closely safeguarded in terms of the waste from those facilities but also in relation to non-proliferation. But it's a matter of life and death for the world, that they're across all of the technologies of the known technologies available to produce energy, that the ones that do so with the lowest emissions are expanded. In the United States for example, 20 per cent of their energy comes from nuclear; if we don't see new nuclear facilities built in the United States, you will see nuclear energy production facilities closed down and replaced with fossil fuel facilities. That will be a disaster for greenhouse gases. Similarly in France they've got nearly 80 per cent of their power coming from nuclear; they will have to rebuild facilities as they get older. And of course the Prime Minister of Great Britain has just reopened the nuclear debate in Great Britain for the same reason. So nuclear will be a part of a clean energy future for the world; we have to make sure that expansion occurs within a tightly controlled proliferation framework and safeguards in relation to nuclear waste.

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