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

Murray Darling Basin; Sea Shepherd; whaling

Breakfast with Grubby & Dee Dee, 104.3FM Melbourne
4 December 2008

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GRUBBY: We're now talking to a politician but I would have rather played US Forces by Midnight Oil. Because it...

GARRETT: Where's the loud and fast stuff guys?

GRUBBY: Yeah, yeah.

DEE DEE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sorry.

GRUBBY: Yeah, we're with you. Don't worry. Peter Garrett, good morning.

GARRETT: Morning.

DEE DEE: How are you?


DEE DEE: That's good. Good news for the Federal Government on the bill for the - now Federal Government has control of the Murray-Darling Basin.

GARRETT: Yeah, long last.

DEE DEE: Was there happiness?

GARRETT: Yeah, look I think this was just one of those things that had to be done. Everybody's been talking about it forever. We've now got a whole of Basin plan; we've got an authority that's going to do it. The states have referred the powers, which is the way that you make this thing work. And we can get on with the serious business now.

DEE DEE: I have to confess I had to do a quick study just then because it's one of those issues I'd heard bubbling away but - pardon the pun - hadn't studied. But that covers one seventh of the entire continent. It's an incredible area.

GARRETT: Look, it's amazing. It's our foodbowl, it covers a huge part of the continent. It's water that flows west of course as we know. And it's been through this incredibly dry period, plus you're adding climate change, hotter, dryer, not much water in the system. So it's really important we've got this planning under control.

GRUBBY: And on that, I mean a lot of people ask me, I mean this is - we're all laypeople in this, Pete. And why don't we - you know, it rains like mad up in Northern Queensland, what's wrong with getting a dirty big pipeline and pumping it into the top of the Darling and then flowing down? GARRETT: Well the thing about it...

GRUBBY: How impractical?

GARRETT: The thing about it is that water always has to go somewhere down through the river systems, that's the way that nature kind of planned it. And I think the thing about it is we sometimes think that hang on a - if it's wet in the north, why can't we get it into the south.


GARRETT: The fact is that when it rains in the north a lot, that water has a use. It goes somewhere useful and purposeful. And to get the river system really healthy again requires a lot of stuff to happen, but basically we need some heavy rains that you don't actually end up piping the water, but let the water flow through the system, let the wetlands start to get a bit of moisture in them, get the birds and the native species coming back. Flush the system out, flush some of the salt out of the system. That's what we really need to happen.

And you know what, I mean you talk about pray for rain, that's where we're at in Australia at the moment.

GRUBBY: Absolutely.

DEE DEE: Peter, can we just change tact slightly for - to the whales, given that the Sea Shepherd ship left yesterday to head down to Antarctic waters to the Southern Ocean. The Japanese have eight ships on the way to start killing - I think their quota is a thousand whales. Why has it been left to Sea Shepherd alone to do anything about it this year? Why is the Government not doing anything?

GARRETT: Look Dee Dee, I don't think it's a case of it being left to Sea Shepherd at all. We have done a heap on this issue and will continue to. I mean, remember last year when we were in this position again, what we said was we will do a number of different things. We will make sure that we've got strong diplomatic engagement. That continues. We've got a whale envoy, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, myself and others continue to make that representation. We said that we'd monitor that fleet with a view to taking up material for possible use in a legal action. That monitoring happened. We collected that material and legal action against the Japanese still is an option for the Government. We haven't made a decision on that.

We also said we'd get into the IWC, which is actually the place where the decisions are made about these things, about whether or not this is scientific whaling and the like. I went to Chile in June of this year and we had strong support from other countries for our proposals. That's about making the IWC an environment organisation, a conservation organisation. And we've also now introduced a Southern Ocean Research Partnership - non-lethal research partnership into whales where we want to build the coalition of countries who work together to study and understand these beautiful creatures without killing them.

Look, the final thing to say is that the fleet will probably be in New Zealand waters more than in waters which we might describe as...

DEE DEE: The whales don't know that. The whales don't know there's an imaginary line...

GARRETT: No they don't.

GARRETT: No, look Dee Dee, that's right. But we think that the best next steps for us to do is to continue the strong pressure that we've been putting on the Japanese; to build a really good coalition of other countries to do this research and frankly to blow a hole in this argument that you need to actually kill whales in order to understand them. I think that at the end of the day, all of the things that we've laid out that we said we would do on this issue we've done, and we're going to continue to do it. We're going to continue a strong engagement, but we won't have a ship down there this year.

GRUBBY: Peter, what do you think of Sea Shepherd?

GARRETT: Well I say one thing about Sea Shepherd and that's this; they've got a responsibility like anybody else does on the open seas to make sure that they conduct their activities in a way which is lawful and peaceful, which plays...

DEE DEE: They're peace loving people. They absolutely are.

GARRETT: ... proper respect to the laws of the sea and the like.

GARRETT: I mean, it's a really dangerous place down there. Certainly...


GARRETT: ... we acknowledge the right of peaceful protest, but it's got to be done safely.

DEE DEE: I so want to have faith in you. I know politics is politics and there are things that go on that we - just the two of us sitting here and those listening don't know about that goes on. And I want to have faith in you Peter Garrett, because I think your heart's in the right place. We just don't want any more whales to be killed.

GARRETT: Well look Dee Dee, I share that, you know. And I've been spending time going to whale watching places up and down the coast.

DEE DEE: Yeah.

GARRETT: I was over in New Zealand recently. Maori people have put a fantastic whale watching business there. I mean, this is the way of the future for us. It's not going to happen overnight, it's a tough and hard issue. I'm not scoring a political point here, but I just say that in the time the previous government was in - I mean, they made a lot of noise about it, but in actual fact the whale count doubled.

DEE DEE: Yeah.

GARRETT: Now we are engaging really, really seriously on this issue and we're going to continue to do that.

DEE DEE: Just remember, people really do care.

GARRETT: I know that, and I do too.

DEE DEE: Thank you.

GRUBBY: Peter Garrett, it's been our pleasure, as always.

GARRETT: Thanks, Grubby. Thanks, Dee Dee.

DEE DEE: Thank you. Great talking, ta.

GRUBBY: Good on you, mate. Cheers.

DEE DEE: Thank you.


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