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Peter Garrett on whaling tensions -

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CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: Two days after protesters clashed with whalers in the Southern Ocean,
drama on the high seas has been replaced with diplomacy ashore. Australian officials in Tokyo have
held talks with their Japanese counterparts in a bid to ease tension over the incident.

With another month before the whaling season ends, there's mounting concern more lives will be put
at risk unless action is taking and there are growing calls for the Government to live up to its
pre-election promise to take Japan to an international court.

Earlier I spoke to Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

Peter Garrett, when are you going to stop threatening to take Japan to international court and
actually do it?

PETER GARRETT, ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: Chris, what we've said we is that we want to work through a
process that's been agreed at the IWC for a special process that countries are involved in, in
trying to resolve the issues we brought forward into the commission.

There are additional meetings that are taking place, support group meetings, working group meetings
and the like and what I've said is that if we don't see a substantial action and substantial
achievement in terms of the issues we've put up being addressed then legal action becomes the thing
that's very much on the table.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well in fact what you said back in 2007 in a joint statement actually with the Prime
Minister is that you would take legal action against Japan. Why aren't you doing it?

PETER GARRETT: Well we also said then that we would do a number of other things and one of the

CHRIS UHLMANN: This was the first thing though; this was top of the list.

PETER GARRETT: Well yeah, let me just, let me just answer the question quickly. We wanted to
collect information for a potential legal action.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Which you've done with the 'Oceanic Viking'.

PETER GARRETT: We did that with the 'Oceanic Viking'. We also wanted to engage in a vigorous
diplomatic round and bring a reform agenda to the IWC to provide the conservation focus we think it
needs and frankly to get the kind of international support we think we need to have in terms of our
conservation agenda.

Now we've been faithful to that process and a major contributor in the IWC in terms of the reform
agenda. What we're now saying is if we don't see significant, additional, action taken in relation
to the issues that we've brought forward then legal action is the next step for us.

CHRIS UHLMANN: In fact what you said in that same release back now over two years ago is that for
11 years the Howard government has talked about opposing international whaling but has taken no
real action.

You're taking the same action as the Howard Government. How does that qualify as being real action?
Just because you're doing it not them?

PETER GARRETT: Look, I disagree entirely with what you're suggesting in that question and I'll tell
you why, Chris, because we had 12 years under Mr Howard, 12 years where they had wrist bands and
table thumping, no collection of material for potential legal action, no potential legal action and
no reform agenda and we saw the number of whales targeted in the Southern Ocean double. It was a
completely unsuccessful strategy.

Our strategy is focused on bringing forward a conservation agenda, intense diplomatic effort and if
we don't get the results that we're seeking in terms of cessation of so called scientific whaling,
a move to legal action.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Minister do you think it's either good foreign policy or good environmental policy
to continue to make what seem to be empty threats?

PETER GARRETT: There's nothing empty about them.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So when will you do it?

PETER GARRETT: Well as I've said we want to see substantial achievements in the discussions that
are underway now, as we speak in fact, they'll meet at the end of this month in Hawaii. We've been
a part of a working group process because we brought forward into the IWC a conservation agenda.

It's Australia who has specifically said that Article 8 which gives the Japanese the opportunity to
say, "We want to kill whales in the name of science," we want that article to no longer be a part
of the way the commission conducts its business.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And if it remains in place and if you're not satisfied you will take legal action,
is that what you're saying, you will take legal action?

PETER GARRETT: That is what the Government has said, that is what the Prime Minister has said and
that is what will happen?

CHRIS UHLMANN: So, we'll see it sometime in the future, can you put a time on it?

PETER GARRETT: I wouldn't want to put a time on it Chris for the simple reason that we're involved
in what I think are really important and meaningful dialogue and discussions with other whaling
nations including with the Japanese and because we've said that it's not a blank cheque, these

We want these negotiations to arrive at a decent conclusion in Australia's eyes, if they don't then
the legal option question comes right in front of us.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Can you give us a time at which we can stop taking you seriously on this; is there a
point in time at which we can start to say it is unlikely that you'll ever do anything on this

PETER GARRETT: Well I reckon there is a little bit of cynicism in your question and so I will
counter it by saying this...

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you think that people might be getting cynical about now two years in and the
first item on your agenda when you came in was that you would take action?

PETER GARRETT: Well, give me an opportunity to respond. We said we'd do a number of things. We said
that we'd collect material by having a vessel go into the Southern Ocean; we did that with the
'Oceanic Viking'.

We said that we'd bring a reform agenda into the IWC and we've done that as well.

