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Govt urged to act on legal threat over Japan' -

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SHANE MCLEOD: The confirmation by Japan that it plans to continue whaling as usual despite a change
of government is being countered by Australia with the threat it could still take legal action
against the kill.

That threat was first made years ago as part of the Labor Party's campaign to be elected.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says legal action is still a possibility but for now the Government
will continue trying to talk Japan into stopping its whaling program.

As the Japanese whaling fleet continues its journey towards the south, the Federal Opposition says
it's time for the Government to act on its legal threat.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: It's been more than two years since the Labor Party won government after promising to
launch legal action to stop the killing of whales in the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone
off the Australian Antarctic Territory.

Nicola Beynon from the anti-whaling group Humane Society International says this year's whaling
season will begin any day now.

NICOLA BEYNON: They usually start killing in mid-December. They are planning to take nearly a
thousand minke whales and 50 fin whales. With the fin whales those cruelty concerns are very, very
serious. They're such a large whale and it can take a long time for them to die.

SIMON LAUDER: As the Japanese whaling fleet heads south the Foreign Minister in Japan's new
centre-left Government has made it clear the whalers have his full support and gone is the pretence
of science.

Katsuya Okada told the ABC it's a Japanese tradition to eat whale meat and there's no need to
review Japan's whaling policy.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has responded by repeating his long standing threat to take the issue
up at The Hague though he told Fairfax Radio he'd rather talk it out at the International Whaling

KEVIN RUDD: We, if we cannot resolve this matter diplomatically, will take international legal
action. I've said that before. I'm serious about it. I would prefer to deal with it diplomatically
but if we can't get there diplomatically that's the alternative course of action.

SIMON LAUDER: The Federal Opposition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the Government's
failure to act on its threat so far has given Japan the green light to continue whaling.

GREG HUNT: Three seasons have passed and still no action on whaling, still the continued slaughter.
So Mr Rudd must explain whether he will fulfil his election promise on taking Japan to the
International Court. If they do not cease he must set an ultimatum and if he won't fulfil his
election promise he must explain why.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you think taking Japan to the International Court of Justice would work?

GREG HUNT: Mr Rudd must set an ultimatum for Japan before he goes to Copenhagen which sets out a
timeframe for Japan to finish whaling, to stop the slaughter, to end the killing. And if he doesn't
do it he must explain before he goes to Copenhagen why he's abandoned Australia's protection of
these great and majestic creatures.

SIMON LAUDER: Nicola Beynon from Humane Society International was thrilled with the promise of
legal action but now she's losing patience.

NICOLA BEYNON: You can't compromise on this. Either you have a global ban on commercial whaling or
you don't. So we would like to see some mechanism that brought about an end to whaling and we think
that action in the International Court is probably the best opportunity for that.

SIMON LAUDER: So do you agree with the Federal Opposition which says it's time to deliver an

NICOLA BEYNON: We certainly believe that the negotiations for compromise just can't be left to
continue while every season we're seeing over 1,000 whales being killed.

SIMON LAUDER: The Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says diplomacy is still the
Government's best option.

PETER GARRETT: No I haven't lost faith in the diplomatic route. We've done a number of things since
we came into government on this issue and one of the things we said was to pursue a much more
amplified and substantial diplomatic effort.

We have a whale envoy. We're participating in the special support group meetings that are being
undertaken right now and will continue in January.

We need to continue with that very solid although difficult diplomacy. That's the important part of
our approach on this issue.

SIMON LAUDER: Two full whaling seasons have gone ahead since the promise to take legal action by
the Labor Party and another one is about to begin. At what point do you actually live up to that

PETER GARRETT: I think we'll have a sense of whether we're able to have good advances, substantial
advances in our discussions with the Japanese as we head into the next IWC meeting.

We very much regret the fact that the Japanese have decided to target the number of whales they
have for this summer season.

SIMON LAUDER: The Federal Opposition wants the Australian Government to take this up on the
sidelines of Copenhagen. Does it have enough urgency for that to happen?

PETER GARRETT: I don't think that's a particularly sensible suggestion at all and shows that the
Opposition haven't been paying attention to the significant number of meetings that are already
undertaken and that will be undertaken.

When we do have the appropriate opportunities to push very strongly Australia's views on this
matter, including in the bilateral meetings that ministers have with their Japanese counterpoints,
counterparts I beg your pardon, then we do that.

SHANE MCLEOD: The Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett speaking there with Simon Lauder.