Has Australia Sold Out the Whales?
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be represented next week at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Santiago Chile by myself and the former Australian Minister for the Environment Ian Campbell.
There can be no denying that Mr. Campbell was the most passionate and active governmental minister ever when it came to defending the great whales. The Howard government was rightfully criticized on many levels but when it came to opposition to Japanese whaling, Australia under Senator Ian Campbell led the charge. Australia's voice was the loudest and Australia's commitment to whaling was second to none amongst the members of the IWC.
But that was before the election of Kevin Rudd and his "promise" to be even more aggressive against Japanese whaling than the previous government. Tens of thousands of Australians voted for Mr. Rudd because of his commitment to end whaling. The mood at the time of the election was positive and optimistic that whaling could be ended by Australia putting her foot down and demanding the Japanese withdrawal of its whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Well, that was then. Seven months later and there has been no action taken to pursue a lawsuit against illegal Japanese whaling. The Australian government spent a million dollars taking pictures of dead whales being hauled up the slipway of the Nissan Maru, something that Greenpeace could have provided for no cost to the taxpayer. The promise to appoint a special envoy to deal with Japan has gone nowhere. Mr. Rudd just returned from a visit to Japan where he proudly announced that Australia and Japan have "agreed to disagree on the issue of whaling."
It sounds reminiscent of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's visit with Adolph Hitler where Britain agreed to disagree with the Nazi leader and handed over Czechoslovakia as a gesture of diplomacy.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has given Japan the Australian research vessel Aurora Australis instead.
More accurately he chartered Australia's Antarctic Research ship for up to $10 million dollars to enable Japan to supply its research base and conduct "research" on krill.
In other words Australia's primary research vessel will now be under the control of the Japanese government for the 2008/2009 illegal whaling activities.
If this is the aggressive new policy on opposing Japanese whaling that Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett promised, it is clearly confusing. No legal action. No special envoy appointed. No tough talk. No action! Just an agreement to disagree and a charter agreement to lease a research ship to Japan to "assist" Japanese "research" in Antarctic waters.
Australia insists that this "research" has nothing to do with whaling yet the Aurora Australis research program will involve scientific research into krill - the primary food of the whales and thus it is directly related to so called Japanese "research" on whales. The data will go to the criminal Institute for Cetacean Research and will actually help to lend legitimacy to their bogus science.
The Rudd government must really take the Australian people for fools if they think that this approach will be seen as "action against illegal Japanese whaling."
What this decision actually does is to make Australia an accomplice in illegal Japanese whaling activities. Kevin Rudd has completely reversed the opposition to whaling under the Howard government to become an accomplice in the bogus illegal research activities of the Japanese whaling fleet.
Kevin Rudd was not elected by the people of Japan. He was elected by Australians and 87% of the Australian people want Australia to take legal action against Japan and 91% of this number want this action to proceed even if it means compromising trade relations with Japan. (Poll date: Essential Media Communications (EMC) June, 2008.
Peter Garrett will be in Santiago next week so it will be very interesting indeed to see what he has to say and it will be interesting to have Ian Campbell challenge him as a representative of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
This year's meeting of the I.W.C. in Santiago could have significant consequences. Japan may well withdraw from the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary if it accepts a compromise put forth by the U.S. government. Or Japan may withdraw from the I.W.C. completely taking their vassal states including Norway and Iceland with them. Or the unthinkable could happen and the I.W.C. could legalize Japan's currently illegal activities. Another possibility is that the I.W.C. will specifically strike down this loophole of bogus research. There are many possibilities and many players.
As usual, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the only organization specifically barred from attending the I.W.C. meetings. But we found last year in Anchorage that we command more attention on the sidewalk outside the meetings than inside and it has the added advantage that we don't have to listen to the boring speeches and the attempts by Japan to present their "research" as valid science.
But Sea Shepherd will be there nonetheless to represent our clients the whales and the interests of our clients in not being harpooned by the barbaric thugs from Japan, Norway and Iceland.
Politics - The Art of the Possible
Although Australia is supporting Japanese Antarctic research whaling Australia is NOT supporting Japanese Antarctic research. Or we could put it this way; although Australia is NOT supporting Japanese Antarctic research whaling, Australia IS supporting Japanese Antarctic Research whaling.
Confused, of course you are, everyone else, especially in the Australian government is also confused.
Nothing is simple in government and communication is complex, deliberately so, the purpose being to say as little as possible with the most verbiage possible. I have included the transcripts below provided by Australian Green Party Senator Rachel Siewart to illustrate this.
The summation is that Australia is leasing a research vessel to Japan for $9 to $10 million without releasing the full details of the research or admitting that this arrangement compromises Australian governmental policy that is in opposition to illegal Japanese whaling.
From what I can gather from the information below, Australia may or may not be controlling the research, Australia may or may not be controlling what the money will be spent on and Australia may or may not be assisting the Japanese whaling fleet. It really depends on how the information is interpreted. The Australian government has to appease the concerns of Australians without upsetting the Japanese and it has to appease the Japanese without upsetting Australians. And of course the best way to accomplish this is to be as vague and as confusing as possible.
The meeting next week of the IWC promises to be entertaining with the potential for surprises. Let's hope the surprises benefit the whales.
ECA 30 Senate Wednesday, 28 May 2008
ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS
Senator Wong-No, that is not what I have said. What I have said is that, in relation to the election commitments, those questions were asked of Senator Faulkner. They have been taken on notice in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio, and I am also taking them on notice. We have traversed that in detail for some time this morning.
Senator KEMP-As I said, we will keep on pressing this issue in the course of the day to see whether we can get the list which we know the department has-and I think it has been confirmed that the department has a list-and whether you will provide that list to the committee. As I said, we shall return to that in the course of the day.
CHAIR-Senator Siewert, we will now have questions of the Australian Antarctic Division. Thank you.
Senator SIEWERT-I would like to first ask some budget questions before asking more detailed questions. This is from the portfolio budget statements on page 53. I understand that there has been an increase in revenue for both Antarctic policy and Antarctic science, and that part of that revenue increase is from a memorandum of understanding with the Japanese government for the resupply of their Antarctic station. Could you tell me what the funding level is, what is being done, and has this occurred in the past?
Ms Mudie-We have a collaborative arrangement with the Japanese to undertake some work on their behalf to resupply their Antarctic station and, for that resupply, we are obtaining revenue from them.
Senator SIEWERT-What do you resupply?
Ms Mudie-It is a matter of resupplying their Antarctic station, so it is all manner of equipment supplies for their Antarctic station.
Senator SIEWERT-Could you tell me how much that revenue is?
Ms Mudie-Depending on the length of the voyage, it would be between $9 million and $10 million.
Senator SIEWERT-Over the 12 months?
Ms Mudie-Over 12 months.
Senator SIEWERT-Is this a longstanding arrangement? I noticed that it was not in the estimated actual for last year.
Ms Mudie-No, it is not a longstanding arrangement. The Japanese do not have a vessel to resupply. They are rebuilding a vessel for their own Antarctic program and we are supplying our vessel for them.
Senator SIEWERT-In other words, this is the first year that it has been undertaken?
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT-When was this negotiated?
Ms Mudie-It is still under negotiation. We have yet to finalise the MOU.
Senator SIEWERT-So that has been negotiated while we have ships surveilling their Japanese whaling operation?
Ms Mudie-That is a different issue. The Aurora Australis is an Antarctic vessel which we use for resupply.
Senator SIEWERT-Yes, I appreciate that it is a different issue. But the point is that, on the one hand, we are sending envoys to Japan, and this summer we had the Oceanic Viking in the Southern Ocean and we made very strong statements about whaling; on the other hand-and it may have been publicly available but I do not think much notice was taken of it-the Australian government at the same time was negotiating with Japan to resupply their Antarctic base.
Ms Mudie-We have a very close relationship with Japan in terms of science that we undertake and we have a collaborative arrangement in terms of logistical support as well, where possible.
Senator SIEWERT-So it is still under negotiation. I want to come back to the science issue in a minute. Could you tell me when the negotiations were started?
Ms Mudie-I would have to take that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT-But that is still under negotiation?
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT-When you say between $9 million and $10 million, that is then broken down, is it? It appears from the budget statement that some is to be allocated to Antarctic policy and some allocated to science. Is that a decision made by the department or something that is being negotiated with Japan?
Ms Mudie-It actually achieves both objectives from a policy perspective, as well as resupply and operational issues.
Senator SIEWERT-What is the basis for the allocation? Is it an agreement with Japan?
Ms Mudie-It is an agreement with Japan.
Senator SIEWERT-Japan are saying, ‘We want you to allocate some of this money that we're paying you to policy and some to science'?
Ms Mudie-No. That is how we allocate it, but the actual dollar figure is for the hire of the vessel.
Senator SIEWERT-The dollar figure is for the hire of the Aurora Australis. Just for this year?
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT-It is not an ongoing arrangement?
Ms Mudie-No, it is not.
Senator SIEWERT-Do I understand from the comment you made earlier that in the past they had a vessel, that they no longer have a vessel, and that is why Australia is negotiating?
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT-This figure, therefore, will not be there into the future. So, while the funding is being boosted into Antarctic policy and science for this financial year, that is a one-off boost?
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Senator SIEWERT-Could you tell me, therefore, what that money has been specifically used for in those programs, and has that been negotiated with Japan?
Ms Mudie-I would have to take that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT-You do not know-
Ms Mudie-Off the top of my head, no.
Senator SIEWERT-if there has been an agreement with Japan about what will be studied with that money?
Ms Mudie-No. It is still under negotiation. I am happy to provide the information we can on notice.
Senator SIEWERT-Is the contract amount under negotiation or is what the money is to be used for under negotiation?
Ms Mudie-The whole arrangement is under negotiation at this stage.
Senator SIEWERT-So Japan gets a say over how the money that they are paying Australia for the hire of our vessel will be used?