We actually also said that we would significantly advance the conservation agenda in terms of
policy. We now have the largest non-lethal whale research program in the world - the Southern Ocean
Research Partnership - a commitment of some $30 million to work with like-minded nations and we've
said we would consider taking legal action.

Now every single thing that we said we would do two years ago - bar one - we've done. We continue
to be the strongest voice in the commission against the killing of whales in the name of science
and if we don't see substantial progress on this particular issue, legal action is next.

CHRIS UHLMANN: What's your legal advice Minister? Would you win an action in the International
Court of Justice or sea tribunal?

PETER GARRETT: I'm not going to canvas the legal advice that the Governments received...

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you have legal advice?

PETER GARRETT: Well, clearly we do have legal advice?

CHRIS UHLMANN: And you have evidence?

PETER GARRETT: Well we've got material that we've collected when the 'Oceanic Viking' went into the
Southern Ocean. But I'll just make the point about the...

CHRIS UHLMANN: Do you have a brief though that you're confident in?

PETER GARRETT: Well I'll make the point ahh... the success of a legal point is something which
cannot be guaranteed. It is a difficult and it can be a time-consuming process.

Our political opponents never took that path, they never took that course of action. If we are to
take that course of action we want to be a substantially and resolutely prepared as we can and we
need to have a case which we think has got some prospects of making the kind of achievements we

CHRIS UHLMANN: Where would you make the case?

PETER GARRETT: Well, that is a matter for the Cabinet to consider, I'm not going to start
canvassing details about potential...

CHRIS UHLMANN: But you must know by now where you'd make your case? You must know where the court
is going to be if you are considering taking it to court?

PETER GARRETT: Well again, we've considered this matter. We've got the advice. There are a number
of potential fora open to us as you'd know, there's the International Court of Justice and there
are other fora but I don't propose to rehearse the details of Australia's potential legal action on
the ABC tonight.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Alright, let's look at the other side of the argument with the Sea Shepherd and the
boats that it's using, do you have legal advice on the way that they're behaving in the Southern
Ocean? Could you actually take them to court over matters of piracy or maritime terrorism?

PETER GARRETT: I don't have any advice of that sort in front of me. What I can say is that the
skipper of the 'Ady Gil' was specifically communicated to by authorities prior to travelling to the
Southern Ocean, a reminder of the responsible that masters have over taking proper carriage of
those people on their vessels.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And just to be clear you are not allowed to interfere with the navigation of another
vessel at sea are you?

PETER GARRETT: Well in terms of the laws...

CHRIS UHLMANN: You can't foul their propellers for example?

PETER GARRETT: ... Well in terms of the laws of the sea that apply in international waters, we've
been very clear on urging restraint on all sides and on all vessels.

And one thing that I think needs to be really clearly understood here and that is that when vessels
under another flag nation go into international waters to conduct whatever kind of activities they
do, of course we have an interest but they have a primary responsibility for ensuring they conduct
those processes peacefully and without any violence.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But if they dock in our ports we have an obligation to enforce the laws of the sea
don't we?

PETER GARRETT: Well, in relation to boats that are stopping by for refuelling or portage of that
kind, we offer the same opportunities to vessels under international flag carriers as we do to any
other kind of vessels.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Minister on another matter, are we going to see a ban on climbing Uluru?

PETER GARRETT: Today Chris, I've approved the draft plan, it's now a formal plan from the board of
Uluru, made up of traditional owners and others.

And what they've said to me is that subject to some preconditions, a potential closure of the climb
could take place in a few years hence but I think it's important that we look at those conditions,
see whether they can be meet met and at the same time develop a deeper and probably more long
lasting tourism experience for people who visit The Rock.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Would you like to see the climb closed?

PETER GARRETT: Well I've always said that I'm sympathetic to the views that have been put by
traditional owners.

There's already a sign at the bottom of the climb which says, "Will you respect this rock and not
climb it?" and I know other people have got other views on this.

I think they've come up with a really sensible decision. We will see additional tourism coming to
Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park where people don't necessarily have to climb the rock to enjoy the
rock itself and enjoy Indigenous culture.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But again and finally Minister, do you think this Government is in danger of
confusing words with actions?

PETER GARRETT: Not at all. I think it's appropriate for us to take the advice from the board who
has responsibility for the management of Uluru. We've done that. I've listened carefully to the
arguments that they've put. I think they're good arguments and I'm very, very happy to accept them.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Peter Garrett, thank you.

PETER GARRETT: Thanks Chris.