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Australia rules out whaling compromise at the -

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ELEANOR HALL: On the eve of the International Whaling Commission meeting in Chile - Australia is
ruling out any compromise with Japan.

The Environment Minister Peter Garrett says the aim is conservation not new quotas for Japan's
whale cull.

But the chair of the IWC is optimistic that with five days of meetings - some common ground may be
found between the pro and anti-whaling nations.

The ABC's environment reporter Sarah Clarke is in Santiago and she spoke to me just before we came
on air.

So Sarah, the IWC Chair is talking up a compromise. Is that realistic?

SARAH CLARKE: Look at this stage that appears very unlikely on the grounds the conference hasn't
even started yet. Yet the IWC chairman is talking of unity, consensus and optimism. So he has made
it his job to try and break this stalemate that has continued over the last few years, but it seems
neither side, meaning Japan and Australia, are looking to give ground on where they stand.

Australia has already ruled out talk of a compromise, arguing that any form of a deal may bow to
Japan's needs and may see a return to some form of whaling. So at this stage it appears unlikely
but the IWC chair, as I mentioned, is optimistic.

ELEANOR HALL: Yes, why is Australia's Environment Minister Peter Garrett ruled our compromising
even before the meeting has begun?

SARAH CLARKE: He arrived this afternoon and these were his first words "we do not agree to go down
the track of any form of compromise. Instead Australia will deliver a conservation agenda to this
IWC meeting". They are talking more of reform and including new threats of climate change on the
IWC policy front.

So in that sense they are saying we cannot talk of any form of scientific whaling being included in
the package and exactly what the compromise deal consists of is where Australia is obviously not
prepared to declare its position at this stage. But he certainly ruled out very early what we,
which track we are going to go down.

ELEANOR HALL: The commissioners have been trying to broker some sort of a deal before the official
start of the meeting. Have you been able to find out anything from them about the terms of this
deal?

SARAH CLARKE: We did ask him this afternoon that is of course the IWC chair Bill Hogarth, he wasn't
prepared to divulge any detail. But he said that they are making ground, it was a special private
meeting today with just the commissioners.

The concern for conservation groups is that any compromise that would get both extremes to the
table might deliver in Japan's favour by say, if Japan agrees to abandon its scientific whaling,
the IWC might then allow it to do small scale coastal whaling.

This is something Japan has been pushing for the last few years; eleven I think in total and never
succeeded. So this is where there is concern from the environmental groups that this may deliver on
a compromise that is bad for whale conservation.

Of course the IWC chair, Bill Hogarth hasn't confirmed this, but he says a deal is needed to save
these talks. Here is what he had to say a short time ago.

BILL HOGARTH: Everybody that I have talked to senses that the IWC can not continue on a path its
on, and I think that is the first thing, we realise that we do have problems. So I think that first
off, I'll put those issues forward for the sake of the whales and all and I think we need to do
this.

I sense that all countries are willing to. Is it going to be easy? Heck no. It is not going to be
easy. It is the best option we had and if we don't seize this opportunity, I'm not really sure what
will happen.

ELEANOR HALL: And that is Bill Hogarth, the chair of the IWC speaking at Santiago. So Sarah, what
are Japan's representatives saying about their government's position?

SARAH CLARKE: The delegation spokesman Glenn Inwoods said that Japan is willing to support the
chair's initiative. Of course, we don't know what that initiative is yet but they are saying they
want to normalise the commission and they were angry that Australia arrived, the Environment
Minister Peter Garrett arrived saying that they would not consider a compromise.

They describe that as a miscalculation for Peter Garrett to make such claims on arrival calling in
fresh demands as the IWC is trying to save itself from collapse.

They want Australia to talk constructively and they are basically arguing that it is difficult to
see what Australia can offer on the table to get some form of progress at this meeting by stating
or ruling out a compromise so early.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah, thank you. That is Sarah Clarke, the ABC's environment reporter in Santiago.