Ms Mudie-That is correct. That is the negotiation.
Senator SIEWERT-Why is that? If they are hiring our vessel, why do they get a say in what the money will be spent on?
Senator Wong-Senator Siewert, I understand Ms Mudie's evidence is that these are matters which are currently the subject of negotiation between Australia and Japan. I suppose what she is flagging, in terms of taking it on notice, is that there is a limit on how far she can respond, given that those negotiations under that arrangement are still pending. I appreciate you are entitled to put your views about the appropriateness of anything in relation to such an arrangement, but I think the officer at the table can only proceed so far, given that those negotiations are still under way.
Senator SIEWERT-I do take the point. In terms of the detail of the negotiations, I understand the issues around sensitivity. However, I do not see why there is an issue about whether Japan has the ability to negotiate how Australia spends its money on science when it is paying us. As I understand it, Japan is paying us for a service and, as I understood your answer-and I may be incorrect, so please tell me-there is then negotiation about how that money will be spent on science.
Ms Mudie-No, on the use of the vessel. They may utilise the vessel at some point in that resupply for some science that they may wish to do.
Senator SIEWERT-Sorry, I misunderstood. It was not clear from what you said. I understood that the vessel was purely being used for resupply, but is it also being used for science?
Ms Mudie-It could be that on the resupply voyage they may undertake some science at the same time. It is possible to do that, in terms of marine science.
Senator SIEWERT-Would it be safe to assume that that science will not involve anything to do with scientific whaling?
Ms Mudie-I think that would be a safe assumption.
Senator SIEWERT-Am I guaranteed that?
Ms Mudie-Until we complete the negotiation, it is difficult to answer that.
Senator SIEWERT-What sort of science would-
Ms Mudie-It would be consistent with government policy.
Senator SIEWERT-I would have thought it was inconsistent. I will not go there. What safeguards are being put in place to ensure that nothing associated with whaling will be carried out by an Australian vessel?
Mr Borthwick-I do not know the details of this particular contract, but there would be nothing that would be undertaken with this Australian vessel which would in any way relate to enhancing Japanese scientific whaling efforts-absolutely not-but the Antarctic Division for a long time has had a cooperative scientific relationship on a whole host of Antarctic science with Japan. But there will be nothing that will serve to enhance Japan's scientific whaling.
Senator SIEWERT-I understand your reassurance, but I am looking for what we have written into the contract and how the Australian community can be absolutely assured that nothing on those voyages will be used to contribute to any of the science they are doing around whaling.
Mr Borthwick-Why I hesitate is that we do, through the International Whaling Commission-and this is a separate issue from the Antarctic Division-undertake joint scientific assessments which can look to nonlethal science in terms of whales. That is quite separate from this particular vessel. It is not as if we are not looking at whaling issues through the auspices of the International Whaling Commission on whales, but this particular vessel is not connected with that in any way.
Senator SIEWERT-I am fully aware of the cooperative research that is done internationally, but the point is that that still contributes to their understanding of whale populations, which is then used to justify their stance in the IWC to enable them to take whales.
Mr Borthwick-But not, as I understand it, in terms of Aurora Australis. That is not connected in any way with that.
Senator SIEWERT-I want to know how the government is going to guarantee that none of that information is going to contribute to anything to do with whaling.
Mr Borthwick-The government would not allow that to happen. It just would not allow that to happen.
Senator SIEWERT-How? Is that currently being included in discussions and negotiations?
Mr Borthwick-No, it is not pertinent to the discussions.
Senator SIEWERT-Why is it not pertinent when they are carrying out science?
Senator Wong-No, you are at cross-purposes. I think Mr Borthwick was saying that those issues are not pertinent to these arrangements.
Senator SIEWERT-No, I did understand what Mr Borthwick was saying.
Mr Borthwick-It is a difficult thing because Australia, in terms of broad Antarctic science, cooperates very closely with Japan, and has for a number of years, as do other areas of government cooperate with Japan, but on one issue we fundamentally disagree with them, and that is on lethal scientific research when it comes to whaling, and we would do absolutely nothing to cooperate with them on that front.
Senator SIEWERT-I understand the point, and I have been reassured that-
Mr Borthwick-We will make sure that there is nothing in terms of this contractual arrangement which will enhance or indirectly contribute to lethal so-called scientific research on whales.
Senator SIEWERT-What I want to know, then, is the type of research that will be carried out, because the other scientific research does contribute to their lethal scientific research and it does contribute to the evidence that they take to the IWC.
Mr Borthwick-Ms Mudie will be able, if she does not have it now, to give you more generally a rundown of the scientific research we have been undertaking with Japan and the cooperative relationships with Antarctic that we have had for quite some time, just to give you the context of it. In terms these specific moneys, some of those moneys, as you can see, will be departmental-that is, they will go to fund the ship and the crew and all those other things-and some of these moneys will just go into our general bucket, so to speak, to enable the division to undertake scientific research completely unconnected with this particular voyage. The science, as I understand it, that we might be undertaking with Japan would be incidental science and it is of a kind, from what Ms Mudie said, that we undertake all the time. When we undertake voyages to our bases, we try and undertake science in terms of testing ocean currents and biomass et cetera.
Senator SIEWERT-I understand that.
Senator Wong-Can I make it clear that the government has a very clear and strong position on whaling and will not enable government resources to be utilised by any other government, including in the context of these discussions, in a manner inconsistent with that policy. Secretary Borthwick has made that clear and I have now made that clear.
Senator SIEWERT-One of my colleagues here is asking, ‘What are the safeguards?' and that is the point I am trying to get to. I appreciate that it is non-lethal research, but there is non-lethal research that contributes to the Japanese argument on taking whales. Does your assurance, Minister, go to that point as well?
Senator Wong-I am advised yes.
Ms Mudie-Yes, it does.
Senator SIEWERT-And it will be written into the contract?
Senator SIEWERT-And you will be scrutinising it?
Ms Mudie-It is an MOU.
Senator Wong-The arrangements will take account of or reflect the policy position that I have just outlined to you.
Senator SIEWERT-Will Australia be in a position to oversee the research or look at the research projects to ensure that?
Senator Wong-That goes to how. Those are matters for negotiation, but the advice I have is that the arrangements will reflect the policy position I have outlined.
Ms Mudie-It is primarily a resupply voyage. That is the function of the voyage.
Senator SIEWERT-Yes, I appreciate that, but you did say they would be undertaking science.
Ms Mudie-I said that they could be. That is up for negotiation. But it would not be addressing the whaling issue; it would be a separate issue.
Senator SIEWERT-Will it be written into the MOU that there will be a process whereby Australia can be assured that none of the research is targeted at supporting the Japanese argument for whaling?
Ms Mudie-We would assure that.
Senator SIEWERT-Will the MOU be able to be tabled as a public document?
Senator Wong-That will be a decision for government after the conclusion of the MOU.
Senator SIEWERT-You can guarantee that I will be back here next time asking for the MOU.
Senator Wong-I gathered that, Senator Siewert, and I am sure that Ms Mudie and Secretary Borthwick will ensure that at least we come prepared for that question.
Senator SIEWERT-Maybe I am not reading the budget documents correctly, but could you tell me how much money has been allocated to the Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science?
Mr Sutton-We will take that on notice and respond to you on that.
Senator SIEWERT-You cannot tell me how much has been allocated?
Ms Mudie-No, I do not know how much.
Mr Borthwick-We should be able to get that advice today.
Senator SIEWERT-It is a fairly significant centre under your auspices. I find it a bit perplexing that you cannot tell me.
Mr Borthwick-I know this is Antarctic and it is undertaken, but I suspect the people in the department who know that are in the Marine and Biodiversity Division, because they pull together all the material relating to whaling.
Senator SIEWERT-Does that not come under Antarctic science?
Mr Borthwick-It does, but it would be coordinated from another area of the department. We will find out the answer over the course of the day.
Senator Wong-Can we take that on notice and see if we are able to assist you later in the day?
Senator Wong-Perhaps the officers who are listening-I assume-in the next room could assist Senator Siewert with this inquiry.
Senator SIEWERT-If they are listening, could they give me a list of the projects that have been decided for this year.
Senator Wong-Funded out of the centre? Under CERF funding?
Senator SIEWERT-Yes, under the centre. What are the projects that have been approved, if they have been, for 2008-09 and, if they do not have the projects, can they tell me the priorities that they will be funding under the program?
Ms Mudie-Yes, we can do that.
Senator SIEWERT-Thank you very much.
Senator Wong-I hope that message was heard.
Ms Mudie-I want to know about it!
Senator Wong-It is a rather odd thing to just speak into the ether and hope someone is listening.
Senator SIEWERT-Now I want to move on to whaling more specifically.
Mr Borthwick-Whaling is dealt with by Marine and Biodiversity Division.
Mr Borthwick-Our international whaling commissioner, Donna Petrachenko, heads that division.
Senator Wong-I think you asked questions of Ms Petrachenko last time.
Mr Borthwick-It is not a question that relates to the Antarctic Division.
Senator SIEWERT-Okay. It is just that I have been here so many times and get flicked between the two, and it gets confusing.
Mr Borthwick-The Antarctic Division used to have a role, but for the last couple of years it has resided with Marine and Biodiversity.
Senator Wong-Senator Siewert, to make sure you are not in that position again-because I am conscious that these officers are, obviously, from Tasmania-did you want to indicate the topics that you think may be relevant to this division so that we can confirm they are matters for another output? If you want to, just headline them and Ms Mudie can indicate if there is any aspect of those where she has some responsibility. Would that assist you?
Senator SIEWERT-Okay. What I am after is some of the work, obviously, that has been carried out by the Oceanic Viking; what work has been done with interacting with Japan; where the legal case is at; and what is happening with the so-called stolen meat scandal.
Senator Wong-The stolen?
