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

Meeting of the International Whaling Commission; International legal action; Prime Minister Gillard

Doorstop interview
International Whaling Commission
The Centre De Congres
Agadir, Morocco
24 June 2010

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GARRETT: Look we are starting to see some discussion in the International Whaling Commission on what I think are the practicals and the positives, and that is a good thing. Conservation management plans and of course whale watching, and proposed workshops that Australia very strongly supports. And we have seen lots of buy-in by other countries here as well. That is important.

In the meantime I am very hopeful and very keen to see issues of governance and the stocktaking of the rules and regulations of this Commission be something which is actually addressed at this Whaling Commission meeting. There has been some significant discussions around that issue, as I understand it. I have expressed Australia's very strong view that a stocktake is necessary and urgent and it will be some matter for the other countries here to determine whether or not they want to bring that forward, and I hope that they will.

In the meantime it is clear, particularly from the statements today by New Zealand, that Australia's position here at the Commission is one that has credibility and is supported and it is also, in terms of our potential possibilities of additional actions that we want to take place, including the one that we have already announced which is legal action, now we have New Zealand indicating that it too would want to consider some participation in legal action with Australia. Again, a vindication of the position that we took when we came to the Commission. One that has been confirmed today by the actions and the statements of other countries.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of the Japanese coastal whaling, it is still and issue, an agenda item, which is on the table. Would you like that closed?

GARRETT: Well look it is a matter that is going to come up for discussion and clearly it is one that has been discussed in the past by the Commission. Australia has always said that the framework approach which we believe countries should take must be on the basis of agreed science, must clearly recognise the role of the scientific committee. And we can't have the trading of potential whales not taken in one place for the taking of whales in another. But that is a discussion that will take place on the floor.

JOURNALIST: Okay, so the compromise or the deal that has been the Chairs offer, is that something you want shut down rather than an agenda item being left open?

GARRETT: Well look let's just wait and see how the discussion unfolds. I think as ever, we are keen to see discussions take place in a productive environment, in a productive atmosphere. That ought to be the basic goal, regardless of where the discussions end up. JOURNALIST: Bilateral meetings. Who have you been talking to?

GARRETT: Look we have had an opportunity to talk to a number of countries and I did have a meeting with the Japanese vice minister - in the course of this International Whaling Commission - a meeting to discuss some of the general issues that have been the subject of discussion between us previously. And the one thing that we did agree at that meeting was that we would continue the discussions.

JOURNALIST: Okay, is there any specific plan to continue that? Would you plan to go to Japan for instance?

GARRETT: No, I think that we will just see what finally gets realised at this whaling commission meeting here. We have had ongoing dialogue with Japan on this issue and I expect that that will continue. This meeting was a part of that dialogue.

JOURNALIST: Other countries and the legal action - are you hopeful there may actually be others? Are you taking to other countries, you may not be able to name them, but have you talked to other countries about joining the legal action?

GARRETT: No. Look, Australia takes the view that we have brought this legal action in our own right, nationally. It is a case we have prepared and it has been lodged with the court. Other countries have a range of different options open to them if they want to consider participation, we welcome discussions with them.

But I do note that on the part of New Zealand, they were supportive of a compromise proposal that clearly now no longer has legs. Now they are considering the possibilities for legal action. It will be a matter for them to determine what particular level of participation they are seeking one way or the other. I look forward to having a discussion with them further down the track.

JOURNALIST: What is the next formal point in the legal action? Is there a procedural meeting timed ahead in the short term or.?

GARRETT: Once oral pleadings have been heard then it will be up to the court to determine the process after that. My expectation is that that will happen over the next month or two.

JOURNALIST: Oral pleadings?

GARRETT: Correct, that is right.

JOURNALIST: Minister, is the Australian Government thinking about an independent inquiry into the transparency of the IWC?

GARRETT: As I have said previously, we recognise that like any organisation it is appropriate for the IWC to have a stocktake on its rules, its regulations and its procedures. I very much hope that that suggestion is taken up during the course of this meeting.

JOURNALIST: Your new Prime Minister?

GARRETT: Julia Gillard will make a terrific Prime Minister. She comes into this role on the back of a period of significant activity and accomplishments by the Rudd Labor Government. There is much that the former Prime Minister can be rightly proud of in delivering an agenda which I think is of huge and real significance to Australians.

Clearly Julia has got a significant task ahead of her, but she is very, very well equipped for that task.

JOURNALIST: The shelving of the ETS has been pretty much blamed for Rudd's demise. Is that fair?

GARRETT: Well I think that the very difficult issues around the ETS lie in the fact that as with other legislation we aren't always able to get the support that we need in the Senate.

We took an ETS to the Senate three times and three times it was knocked back. That creates a very difficult political environment and it is one that any government in this situation has got to operate within as best is can.

We are committed to an emissions trading scheme. We are committed to there being a price on carbon, there needs to be a price on carbon. And I know that the Prime Minister will want to advance that issue as she sees fit.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia