Jun 16, 2006

Transcript: International Whaling Commission Meeting, Nuclear Incident

Transcript of Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra

Friday, 16 June 2006

E & OE – Proof Only

Subject: International Whaling Commission Meeting, Nuclear Incident

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today is a crucial meeting for the International Whaling Commission in St Kitts.

Labor’s concerned that despite the fact 41 anti-whaling resolutions have been passed at the IWC, more whales have been slaughtered in Australian waters this season than ever before.

It’s also of concern that Japan could get a simple majority at this conference. Whilst it’s clear they won’t be able to return to commercial whaling with a three quarters majority, a simple majority will allow them to remove conservation from the agenda of the IWC, allow them to introduce secret ballots, and allow them to change procedures so that a move to commercial whaling at a future IWC meeting is made more possible.

It is quite clear that regardless of the outcome at St Kitts, Japan will continue to slaughter whales in Australian waters. Japan will continue to go on slaughtering whales until a court tells them they can’t. That’s why we need to back up our diplomatic efforts with legal action, take Japan and other whaling nations to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea if this slaughter is going to be stopped for all time.

JOURNALIST: What support does Australia have? I believe the Solomon Islands might abstain, and there might be some other support for our stance?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Hopefully that will occur. I wish Senator Campbell well and I wish the Australian delegation well in achieving a maximum vote for conservation at the IWC meeting.

What is of concern is the fact that Australia’s position with the Pacific Island states is undermined by our failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and take action on the international environmental issue of most concern to them, that is, avoiding dangerous climate change.

It is of concern that countries such as Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and others that you would expect to have a pro-conservation position; that you would expect to be voting with Australia, are either voting against Australia or abstaining on the issue of whaling.

JOURNALIST: What evidence is there that you aware of that those smaller nations are basically being bought off by countries like Japan?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well certainly there’s a real concern about corruption at the IWC, and there’s a concern if you look at where aid money has gone and where support has gone to particular countries, there does appear to be a link between that and voting patterns at the IWC.

That’s why we need to make sure we don’t simply rely on last minute diplomatic efforts. We need to show the world that we’re serious – take Japan to court.

Just as we did on the issue of southern blue fin tuna in 1999, when not only did the Australian Government take Japan to the international tribunal, we flew the then Attorney-General Daryl Williams over to Europe to represent Australia in that case.

It’s about time Australia showed that it was serious and put some steel into its diplomatic efforts by taking legal action.

JOURNALIST: Prior to court action, a number of other ideas have been floated for example using fishing licences and agreements to pressure Japan. Also there’s been a call by Greenpeace for the PM to pick up the phone and directly urge Mr Koizumi to stop whaling. Would you endorse those suggestions?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well certainly the Prime Minister should be prepared to do that.

I notice yesterday he said Australia had no greater friend in our neighbourhood than Japan. And I think that’s right. We should be using our good relations with Japan to pick up the phone and say that this is an issue of environmental concern to each and every Australian.

It’s also a significant economic issue for Australia with the tourism and whale watching industries expanding every year by extraordinary proportions.

We should recognise that these magnificent mammals are worth far more alive through the whale watching industry and through supporting our environmental programs than they are ending up in tuck shops in Japanese schools.

It’s also the case that Japan now has an extraordinary amount of whale meat essentially in freezers because they can’t get rid of it. Consumption isn’t keeping up with the slaughter of whales in Australian waters.

This is an issue of sovereignty. The Prime Minister makes a lot of talking about borders. We know he’s been prepared to give away our borders on immigration issues, but on this issue we have the Australian Whale Sanctuary declared by the Australian Government in the Southern Ocean where Japan is taking more and more whales and where it’s declared this year it will add to its catch by taking humpback whales as well. Surely this is unacceptable and it’s extraordinary that the only intervention by the Howard Government in the courts has been to intervene against the case by Humane Society International last year which was seeking to uphold Australian law in Australian waters.

JOURNALIST: Has the Labor Party itself made any representations recently to Japan on this matter?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well frankly these representations are at Government to Government level. Certainly the Labor Party has made its position clear in whatever forums possible – we have made that position clear. And I know in terms of the work that Bob Sercombe has done in the Pacific, and also Kevin Rudd has made his position clear as the ALP’s foreign affairs spokesman.

JOURNALIST: On nuclear power, should Australians be concerned by the four incidents at Lucas Heights or is it just scaremongering as the Government says to draw those incidents to the debate?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think it’s pretty reasonable that when you have an incident at a nuclear facility the local community should have a right to know.

It’s reasonable that the Science Minister not stand up in Parliament and say there hadn’t been any radioactive gases into the atmosphere when in fact there were. Xenon and Krypton leaked into the atmosphere around Lucas Heights.

I find it extraordinary that even after that incident on June 8, which significantly was the day Ziggy Switkowski stood aside from the ANSTO board to take up his position as the Chair of the Prime Minister’s nuclear task force, to impose nuclear power on Australia, that the Minister didn’t seem to be aware of that detail, didn’t seem to be aware yesterday when we raised in Parliament that there had been another incident the day before. I think Australians should be concerned about that.

This is also in the context whereby in the leaked Cabinet report from 1997, where the Government looked at a shortlist of 14 nuclear sites, they made a conscious decision to keep those sites secret from the Australian public because of a political decision that is very explicit in those Cabinet documents.

I think what these incidents show is that the Prime Minister has a responsibility to actually outline where his nuclear reactors will go and where the nuclear waste should go.

It’s no wonder the Prime Minister wants to keep those details of locations of nuclear facilities secret from the Australian public in this inquiry, which has no credibility unless it actually looks at where they will go.