Senator SIEWERT-The stolen whale meat process issue that has been hitting the headlines in Japan.
Mr Borthwick-That all relates to Marine and Biodiversity Division. Yes, Oceanic Viking is Customs, but we might be able to say something about that; I am not sure. I am certainly not across the issue of stolen whale meat. I am not sure whether or not our departmental officials are across it, but we will pass on your interest in that issue.
Senator Wong-Senator Siewert, my recollection is that operational issues associated with the Oceanic Viking are matters for Customs.
Senator Wong-I understand you have already asked questions of them.
Senator SIEWERT-I have asked Customs some. I wanted to follow up some more detail.
Senator Wong-Yes, that is fine. I was just clarifying that we do not have responsibility in this portfolio for that.
Senator SIEWERT-I do understand that.
Senator Wong-Marine division does have some responsibility for some of the issues you raised, but not all, so Secretary Borthwick will ensure that those questions can be dealt with then.
Mr Borthwick-Equally, whales and the legal case would be Attorney-General's Department, and some other issues you might be interested in will be the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I appreciate that this is very difficult but, when you come forward, we will do our best to answer those questions where we are responsible.
Senator SIEWERT-Thank you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-So you can assure me that neither the Antarctic Division nor any other part of your portfolio has any funding which might be used in relation to whales generally?
Senator Wong-That is not what we said.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-Let me confine it to the Antarctic Division.
Mr Borthwick-The Antarctic Division received, I think, $700,000 funding via Customs. We provided a service to Customs. They provided us with funding and they leased-
Senator IAN MACDONALD-Could I interpose just to follow this?
Senator SIEWERT-I think Senator Parry will-
Senator Wong-Can the secretary finish? We have got three senators seeking to ask questions and the secretary halfway through an answer, Chair. Perhaps Secretary Borthwick could finish his answer and then, Chair, you obviously throw to whichever senator you wish.
Mr Borthwick-The Antarctic Division received funding from Customs to undertake surveillance in the Southern Ocean, using an A319 Airbus, which our Antarctic Division uses, but it was Customs that undertook that surveillance. We received the money for the use of our plane. We also have an absolutely first-class international scientist, Nick Gales, who is placed in Antarctic Division, and they receive funding to undertake that scientific research from elsewhere in the department. We will get back to that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-My question is very simple. We know that the Oceanic Viking was funded for one year only-that was for last year-with a great blaze of publicity, and we know from our questioning at Customs that it has not been funded for-
Senator SIEWERT-Whose questioning?
Senator IAN MACDONALD-You may have questioned, but so did I. I do not recall you doing it. We
must have been there at different times.
Senator SIEWERT-I was there before you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-You must have gone before I even got there.
CHAIR-Senator Macdonald, can you finish your question and then we will go back to Senator Siewert.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-I did say ‘we'. The simple question is: is there any funding in the forward budget for the equivalent of the $700,000 that you say you received in the current financial year?
Senator Wong-Sorry, Senator Macdonald, is that being asked of the Antarctic Division?
Senator IAN MACDONALD-Yes. Mr Borthwick was just saying that $700,000 was made available to the Antarctic Division.
Mr Borthwick-No. I am actually corrected. It was provided to our Marine and Biodiversity Division. But, no, there has not been another allowance for that funding in the current budget.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-Thank you. I was not wanting to interrupt my colleagues; but simply, on the question of the Antarctic Division, you have corrected your answer to say-
Mr Borthwick-It is an Antarctic Division aircraft.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-But did the Antarctic Division get anything of the $700,000?
Mr Borthwick-I think it was paid through the Marine and Biodiversity Division, who received the money from Customs through the Antarctic Division.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-Then you have answered my next question. Is there anything in the current budget for-
Mr Borthwick-No, there is not.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-The answer is no.
Senator PARRY-Can I just clarify something first, Madam Chair? Is this page 162 of Budget Paper No. 2 in the budget measures? Just so we are absolutely clear, is this the $700,000 we are talking about?
Senator PARRY-That is the $700,000. Thank you.
Senator SIEWERT-I want to go back to the science very quickly, if I may. Has the new program been established for the next round of ongoing science work that is being done with Japan under the IWC?
Ms Mudie-I am sorry, I cannot answer that. That is the marine division and the whale program.
Senator SIEWERT-Do you do no work under that program, or it is funded through them?
Ms Mudie-It is funded through the marine division.
Senator SIEWERT-Who is responsible for deciding the programs? You do it. Do you decide the programs?
Mr Borthwick-Sorry, is this the scientific programs?
Mr Borthwick-It is best to direct those questions to our Marine and Biodiversity Division.
Senator SIEWERT-Is that work carried out under the Australian Centre for Applied Marine Mammal Science or is it done separately?
Ms Mudie-I will have to take that one on notice. From my understanding, some work is undertaken through the CERF funds, but I do not know the specifics of that, so I would have to get that answer for you. And, of course, the Antarctic Division undertakes a lot of science, both internally and through external grants. Yes, some of that does relate to whales, and some of our scientists do that research themselves in Antarctica.
Senator SIEWERT-Yes, okay. I understand that I am getting the information from the centre shortly. What I am trying to find out is who does the science and the cooperative work with Japan under the IWC's auspices?
Ms Mudie-I will get that answer for you.
Senator SIEWERT-That would be appreciated, thank you. I want to clarify this issue around the supply to the bases. This is a once-off supply.
Ms Mudie-That is correct. This is a once-off.
Senator SIEWERT-So the boat is going to be built-sorry, I shouldn't call it a boat, should I? The vessel. I always get in trouble with ‘ships' and ‘boats'.
Senator Wong-Yes, that is right. Sailors really tell you off.
Ms Mudie-If am pre-empting your question, Senator, excuse me, but the Japanese vessel is under construction currently.
Senator SIEWERT-It will be done by next summer, will it?
Ms Mudie-I do not know the details of the timing of that.
Senator SIEWERT-So there is a potential that there will be an ongoing relationship if the vessel is not finished?
Ms Mudie-I could not comment on that. They may find a vessel elsewhere. I cannot comment on that one.
Senator PARRY-Thank you. Concluding that matter, what would the funding aspect of the vessel be like without the $8 million to $9 million or the $9 million to $10 million dollars from the Japanese government?
Ms Mudie-The funding for the-
Senator PARRY-Yes, when it ceases. Is the vessel going to be viable or unviable?
Mr Borthwick-Our vessel-
Senator PARRY-The one that is being leased currently.
Mr Borthwick-is on a long-term lease.
Mr Borthwick-We are probably about halfway through that lease.
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Mr Borthwick-Are we, Virginia?
Mr Borthwick-It is a long-term lease that we have for Aurora Australis. So our use of that is not conditioned on this at all.
Senator PARRY-What is the current operating cost per annum for the Aurora Australis?
Ms Mudie-The whole shipping, including fuel, is approximately $20 million.
Senator PARRY-So this is a significant boost, this Japanese revenue?
Ms Mudie-That is correct.
Senator PARRY-Does that then make the Aurora Australis cash positive, or is it still cash negative?
Ms Mudie-Could you clarify?
Senator PARRY-Are you running at a profit or a loss with the Japanese-
Ms Mudie-It costs what it costs, whether profit or loss.
Mr Borthwick-We are very grateful to receive the additional revenue that we are getting through the lease of the Aurora Australis because it enables us to do a lot of activities that we otherwise would not have been able to undertake. It has been worked through in a way that does not interfere with or compromise our own resupply of bases in the Antarctic. So it is making more intensive use of an asset than we would otherwise be able to make.
Senator PARRY-But it is still a cost burden to the Commonwealth in the sense that-
Mr Borthwick-It is, yes.
Mr Borthwick-Absolutely. But we look at it as an investment.
Mr Borthwick-But you are strictly right: it is a cost.
Senator PARRY-Being the only senator here who resides as close to Antarctica as any other, I am inclined to agree.
Ms Mudie-To clarify, it is not a cost burden. It is part of our program.
Thursday, 29 May 2008 Senate ECA 31
ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS
Ms Petrachenko-We have a group called the Cetaceans Roundtable Group that comprises numerous nongovernment organisations with an interest in whale conservation. It is from that group that they identify which two individuals they would like to represent the non-government organisations as part of the delegation.
Senator JOHNSTON-I am not so much interested in the individuals themselves as their organisations. Can you identify which organisations we are taking this time?
Ms Petrachenko-Yes. This time it is an organisation called Project Jonah, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Senator JOHNSTON-How does the size of this delegation, including our scientific input, compare with previous delegations?
Ms Petrachenko-I cannot tell you about all the delegations to previous IWCs, but this is larger than the one we had last year.
Senator JOHNSTON-What is on the agenda this time? Is there any really important and crucial material that we are dealing with on this occasion?
Ms Petrachenko-Absolutely. I can tell you because I know how much time it has been taking in the preparations. It has been an extraordinary year already, in that around the end of February and the beginning of March this year we had an intersessional meeting-that is, in addition to the regular annual meeting of the IWC-to focus on one topic and one topic only, which was the future of the International Whaling Commission. That was preparation for the actual formal annual meeting this June, where one of the key items will be the future of the International Whaling Commission-how can it be in our view modernised? Reflecting what Senator Wong mentioned before, we had prepared a paper that we tabled at the intersessional meeting, which was received by many members of the IWC with great accolades, in terms of the leadership role we showed for whale conservation. Other items on the agenda will be an aboriginal subsistence quota for Greenland and Denmark for the Inuit. That is one of the decisions that the commission will have to make. There will be committee meetings of the scientific committee as well as the conservation committee. We have done a lot of work under that committee on issues like ship strikes and their impacts on whale mortality. We are working both at the IWC and through the International Maritime Organisation on that issue.
Senator JOHNSTON-Is Mr Garrett attending?
Ms Petrachenko-Yes, he is.
