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Australia, Japan agree to IWC reform plan -

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Australia, Japan agree to IWC reform plan

The World Today - Wednesday, 25 June , 2008 12:15:00

Reporter: Sarah Clarke

TANYA NOLAN: It's being described as a breakthrough - an agreement to set up a new working group to
decide the future of the International Whaling Commission.

In a first at the meetings, Japan and Australia have agreed on one thing and that is that change is
needed if the IWC is to survive.

Both countries will be part of the panel and have 12 months to report back on a deal.

But conservation groups say it's yet another delaying tactic that will result in more whales being
killed by Japan this summer.

Environment reporter Sarah Clarke is in Santiago where she filed this report.

SARAH CLARKE: After two days of meetings, and attempts to get consensus, the international whaling
commission remains deeply divided.

With that in mind, the IWC today agreed to set up a working group which has 12 months to deliver a
package that will break the stalemate.

Australia and Japan have both been appointed to the 20 member group.

The Environment Minister Peter Garrett says it's a positive step.

PETER GARRETT: Look today we have seen something of a breakthrough in the International Whaling
Commission with an agreement by member states that there will be a working group process. It will
be based on consensus. This is an attempt to break the logjams and the gridlocks that have
characterised the debate in the commission in the past.

It is something that Australia does support. We recognise that there are a number of really
important issues that must be resolved and they must be resolved in a way which is constructive,
and because we have brought a number of really strong and concrete proposals to the table, we want
to see them discussed in this spirit of co-operation as well.

We are not pretending that it is going to be easy and it really is the beginning of a process, not
the end of one. Notwithstanding that, this is a breaking of the gridlock; an opportunity for some
forward, future and constructive discussion and we'll be a part of those discussions from today.

SARAH CLARKE: Japan described it as an historic move, and one that's crucial if it's to stay on as
a member.

In recent years, it's threatened to walk away from the IWC unless there's change.

Joji Morishita is a member of the Japanese delegation - he acknowledges delivering an agreement
will be a challenging but necessary step.

JOJI MORISHITA: We are seeing a very good atmosphere up here in IWC and hopefully that situation
will continue to the working group. We have to push for that actually, so that we can save this
organisation.

SARAH CLARKE: There is concern though that it is simply delaying anything or any action for another
12 months so Japan can go ahead with scientific whaling again this summer. Do you see it as a
delaying tactic?

JOJI MORISHITA: No, I don't think so. Most of the general participants of this meeting have a real
concern about this organisation and we all know that unless we do it quickly, this organisation
might be looking at the collapse.

SARAH CLARKE: Is 12 months really going to deliver any action though or any changes? Isn't it just
getting two parties again together to disagree?

JOJI MORISHITA: This is a big challenge but the one with the merit. We have all number of all
countries concerned and with commitment and incentive to try to do something. Oftentimes it is much
better than bilateral talk because we have to do something and that is an agreement of all member
countries.

SARAH CLARKE: This meeting has set a new path for the whaling commission meeting.

A lot of discussions here are being conducted behind closed doors, there are no votes and debate
has been discouraged.

Rob Nicoll from Greenpeace says it's a bad sign for whale conservation.

And with 12 months to report back on the future of the international whaling body, another 1,000
whales will be killed over summer.

ROB NICOLL: That seems quite clear from the process that has been laid out is that it will be a
closed process for the working group and intercessional. NGOs won't get any input into that.

Now in other international treaties, for example CITES the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species and the Antarctic Treaty System, NGOs are integral to the process of the running
of those institutions.

And so it should work well here with the IWC as well. As this process continues we are going to see
whales still dieing unless something is done before the end of this meeting.

TANYA NOLAN: That is Rob Nicoll from Greenpeace with Sarah Clarke in Santiago.