Transcript of doorstop interview – Parliament House, Canberra
Monday, 21 May 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Japanese Whaling and Labor policy; Speaker’s action on Coalition behaviour during Budget reply.
ALBANESE: Malcolm Turnbull’s got to decide which side he’s on. Is he on the side of Aussie whales or Japanese whalers?
It’s extraordinary that in Malcolm Turnbull we now have an Environment Minister who’s not really sure whether we should take action against the slaughter of whales in Australian waters. At least with Ian Campbell we had someone who was committed to the issue. Malcolm Turnbull seems to be committed to running away from the issue and I hope he shows a bit more ticker at the IWC conference in Alaska than he has shown up to this point.
I think all Australians are horrified at the barbaric, bloodthirsty slaughter of whales in Australian waters that occurs every year on an escalating scale. And this year we’ll see not just Minke Whales but Fin Whales and the majestic Humpback Whales slaughtered once again in Australian waters. It is the case that this is not just an issue of common decency and environmental protection for these magnificent animals. It is also about our economic sovereignty.
The fact is, more money is got from whale watching than from the slaughter of these majestic animals. In places like Port Stephens alone there are operators there employing hundreds of people in increasing numbers. Both domestic and overseas travellers come here to see these magnificent animals travel north up our coast. The fact is that simply by itself polite diplomacy from the Howard Government isn’t working. In 1999 it was the Howard Government that declared the Australian Whale Sanctuary and yet what we’ve seen is no real action. This is a Government that talks and talks and talks when it is politically convenient, but doesn’t actually take action on the big environmental challenges that we’re seeing.
REPORTER: But the action Labor’s talking about is deploying navy vessels, does the Government have a point that you could be talking about piracy here if ships are boarded in international waters?
ALBANESE: No, and that’s why Malcolm Turnbull’s comments are so disturbing. He doesn’t seem to know which side he’s on, whether he’s on the side of Aussie whales or Japanese whalers. What Labor’s talking about, and we’ve talked about it for a while now, is the need for monitoring in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, so that evidence could be got for a case particularly for the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) or the ICJ. We have in the past taken action before international courts over Southern Blue Fin Tuna. Since when was it okay to take international legal action over Southern Blue Fin Tuna but not okay over the slaughter of Australian whales? Now it is the case also, that just with other illegal fishing vessels as in what is regarded to be the Australian Fishing Zone in Australian waters, we reserve our right under a Labor Government to take action. That is what should occur. After all this is not just barbaric activity, this is literally reducing our economic sovereignty and for a Government that is pretty happy to talk tough about border controls, it’s extraordinary that they seem to be arguing here that boats should be allowed to come in off the Australian coast wherever they like and do whatever they like. That’s Malcolm Turnbull’s policy and that’s the message that he’s sending. I think that’s an inappropriate message. Australians want this barbaric slaughter to stop and for young Australians in particular I think they scratch their heads and wonder how this can be occurring. We know that despite all the huff and bluff from the Howard Government we know that the pro whaling nations actually won a vote at last years conference. We’ve gone backwards in terms of these issues and the failure of the Howard Government on climate change in our region means that countries that should be our natural allies in the Pacific are actually voting with Japan on this issue rather than with Australia.
REPORTER: Why is Labor on parliamentary standards showing a glass jaw over interjections on Budget reply night?
ALBANESE: Well we’re certainly not doing that. The fact is that the Speaker has written to the Procedures Committee about this issue. The Speaker stood up on the Tuesday of the Budget week and made a very clear ruling. That was stuck to by the members of the Opposition and by the hundreds of people in the gallery and yet the extraordinary behaviour of members of the Government meant that during the Budget reply the Speaker considered and indeed offered to take action against members of the Government during that speech. It was the Speaker himself who did that and it is the Speaker himself who has taken it upon himself to refer this matter to the Procedures Committee.
REPORTER: Who were the main culprits?
ALBANESE: I think people who have a look there on the front bench, will be able to see that from where Jim Lloyd was sitting down and around him there was an extraordinary level of behaviour. And what this goes to is the lack of discipline in the Government.
This is a Government that more and more is behaving like a rabble. You have Alan Cadman being stalked by an extreme right wing candidate in his preselection in Mitchell. You have Glen Milne talking on the weekend about the potential for a challenge later on this year in July, or a change of leadership. You have members of the Liberal Party back bench openly speculating whether they should have moved to Peter Costello had he had an ounce of courage around this time last year. So I think it’s symbolic of the fact that previously one word from John Howard would have shut them up. Now one word from John Howard did shut up Peter McGauran, but it didn’t shut up others.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.