Senator JOHNSTON-Do you know what proportion of the conference he is attending?
Ms Petrachenko-I have not got his details confirmed, but my understanding from discussions is that he will be attending for the actual commission meeting itself.
Senator JOHNSTON-Which is over what duration?
Ms Petrachenko-Five days.
Senator JOHNSTON-So he will be there for the full five days?
Ms Petrachenko-That is my understanding.
Senator Wong-Can I just say, Senator, and I presume you are not going there-that is not uncommon. Senator Campbell attended-
Senator JOHNSTON-No-I am actually pleased that he is going. I think that is great. I was concerned that we might not have had a ministerial representative there. Are you aware of the leasing of the Aurora Australis by the Japanese this year?
Ms Petrachenko-Yes. I am aware.
Senator JOHNSTON-Are you aware that they are conducting, during the course of their occupation or lease of the vessel, scientific research in Antarctic waters?
Ms Petrachenko-My understanding is that it is a resupply ship, as was indicated to the committee yesterday. But perhaps I could ask Mr Borthwick to talk about that.
Mr Borthwick-I have some additional information which might help senators. It follows on from the questions that Senator Siewert was raising yesterday. This information has been provided by the Director of the Australian Antarctic division, Dr Tony Press. I might just read the relevant pieces and I can table this information as well. Dr Press says: The arrangement between Japan and Australia is to provide assistance for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition re-supply of Syowa station in Antarctica.
Senator JOHNSTON-The base?
Mr Borthwick-Yes. Dr Press continues: Japan's National Institute of Polar Research sought Australian assistance to re-supply Syowa in 2008/09 while Japan is waiting for construction of its new ice breaker to be completed. Under the arrangement with Japan, a single voyage ofAurora Australis will be conducted between January and February 2009. The voyage will be conducted under Australian Antarctic Division's charter of Aurora Australis. Australian Antarctic Division staff will be managing and supporting the voyage. Some marine science research will be undertaken during the course of the voyage, incidental to the voyage being conducted. That was mentioned yesterday. No whaling related research will be undertaken during the voyage. Japanese marine biologists and oceanographers have accompanied most recent Australian research voyages and as recently as November 2007. The occasion of the use ofAurora Australis by the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in 2008/09 is an opportunity for the conduct of joint research between Japan and Australia. On this voyage a research program will be conducted on the distribution of plankton along the ship's cruise route. This work is part of the long-running Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recording study of which the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan is a partner. Data from this study will contribute to the marine biodiversity database being developed for the international Census of Antarctic Marine Life being coordinated for the International Polar year by Australia. There will also be an associated research program into the physical and chemical oceanography of the ocean along the ship's cruise track. This is needed to support full interpretation of plankton distribution. Samples of live krill will be collected for return to the Australian Antarctic Division to provide material for further joint studies into physiology and reproduction of these creatures. The NIPR is Japan's equivalent organisation to the Australian Antarctic Division. NIPR is completely separate from the Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research which undertakes lethal whaling research. Logistic cooperation between nations active in Antarctica is encouraged by the Antarctic Treaty. Such cooperation is common between Australia and other Antarctic nations, including Japan. Japan has provided, in the past, significant assistance to Australian Antarctic shipping when Aurora Australis suffered mechanical problems. Australia's Antarctic program will not be disrupted by this voyage I think that that is helpful because Senator Siewert was asking some questions about the nature of the science that was conducted. We felt that it was useful to put that on the record. I am happy to table this.
Senator JOHNSTON-Thank you.
Senator Wong-Madam Chair, it might be useful if Senator Allison, who also has an interest, were made aware of our tabling this. Obviously, if she has any follow up questions they would need to be given to us before these estimates hearings end.
CHAIR-Thank you; I am sure the secretariat will deal with that.
Senator JOHNSTON-Ms Petrachenko, what is the primary source of food for whales in the Southern Ocean?
Ms Petrachenko-The majority would be krill.
Senator JOHNSTON-Krill and plankton?
Ms Petrachenko-Some plankton, but mostly krill.
Senator JOHNSTON-So if the Japanese were doing research into krill and plankton, we would at the very least indirectly be assisting them-
Mr Borthwick-That is drawing a terribly long bow.
Senator SIEWERT-No, it is not.
Senator ABETZ-Madam Chair, I think you are always very quick to chide senators when they interrupt an answer. I think Senator Johnston was half-way through his question when certain people became very defensive. I think Senator Johnston ought to be allowed to ask his question.
CHAIR-Thank you, Senator. I was going to give the call to Senator Johnston.
Senator JOHNSTON-So research into krill and plankton would be a vital ingredient in the understanding of the availability of food source for whales?
Ms Petrachenko-If I can just step back a bit from that question in a greater sense.
Senator JOHNSTON-We will come back to that question, but I do need an answer for it.
Ms Petrachenko-I will directly, but I need to draw a bigger picture first. One of our priorities in the Southern Ocean, through the IWC and through the work of the Australian Antarctic Division, is to get a better understanding of the Southern Ocean ecosystems. We know that most recent work from places like the CSIRO has shown that one of the biggest impacts, for example, of climate change will be on the Southern Ocean. If you have read some of the science coming out of the CSIRO on its impact on the marine environment, you would have noted that some real changes in the whole ecosystem in the Southern Ocean will have dramatic effects around the oceans around Australia. So trying to get a better understanding of the overall interactions of the ecosystem, the food web relationships, is incredibly important. In fact, through the IWC in 2009 we will be doing a collaborative project on whales in the ecosystem and the effects of climate change-you look at the behaviour of top predators as well as the food sources and try to draw those interactions-so it is a high priority for countries in the IWC as well as countries in the Antarctic treaty system.
Senator JOHNSTON-Can we come back to my question? I think the question was, if I can remember it, that research into the availability of plankton and krill would be vital in understanding the primary food source of whales in those southern waters and Antarctic waters.
Ms Petrachenko-It will be one very important piece of information.
Senator JOHNSTON-We are actively assisting, in cooperation with the Japanese, who are a scientific hunter of whales, their understanding of the availability of food source for whales in southern oceans. Is that correct?
Ms Petrachenko-What we have done-and we have spoken about it numerous times before-is we have really taken on the position that through the IWC we can learn what we need to learn about whales and about ecosystems' relationships with whales without killing whales. By doing more of this work and having more countries involved in it, it really questions again the real need to kill whales, which then puts more pressure on any parties who think that they need to kill a whale to understand the ecosystem. This research in fact is going to show that that is not the case.
Senator JOHNSTON-Okay, let us cut to the chase. In the IWC we are on one side of the ledger-we are anti whaling-and the Japanese, the Norwegians, the Icelanders and the Greenlanders are on the other side of the ledger: they are pro whaling and indeed have some economic convictions towards whaling, particularly the Icelanders and the Greenlanders. Am I right?
Ms Petrachenko-I can say that. I would not want to ascribe motivation to other countries as to why they take the positions that they do-
Senator JOHNSTON-But we are opposed to them.
Ms Petrachenko-We have been opposed on numerous resolutions and proposed schedule amendments which would see a weakening of the moratorium on commercial whaling.
Senator JOHNSTON-Are we opposed to them on scientific grounds?
Ms Petrachenko-Our position on scientific grounds is that you do not need to kill whales to learn about them.
Senator JOHNSTON-And ecological grounds?
Ms Petrachenko-That is correct
Senator JOHNSTON-And moral grounds?
Ms Petrachenko-That is correct.
Senator JOHNSTON-We are providing infrastructure, assistance, support for Japanese understanding- enhanced Japanese understanding-of the primary source of food for whales in southern oceans. Am I right?
Ms Petrachenko-We are doing collaborative research with Japan on a number of areas relating to the oceans. I have mentioned the other proposed research projects under the IWC-so yes, we do a lot of cooperative research involving the Japanese.
Senator JOHNSTON-When did we agree to do the collaborative research with Japan?
Ms Petrachenko-The project that I spoke about was agreed at the last IWC meeting last year in Anchorage.
Senator JOHNSTON-When did we agree to lease the Aurora Australis?
Ms Petrachenko-I cannot speak to that. I would have to take that on notice; I am not involved.
Senator JOHNSTON-Mr Borthwick?
Mr Borthwick-No, I do not know that but, as indicated yesterday, I think an MOU/contract-I am not sure what the words were-was still being discussed.
Senator JOHNSTON-We have not done it yet?
Mr Borthwick-That is my understanding.
Senator JOHNSTON-I want to know precisely-and this is very, very crucial and important-what safeguards, prohibitions, padlocks, chains we have on this Japanese research such that it will not go to their whaling industry. Tell me about them please.
Mr Borthwick-This question really relates to the Antarctic Division. My elaboration from the director of the Antarctic Division was in response to questions Senator Siewert made before, but might I make a general observation-
Senator JOHNSTON-I think the issue is so important, Mr Borthwick, that you do need to make a general observation as secretary of the department-because it is not a good look, I don't think.
Mr Borthwick-I mentioned yesterday that we have long had cooperative relations with Japan-in fact it goes back to 1910-11 in terms of Antarctic research. They, along with us, were one of the founding nations involved in Antarctica. In terms of the research in Antarctica, we do a lot of work on krill and, as Dr Press mentioned in the words that I read, those krill will be returned to Australia. In fact we breed krill down at Kingston in Hobart. All the results of our research are made internationally available and publicly available. We gave an undertaking yesterday that none of the research that will be involved in terms of this voyage will be used in the context of assisting Japan to undertake lethal work et cetera.
Senator JOHNSTON-I accept what you say Mr Borthwick because I know that you are earnest in this. I do not question any of that. All I am asking for is the safeguards, the chains and the padlocks. Tell me what they are, please.
Mr Borthwick-All the information will be publicly available.
Senator SIEWERT-No, it will not.
Senator JOHNSTON-That will be too late because the information will have flowed to the people we do not want to give it to.
Senator Wong-Can I make a point-and I notice, Senator, you skipped over this aspect of Ms Petrachenko's answer. If I could just remind the committee, there was an aspect of Ms Petrachenko's answer, which goes to the heart of the issue. I recall-and she can correct me if I am wrong-one of the things she emphasised was that in fact the scientific information that this research is focused on in effect undermines one of the arguments that Japan uses for lethal whaling in terms of their scientific research. In fact we are-
Senator JOHNSTON-You trust our opponents inside the commission to play with a straight bat, Minister? How naive, may I say.
Senator Wong-No, I am simply making the point that Ms Petrachenko's evidence actually focused on what is important, and that is this research, as I said, which in effect undermines one of the arguments that Japan uses for its scientific program.
Senator JOHNSTON-Tell us about the chains and padlocks, Minister, so that they are not going to get information and then give it to their whaling industry.
Senator Wong-As I think we canvassed yesterday, Mr Borthwick has indicated those issues are currently the subject of discussion in the context of the MOU.
Senator SIEWERT-And the point there is that we cannot be reassured, because we asked. When I asked yesterday if the MOU would be made public, I was told that they did not know. So we do not know, in fact, if those assurances in the MOU are going to be adequate, because it is not going to be a publicly available document. Or has that changed since yesterday?
Mr Borthwick-Look, there has not been a decision made on that. Exactly what shape the MOU/contract is in, I cannot advise you on. All I said yesterday was we will make sure that this material cannot be used to support lethal research. That is not the objective. It is an entirely different part of Japan that we are dealing with.
Senator SIEWERT-Do the Japanese not use the argument-I have certainly seen it at least a couple of times-that whales eat krill so we need to control the number of whales in order to boost the krill population? They have used that argument.
Mr Borthwick-I cannot see it.
Senator ABETZ-Well, I heard it as fisheries minister.
Mr Borthwick-I have certainly heard the observation in terms of whales eating fish, but I have not heard it with respect to krill.
Senator SIEWERT-I take Senator Abetz's assurance that he has heard it. I have certainly heard it.
Senator ABETZ-If whales do not eat the krill, who will? Fish.
Senator SIEWERT-Exactly. Those links are directly there. The Japanese have made those in the past. So we cannot be assured that there is no linkage between the arguments. Splitting hairs and saying, no, it does not contribute to the lethal research-yes, I am absolutely assured that there will be no lethal research undertaken on the Aurora Australis. But, as I said, it is splitting hairs, because the information can still be provided to the institute. Just because it is the Institute of Polar Research undertaking the research does not mean they are not going to provide it to the Institute of Cetacean Research.
Mr Borthwick-All Antarctic research is generally available under the treaty. It can be picked up by any party and used for whatever purpose, but I think it is very much drawing a long bow-as I quite wrongly interrupted you, Minister, before when I said it!-to say this will be linked to their whaling efforts.Senator SIEWERT-So you do not think-
Mr Borthwick-This is really linked, as I said, to adding to our knowledge for the census of Antarctic marine life which is being conducted for the International Polar Year by Australia, and this is part of a global effort to get a better handle on the biodiversity of Antarctica and also, as Ms Petrachenko said, on krill populations which we believe are threatened should ice sheets start retreating and those sorts of things.
Senator SIEWERT-I do not disagree with you.
Mr Borthwick-So that is basically the purpose of it, and that is why the Antarctic Division has invested a lot of effort and scientific research in establishing a krill breeding population in Kingston which was, if not the first of its kind, certainly on that scale, to try and get a better handle on krill, because it is, as you have correctly observed, right at the start of the food chain in terms of affecting-
Senator SIEWERT-So you do not see that the Australian population is going to think it a bit odd that Australia is taking $9 million to $10 million from Japan to invest in Australian research-from a country that we are currently debating whether to take to court or whatever-
Mr Borthwick-No, no.
Senator SIEWERT-the same country that we are presently ‘fighting' over whaling?
Mr Borthwick-Australia is cooperating with Japan on a whole host of activities.
Senator SIEWERT-Not all of them related to whaling.
Mr Borthwick-No, this does not relate to-
Senator Wong-We do not accept-
Mr Borthwick-Sorry, Minister. We cooperate with Japan very closely, and I can give you details, as I said, from 1910-11 right through to modern times in terms of our operations-
Senator ABETZ-When we used to do whaling.
Mr Borthwick-on a whole host of research.
Senator JOHNSTON-A little bit too close!
Mr Borthwick-Our relationship with Japan is one of very close cooperation on a whole host of things, including this. Where we fundamentally disagree with them is on lethal scientific whaling, but on everything else we cooperate to the full.
Senator ABETZ-I will ask something on this, if I may, Senator Siewert. Given the minister's answer before that this research will, in fact, allegedly undermine the whaling industry-
Senator Wong-No, I said one aspect of the-
Senator ABETZ-Yes, one aspect.
Senator Wong-Senator, with respect, you do do this. My recollection is that I was rephrasing-
Senator ABETZ-You cannot remember your answers. I have to go back to Hansard.
CHAIR-Senator Abetz, let the minister explain.
Senator Wong-With your indulgence, Chair, I was seeking to rephrase Ms Petrachenko's proposition about the effect of the scientific research. In fact, I said, ‘If I am incorrect, I am sure Ms Petrachenko will correct me.'
Senator ABETZ-And did she correct you?
Senator Wong-No, I do not think so.
Senator ABETZ-No. And you said that part of this study will, in fact, go to undermining the whaling
Senator Wong-I think-
Senator ABETZ-Once again, all I am seeking, Chair, is clarification that that is what the minister said
before I ask a question.
Senator Wong-Senator, perhaps you are far more intelligent than I, but I do not recall-
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting-
Senator Wong-I am sure Senator Macdonald would agree with that-in fact, he has said he has agreed,
but that is fine; he is entitled to his opinion.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-I was sharing your opinion! For once we agree-that Senator Abetz is
more intelligent than you.
Senator Wong-I do not have a photographic memory-
Senator LUNDY-This is like university-grade commentary from Senator Macdonald.
Senator Wong-or a memory of every word I have uttered, but my recollection is that what I said indicated
that Ms Petrachenko had put the view that this research undermined one of the Japanese arguments and
rationales for scientific whaling.
Senator ABETZ-Right. Therefore, I ask: does the Rudd government honestly believe that Japan has
voluntarily entered into a research project to undermine its whaling industry?
Senator Wong-Senator, I would refer you to Mr Borthwick's answer, which is that we have a range of
scientific and other measures of cooperation with Japan. I understand the political point that Senator Siewert is making, and from her political perspective I think that that is quite reasonable. I would make the point that the opposition, when in government, had to deal with precisely the same issue that this government has had to deal with. We disagree. Senator Johnston, you are from a state where, I am sure, the trade relationship with Japan is very important.
Senator JOHNSTON-First class.
Senator Wong-We do have to manage a relationship where we have extremely close-
Senator JOHNSTON-Well, it was until recently, anyway.
Senator Wong-If I could finish, Senator Johnston: we have a relationship where there are very close economic and trade relationships. There are close foreign-policy relationships.
Senator ABETZ-That is why we did not visit.
Senator Wong-May I finish, Senator Abetz?
Senator Wong-There is clearly-
Senator Wong-I am just going to wait, Chair, until the Liberal blokes have finished having a go at us.
CHAIR-You could wait a long time, Senator Wong.
Senator IAN MACDONALD-You are such a sensitive petal.
Senator ABETZ-She can interrupt her own secretary, but we cannot have a quick chitchat across the table. How precious.
Senator LUNDY-It is pretty juvenile behaviour by the Liberal senators.
CHAIR-Are there further questions on this matter?
Senator Wong-I actually have an answer I am seeking to finish, Chair, but I was waiting for Senator Abetz and Senator Johnston to stop talking at each other across the table.
Senator ABETZ-To each other.
Senator Wong-You generally talk at, I am afraid! The point I am making is that, just as when the opposition were in government they had to manage this, we too have to manage a relationship where there are very close relationships on a whole range of policy fronts, including scientific research-as was the case, Senator Johnston and Senator Abetz, under your government. And this is-
Senator JOHNSTON-We never funded research in Antarctic waters with Japanese; I can tell you that right here and now.
Senator Wong-Can I finish, Senator Johnston? In fact, I think that that is not the case, and I am going to ask officers if that is, in fact, the case.
Senator JOHNSTON-Oh, you are asking the questions now?
Senator Wong-The point I am making is that, on a bipartisan basis, we have always recognised that we disagree with Japan on this fundamental issue but, for obvious national interest reasons, we have maintained relations across a range of other areas. Just as you, in government, cooperated with the government of Japan on a whole range of matters, we too are doing so in this respect. There is a long history of Antarctic cooperation between Australia and Japan. We fundamentally disagree on the issue of whaling, and the government is taking steps to make that clear to Japan.
Senator JOHNSTON-Tell us about the safeguards. What safeguards have you put in place?
Senator ABETZ-I accept all that the minister has said, but it does not answer my question. Does the Rudd government honestly believe that Japan has voluntarily entered into a joint research project with us which will have the capacity to undermine an aspect of its justification for the whaling industry? I do not think the Japanese are so naive that they would do so. That means you must think the Japanese are either naive or do not understand the research project. What I think is more likely is that this research will not in fact be undermining whaling activities by the Japanese. It beggars belief that that is the Rudd government's view.
Senator Wong-I understand from Ms Petrachenko-and this relates to my previous answer-that the Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research program, or SOWER, has been in place for some 20 years and has involved cooperation between not only Australia and Japan but also a range of other countries, with different views on whaling, including New Zealand and the EU. So my point is that there has been cooperation between previous Australian governments, of both political persuasions, and the government of Japan in relation to genuine whale research as well as the sort of scientific research that has been discussed in the session.
Senator ABETZ-We know that has happened, and it is all very nice, but we were told that one of the justifications for this specific contract involving the Aurora Australis was research that would undermine one of the justifications that Japan provides for whaling. I am now asking: does the Rudd government honestly believe that Japan has voluntarily entered into this joint research project which will have the ability to undermine their own justification for their whaling industry? You can tell us what we did in 1910 and everything else-that is all fine-but I want an answer to that specific question. Do we honestly believe the Japanese have embarked upon this joint venture thinking that the research will tend to undermine their justifications for their whaling industry?
Senator Wong-What different parts of the Japanese government may or may not think is a matter I am not prepared to speculate on. But what we do see from the evidence on the table is that, notwithstanding this fundamental difference between our governments, there has been a long history of cooperation between Japan and Australia in the Antarctic. One can assume certain motivations by Japan in relation to that but, as I said, I am not going to speculate on that.
Senator ABETZ-I am not going to get an answer on that, so I will not continue.
Senator SIEWERT-With regard to the projects that were carried out on the vessel, did Australia agree with Japan on what they were, or did Japan just say, ‘This is what we want to do'?
Mr Borthwick-I do not have information about that other than to say that Australian Antarctic Division staff will be managing and supporting the voyage. I will have to take that notice.
Senator SIEWERT-Does that mean they are running the vessel? I presume the Japanese are doing their own research.
Mr Borthwick-I cannot give you that information. For quite some time we have been involved in joint research with Japan on krill. It is not just in the context of this voyage.
Senator SIEWERT-But that research, as I understand it, is being done through the IWC project.
Mr Borthwick-No. We have been undertaking joint research with Japan on plankton and krill populations, through the Antarctic Division, for some time.
Senator SIEWERT-Yesterday we were canvassing the issues around the projects that the $9 million to $10 million-the money that the Japanese are paying the Antarctic Division for use of the vessel-is going to be funding. A small amount is going into the policy unit and the rest of it is going into the science unit. I asked yesterday about what science that was funding and I was told to ask here. I also understand from the discussion we had yesterday that there were negotiations between the Japanese and the Antarctic Division about what that science would be.
Mr Borthwick-I have indicated in terms of the statement from Dr Press what the science will be on the voyage. I am unable to tell you about what role Australians will be playing in that particular science. In terms of the $9 million, you are right-there was about one-third for departmental purposes and two-thirds for scientific purposes. Part of that will go to the operational requirements of the voyage; the other part will go into the general scientific program. I do not think-but if I check up and find differently I will correct the record-you will be able to separate out the science that that will go into from the general science that is undertaken by the Antarctic Division. It is just going into the pool of funding that is available for scientific activity.
Senator SIEWERT-There is about an extra $7 million going into the science for Antarctic Division output group 2.2 this year. That is specifically down as the money that is coming from the memorandum of understanding with the Japanese government.
Mr Borthwick-That is right.
Senator SIEWERT-When I asked yesterday, firstly, it was indicated that to find out what that science was I should ask here and, secondly, there was a clear-
Mr Borthwick-I do not think that was said because the people from the Marine and Biodiversity Division are not connected at all with the science that is undertaken in the Antarctic Division.
Senator SIEWERT-We will check the Hansard, but my clear recollection is that I was told to ask here.
Ms Petrachenko-Senator, in my understanding, what was referred to this division was the ACAMMS funding-
Senator SIEWERT-No, it was both.
Ms Petrachenko-That is what we are involved with.
Senator SIEWERT-I know. When we are done with this and my other whaling issues we will get to that. I asked for this as well. As I said, we will check the Hansard. My very clear recollection was that I was sent here.
Senator Wong-Senator, which specific aspect of the science are you seeking?
Senator SIEWERT-What are the science projects that are being funded under this once-off injection of funding for science?
Mr Borthwick-You are talking about the moneys listed in the footnote on this. We will have to get back to you, but I will repeat what I said: I think those monies are going into a general scientific bucket which will be available for a whole host of scientific activity that is undertaken.
Senator SIEWERT-From the nature of the discussion that we had yesterday, I certainly took the impression away that there was going to be discussion with the Japanese government about what the nature of that science was to be.
Mr Borthwick-That was only with respect to what-
Senator SIEWERT-No, we had two levels of discussion.
Mr Borthwick-Then we have inadvertently come away with different impressions, because the only thing about the nature of the science is what happens vis-a-vis the voyage. The rest of the money that goes into the Antarctic Division is just like a general revenue source. It is just as if we received a general appropriation, and it will be available for spending. It is not tied to any specific activity at all. But if I need to correct the record on that I will.
Senator SIEWERT-Could you double-check that, because I certainly came away thinking we had been talking about two separate things-the vessel and-
Senator Wong-Senator, we apologize if there has not been a meeting of minds on these issues. So we are clear what you are seeking, in addition to the fairly lengthy discussion we have all had about the Aurora Australis, which we have been dealing with, you are seeking in relation to page 53 of the PBS-correct?
Senator Wong-You were seeking to ask questions in relation to which aspect of this?
Senator SIEWERT-If you look at Antarctic science, this is where this whole discussion kicked off yesterday. There is a significant increase in the science budget from last year to this year. That relates to the funding that is coming from the resupply of the Antarctic station.
Senator Wong-Yes, and-from memory-you did ask the director of that division that question.
Senator SIEWERT-Yes. We then had a subsequent discussion about what the nature of that research is- we got on to the vessel later. If I have misunderstood, fair enough. Could you clarify what discussions are going on around the nature of the research that is specifically funded by that injection of funds?
Mr Borthwick-We will try and give you an answer.
Senator Wong-There is a distinction here between what you are saying-funding source. You want to know, other than the research that Dr Press has provided through the tabled document, is there anything additional to be funded by the injection of funds? If it is earmarked-and I note that Mr Thompson has indicated generally that is not the case in terms of those goals.
Mr Thompson-I am about to go and ask the question.
Senator SIEWERT-That would be appreciated, thank you.
Senator WONG-We will see what we can do on that.
Senator PARRY-Just coming back to the supply vessel which we use for research work: who will be in command of the vessel when it is a joint Japanese-Australian research activity?
Mr Borthwick-The information I have got is that the Australian Antarctic Division staff will be managing and supporting the voyage, but I do not know in terms of the captain of the ship.
Senator PARRY-Can that be taken on notice because it is quite important.
Mr Borthwick-Yes, it can.
Senator PARRY-Equally, who will be directing the direction of the vessel as to what waters it will be undertaking research in?
Mr Borthwick-We can take that on notice too.
Senator PARRY-The Japanese are leasing this-will they be controlling the scheduling of voyages?
Mr Borthwick-I do not know that. These questions relate to the outcome that was discussed yesterday; they do not relate to the current outcome.
Senator PARRY-We have just had an extensive half hour on this.
Senator Wong-In fairness, my recollection was that the officer who had the closest knowledge of this was not in Canberra for estimates. The director of the division attended, as is normal. So Dr Press, who is the officer responsible, has provided this document. We are happy to have as much discussion as we are able but we would probably need to take those detailed logistical arrangement matters on notice-happy to do that now, if you wish.
Senator PARRY-These are the questions we need on notice: who will be in command of the vessel; who will be directing the research activities; who will be directing the research activity geographical area where the ship will be traversing; and will the Japanese have any control over the frequency and the scheduling of trips in relation to supply? Primarily this is a supply ship, which will be engaged in research work. I do not know whether the question was asked by Senator Siewert, but what is the breakdown of Australian to Japanese scientists-the ratio?
Mr Borthwick-We will take those on notice.
Senator JOHNSTON-They are all pertaining to the lease of the vessel by the Japanese?
CHAIR-Senator Siewert wishes to put a question on notice.
Senator SIEWERT-Could you provide the committee with a list of projects that are currently being undertaken under the IUCN science project?
Ms Petrachenko-You want all of the IWC related science projects?
Senator Wong-The IUCN, you said.
Senator SIEWERT-Sorry-IWC. IUCN I get into my head-IWC.
Ms Petrachenko-Australia's involvement in IWC related projects?
Ms Petrachenko-Yes, we can.
Senator Wong-Is it Australia's involvement or Australia funded?
Senator SIEWERT-Both. I am assuming that if we are funding it then we are somehow involved with it-is that not a correct assumption?
Ms Petrachenko-We have involvement in some that we do not provide cash to, yes.
Senator SIEWERT-But take ‘involvement' in its wide meaning, either as in research or as in provision of cash.
Ms Petrachenko-I will take that on notice.
Senator ABETZ-It took me about two minutes to find out that the Oceanic Viking left on 8 January 2008 and, of course, as I understand it that was not announced with any fanfare. But it is interesting. It was in the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio that we were inquiring as to when the Prime Minister stopped trying to make contact with Japan, after becoming Prime Minister, for a discussion with the Japanese Prime Minister. It just happens to have been 10 January 2008. I just wonder whether those two dates were somehow related. What legal costs has the department incurred in relation to what now clearly seems to be aborted legal action against the Japanese?
Ms Petrachenko-Our department has not incurred any costs. If there are costs associated with obtaining legal advice, that would be a question for the Attorney-General's Department.
Senator ABETZ-I am aware of that, but every now and then the department has its own legal advisers or whatever, and time is spent in relation to these matters. I will be asking a bracket of questions later on about some actions that the department has had to defend, for example, and I am just wondering whether you have provided evidence from the international expertise or put together briefs of evidence-scientific evidence, for example-for the potential of a court case and the costs associated with that.
Senator Wong-I will just make a comment there before Ms Petrachenko responds. I can recall you defending absolutely the right of the previous government not to-or the inability of the previous government to-provide the then opposition with advice as to the costs of their industrial relations legal advice, other than the contracted external legal advice costs. We were not provided with costs for how much you spent on your Work Choices legislation in terms of officers working on that in-house, because, I was told, it was not possible to track that data. So I am interested that you now seek essentially the same sort of advice from this committee.
Senator ABETZ-The reason I do is that I was one of those naive Australians who actually believed the Prime Minister when he said, ‘Elect me and there will be a new era of transparency,' and believed that the sort of nonsense that Senator Wong went on about at the workplace relations committee would no longer occur under a Rudd administration. Today we have heard out of the minister's own mouth that all her protestations at the workplace relations Senate estimates were a front; that she never believed in that in any way, shape or form; and that it was simply a con to the Australian people. She is now adopting the Howard government approach. I ask the minister to apologise.
Senator LUNDY-What are you talking about? This is not the workplace relations committee.
Senator ABETZ-She brought up workplace relations. You ought to listen to your own minister. The chances are that that is why you are not in the ministry.
Senator LUNDY-So cutting!
Senator ABETZ-She raised it; I did not. If it is relevant for the minister to raise it, surely it is for me as well.
CHAIR-I think that the minister is waiting for you to be quiet so we can have an answer.
Senator Wong-I am not sure what the question is.
Senator LUNDY-There was not one.
Senator Wong-I think it is more of a statement, with which I disagree in most parts-I think in all parts other than, perhaps, the fact that I did ask you questions. But Ms Petrachenko, I think, is able to respond to your request about what involvement this department had in terms of legal advice.
Senator ABETZ-Just so I can clarify this for future occasions, Chair, the protestations that we heard from the government, whilst it was in opposition, in relation to the provision of legal advice are not protestations that they will now adopt in government. They will, in fact, be adopting the same approach as the Howard government, against which they protested.
Senator LUNDY-We said that in a different committee.
Senator Wong-Senator Abetz, with respect, I think you are conflating two issues. I was making a point not about legal advice where external counsel is sought or advice is sought from A-G's for a line department or another agency.
Senator ABETZ-That is right.
Senator Wong-The point I was making was that, in terms of work in relation to legal advice, the answer that has been previously given by ministers is that it is often not separately tracked. I think that was in fact the response that you gave to the then opposition when we were seeking information about the enormous amount of public servant resources devoted to your Work Choices legislation. That may in fact be true, Senator; it may in fact-
Senator ABETZ-At the time that was an ‘outrage to democracy and transparency' and you used to jump up and down and get all your letters from the Clerk of the Senate saying, ‘This is outrageous.' Within six months you are adopting exactly the same practices as we did. Can I say I am not critical of you for adopting that practice. What I am critical of is the gross hypocrisy.
Senator Wong-Madam Chair, I think Ms Petrachenko has an answer.
Ms Petrachenko-Senator, as I indicated, we did not engage any separate legal counsel associated with this in this department. It is the Attorney-General's Department that has been involved and has the lead on that. So, aside from any policy-
Senator ABETZ-I was asking about internal. I accept the minister's response as being quite reasonable. But what it does highlight is the duplicity with which they slithered their way into government.
CHAIR-Do you have any further questions in this area, Senator Abetz?
Senator LUNDY-He obviously does not have any questions.
Senator Wong-Sorry, what was the last part of that? The duplicity with which-?
Senator ABETZ-You will have to check Hansard; sorry.
Senator LUNDY-Can't you remember your last question? You can't just place stuff on the record and then pretend you didn't say it.
Senator ABETZ-When I asked the minister whether I heard her correctly, and repeated the exact words to her, she feigned that she had amnesia on the issue.
Senator LUNDY-So you claim, Senator. Now, what did you say?
Senator ABETZ-I am here to ask the questions, not to give answers. I am happy to change with Senator Wong at any time.
Senator LUNDY-No, you are here making snide interpretations. That is not a question.
Senator Wong-I will leave it. It was a comment about the way in which Senator Abetz chose to characterise the choice the Australian people made at the last election.
Senator ABETZ-No, you misheard-which is good.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Minister, Mr Borthwick, Ms Petrachenko-one of you: what is the exact role of the special envoy on whale conservation?
Mr Borthwick-The role of the special envoy will be to put Australia's case in the strongest terms against scientific whaling and to put forward alternative ways in which we can undertake scientific research of a nonlethal variety into whaling.
Senator Wong-If I can assist, Senator, as I think I have previously indicated, the characterisation, or what was announced in December, is that the envoy would ‘convey our views to Japan and increase and strengthen dialogue at senior levels'.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Have terms of reference been developed for the role of the envoy?
Mr Borthwick-No, they have not.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-What about job and person specs?
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Is there anything aside from Minister Garrett's press release of 19 December that says what the envoy will do-anything written down anywhere?
Mr Borthwick-There has not been any announcement about the envoy or the details of how that envoy will operate.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-I was not asking whether there had been an announcement. I was asking whether there was anything written down anywhere saying what this person will do.
Senator Wong-The only information that I have is what I have provided you with. If there is anything further, we will provide that.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-That is all very well and good, Minister. I would have thought that we are looking at appointing somebody to what I assume will be a reasonably well-paid role, a role that will, from Mr Borthwick's brief description, see them flying around the world representing Australia's interests. Surely some documentation must have been worked out besides a press release in December-six months ago-to determine what this role is.
Senator Wong-I cannot provide any further information at this point, other than what I have, which is that the announcement was that the government would dramatically increase our diplomatic efforts on whaling. One of the aspects of that-and I emphasise: one of the aspects of that-is the appointment of a special envoy on whale conservation to ‘convey our views to Japan and increase and strengthen dialogue at senior levels'. As yet, no further announcement that I am aware of has been made in relation to that issue, and, certainly, there has been no announcement, as you know, in relation to any appointment.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-We have a dot-point job description and person description for the whaling envoy role. That is helpful. We have a dot point from a media release to tell us the terms of reference for this role, which are ‘to convey our views to Japan and increase and strengthen dialogue at senior levels'. What is the most senior level of dialogue when it comes to whaling?
Senator Wong-I presume it is the ministerial level.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-What is the most senior level of dialogue internationally?
Senator Wong-The most senior level of dialogue between nation states is generally the leader dialogues. I would assume the next most senior level is the ministers. I am not sure about the foreign policy pecking order. Do ambassadors come next? I assume so.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Would the International Whaling Commission not be the most senior forum for dialogue at senior level in regard to whaling? If not the most senior, would it not be one of the most senior?
Senator Wong-I do not know. I am not an expert on hierarchies of this sort-maybe Ms Petrachenko and Mr Borthwick can assist me-but it is the most inclusive multilateral forum to deal with these issues. I do not know whether there are other United Nations multilateral forums or other bilateral forums-which some might argue would be more important.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Is it a senior level of dialogue?
Senator Wong-It is a multilateral forum for the discussion of whales.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Is the International Whaling Commission a senior level of dialogue on whaling?
Senator Wong-That is a matter of opinion.
Senator ABETZ-We have a unity ticket on this-I think we all agree that it is.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-It is not an opinion. The dot-point definition of the role of the international whaling envoy says that they will strengthen dialogue at senior levels. I am trying to define ‘senior levels'.
Senator Wong-There was evidence given previously-you may have been out of the room, Senator Birmingham-that Minister Garrett intends to attend the IWC. That is pretty senior.
Senator ABETZ-But he is not as senior as you!
Senator BIRMINGHAM-That is a very good point, Senator Abetz. Minister Garrett is going. We trust that that is a senior level and that there will be dialogue at a senior level. Is it not highly embarrassing that you have had more than six months to put this whaling envoy in place? It is more than six months since you announced it, since the idea was cooked up somewhere. Mr Borthwick says he has given you a list of names, but you are not willing to tell us whether one has been selected. Aside from a dot point in a press release, there are no terms of reference-and our international envoy, whoever that is going to be, will not be present at the most senior global conversation on whaling. Isn't that highly embarrassing?
Senator Wong-That is an opinion. The government is demonstrating its commitment to strengthen the fight against lethal whaling. We are doing so through a range of mechanisms, a range of means, of which the appointment of the envoy is one. We have stated that we will appoint an envoy. I have also stated that Minister Garrett will be attending the IWC.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-In truth, isn't this just being pushed back because, so far, every step the government has taken has proven to be a flop, an embarrassment or a spectacular failure? You have spent millions of dollars sending ships and planes down to take footage that has provided little more than a few grabs for the evening news. You have tried to launch an International Criminal Court case that is going nowhere and will go nowhere. You have a delegation going off to the IWC without the special envoy.
Senator Wong-Led by the Minister.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Led by the minister who has spent more than six months not appointing his special envoys. Nothing in the minister's 19 December press release about whaling has been successfully accomplished-nothing. Minister, please point to something he has successfully done from that 19 December press release to actually achieve something to end whaling?
Senator WONG-Frankly, you are doing a reasonably good job at summing up and seeing if you can get on television.
Senator PARRY-It would be a very good story.
Senator ABETZ-I think the time will be spent on you, Minister.
Senator LUNDY-They are going to keep saying it.
Senator Wong-Yes, I gathered that. We have, as a government, made it a priority to enhance or strengthen the fight against lethal whaling. We made it clear what our view was-and I understood it to be a bipartisan position-in relation to whaling.
Senator PARRY-Yes, we want to do something. You just do not seem to want to do anything.
Senator Wong-Would you like to tell us what you did, Senator Parry?
Senator ABETZ-Yes, we had the substance; you have the spin.
Senator Wong-Is that what the practice of this hearing-
Senator PARRY-We would not wait six months to appoint a very important envoy. It cannot be that important if you are not going to do anything about it.
Senator ABETZ-That is with the charter letters in the Prime Minister's office.
Senator PARRY-That is right. Everything is so slow. Nothing is happening.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Maybe they are not sure yet who has to appoint it.
Senator Wong-As I said, the 19 December announcement that I had referred to talked about a range of diplomatic measures. They included, first, the development of a proposal for improving the IWC. If, as you say, that is a senior multilateral forum-and certainly it is a key multilateral forum-one would have thought that actually improving that multilateral organisation as a way to deal with whaling is actually a very sensible thing to do. Ms Petrachenko has talked about the fact that that has been delivered on and that, in fact, it has been discussed at an intersessional meeting of the IWC. That is a significant diplomatic advance. In addition, what we have said in relation to whaling is that we will appoint an envoy. You have asked many questions about that. I do not think that anyone in the government thinks that this is an easy thing to achieve.
Senator ABETZ-It was before the election.
Senator Wong-When in government Minister Campbell obviously, to be fair to him, actually did quite a lot of work on this issue. I think he described it as his global quest, but I am not going to reiterate that on this side or take up that badge. But obviously that was an issue he worked very hard on. It is not an easy issue, because clearly there is a very strong difference of opinion between Australia and the government of Japan.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Minister, it looks as if all we have is ‘WhaleWatch', which is going to be about as successful as FuelWatch.
Senator CORMANN-Like FuelWatch.
Senator BIRMINGHAM-Exactly. Thank you.
Senator SIEWERT-When is the Aurora Australis likely to be carrying out this resupplying trip?
Mr Borthwick-It is over summer. I thought I mentioned January-February.
Senator SIEWERT-That is the same time that the Japanese are actually going to have their whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, isn't it?
Mr Borthwick-But that is the time when you can re-equip bases as well.
Senator SIEWERT-How can we be assured that there will not be any communication between the Japanese who are doing work on the ship and those who, at the same time, have their whaling vessels in that region?
Mr Borthwick-I can only mention that we will be managing and supporting the voyage. I indicated that I would get back to you in terms of what that would involve and those sorts of things.
Senator SIEWERT-We cannot, can we?
Mr Borthwick-I cannot give you an answer, but I do not want to be drawn to say what you are inferring there.
Senator SIEWERT-We cannot guarantee that the people on that ship will not be relaying information to the Japanese whalers when they are down in the ocean at the same time as the Aurora Australis will be there.
Mr Borthwick-I do not know who will be in charge of the communications on the ship, so I cannot give you an answer.
Senator SIEWERT-You will be aware that there have been, at least, suggestions that in the past, with some of the IWC research that has been undertaken and that Australia and Japan have been cooperating on, there has been information relayed directly back to the whaling fleets. You will be as aware of that as I am.
Senator Wong-Senator Siewert, I wonder if you could indulge me. There was something I neglected to respond to Senator Birmingham on. Could we come back to your question to Mr Borthwick later. I neglected to mention, Senator Birmingham, that as you might be aware Australia did lead a demarche to Japan in relation to their position on humpback whaling and that subsequently there was an announcement by the government of Japan in relation to humpbacks. You asked what the government had done since the announcement. That is one of the issues, and I ask Ms Petrachenko to briefly advise the committee about that.
Senator ABETZ-Another thing is that we flew over Japan on the way to China!
Ms Petrachenko-I think it is important, as the senator indicated. We were all very concerned, if you recall, that in the scientific whaling plan for last summer Japan indicated that it was proposing to take 55 humpback whales in addition to minke whales and, potentially, fin whales. The reaction from a number of countries was such that over 30 countries had a demarche which went in December to Japan and, as a result of that, just before Christmas the Japanese indicated that they would no longer plan on taking humpback whales. I think the conclusion one can draw is that the action of these countries-of which Australia was one-did have an impact on Japan.
Senator Wong-Thank you, and thank you, Senator Siewert-I appreciate that.
Senator ABETZ-We do not think it was just an ambit claim by Japan, which they were willing to back off from-just so they could get some nice publicity?
Senator SIEWERT-A bargaining chip?
Senator ABETZ-Yes, I believe this is a pretty naive approach-yet again-as shown by the government's view that this research the Japanese are voluntarily funding is somehow going to undermine the whaling industry. There seems to be a degree of naivety around it.
Senator SIEWERT-So the answer to the question I asked is that you do not know how you are going to-
Mr Borthwick-I indicated that I would make inquiries about how communications will be managed- indeed, the broader management of the ship.
Senator SIEWERT-I have some further questions on whaling that are separate to that particular issue.
Senator ABETZ-If I may just quickly follow up: have people been approached about the possibility of being the whaling envoy?
Mr Borthwick-I think there have been discussions with people, yes.
Senator ABETZ-Have those discussions involved telling the potential applicants what the job description might be?
Mr Borthwick-I am unable to tell you exactly what the nature of the discussions were, but there have been discussions.
Senator ABETZ-It would be quite bizarre, wouldn't it, if, say, I was in Minister Garrett's position and I rang up Senator Parry and said, ‘Do you want to be our whaling envoy?' Chances are the very first question Senator Parry would respond with is, ‘What would it involve?' I am just wondering if any of the people that were approached asked that question, and what they were told? That might be the answer to Senator Birmingham's question that he persevered with for absolute ages and got no answer to. We now know people have been approached, so did we approach them with some semblance of a job description, or, ‘do you want a job without a job description?'-which would be one for Labor mates, I must say.
Senator Wong-I do not think I am going to provide you with a debrief of what conversations may or may not have occurred with-
Senator CORMANN-Are you uncomfortable with that?
Senator ABETZ-It is as transparent as the laws of this parliament.
Senator Wong-We will-
Senator CORMANN-Put it this way: ‘once we get in, we will just change it all.'
Senator Wong-Are you finished, Senator?
Senator PARRY-A new portfolio, too-it's amazing.
Senator ABETZ-They are very good points being made by Senator Cormann.
Senator CORMANN-Once we get in, we will just change it all.
Senator Wong-What I am going to do is to refer you back to my earlier answers. We have announced we will make an appointment. We have indicated-
Senator ABETZ-Chair, with great respect, mine was a very specific question.
Senator Wong-What I am saying is the government will make the announcement in due course, and when it considers it appropriate. After such an announcement has been made, I am sure senators will be able to come back and ask details about that appointment through the Senate estimates process. Governments are entitled to make announcements on appointments, I am sure you would agree with that.
Senator ABETZ-Of course.
Senator Wong-And we will do so.
Senator ABETZ-And do you know what? Oppositions are allowed to ask questions.
Senator Wong-Yes, you are.
Senator ABETZ-And I have been asking a question about whether people have been approached. The answer to that is ‘yes'. Am I allowed to follow up by asking how many people have been approached?
Mr Borthwick-I am unaware of how many people.
Senator ABETZ-Could you please take that on notice for me, so that we can get an answer to that? Can you also take on notice whether when they were approached they were given any semblance of a job description? If so, is the government willing to share that job description with this committee? You will take that on notice?
Senator ABETZ-Mr Borthwick, I think I heard you say that the job of the envoy was to represent Australia in the strongest terms possible-is that right?
Mr Borthwick-That is right; they were words to that effect.
Senator ABETZ-Yes: ‘strongest terms'. Is that because the government does not have confidence that Minister Garrett can do it in the strongest terms possible and you need somebody stronger than Mr Garrett to prosecute the case?
Senator Wong-Frankly, that is ridiculous.
Senator ABETZ-No it is not.
Senator Wong-Frankly, it is.
Senator ABETZ-The envoy is there to represent Australia ‘in the strongest terms'. It therefore suggests that nobody can do it more strongly and that the minister will not be able to do it as well. Can I say, Minister, I would share the government's view on this. Minister Garrett has been singularly unsuccessful in nearly every area he has touched. But I was interested in the wording that was used-that the envoy is there to represent us‘in the strongest terms'-and I think he would do that.
Senator Wong-I have appointed an envoy. I cannot remember if he is special or not, but he certainly is an envoy.
Senator ABETZ-I am sure he is very special.
Senator Wong-He is special, but I meant in his title. The reason for that is that the scale and the frequency of climate change negotiations and the need for those multilateral discussions to occur, frankly, is beyond the capacity of a minister to realistically engage in it for as much time as you would want Australia to be engaged in at a high level. It is about additional resourcing of an international priority. My view is that the appointment of a special envoy is a demonstration of this government's emphasis and priority on doing what it can to strengthen the fight against lethal whaling. It is about additional resourcing. I have to say, Senator, I am not clear now what the opposition's position is. You have been critical of us in this hearing for not appointing and now you appear to be critical of us for appointing. This is a demonstration-
Senator ABETZ-You have appointed now have you? We were being accused of being critical for appointing.
Senator Wong-This decision is one of a number of ways in which the government is increasing its diplomatic efforts on this difficult issue. It is demonstrative of the government's additional resourcing and the additional priority the government gives in terms of the fight against lethal whaling.
Senator ABETZ-Thank you for the priority that has been given to this. It is quite clear that it has more priority than appointing a nanny or a butler and other important positions. The Prime Minister has clearly exercised a lot of attention to this.
Senator SIEWERT-I have a few more questions on whales and, once we have done that, I have some other marine questions.
Senator ABETZ-Yes, so do I.
Senator SIEWERT-What work has the government done in Japan besides the various representations? Is anything being done to raise awareness of Australia's position or to dispel public misapprehensions about Australia?
Ms Petrachenko-In terms of this portfolio, in raising awareness of what our position is with the Japanese we tabled a paper at the intercessional which is entitled Whale Conservation and Management: A Future for the IWC. That document has been translated into Japanese, was presented to the Japanese and is available as well, I believe, on our website. That is the primary thing that we have done. Other representations to the Japanese and anything in the Japanese public would probably best be answered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, given that their ambassador has been engaged in discussions, I would imagine.
Senator SIEWERT-Has the department made any representations to Japan regarding the stolen whale meat scandal that has been uncovered in Japan? Have you done any work on that?
Ms Petrachenko-I believe you are referring to the recent reports from Greenpeace that allege that the socalled scientific research crews in the Southern Ocean last year-that, in terms of the minke whales which were taken, that that whale meat was used somehow and found its way onto the black market in Japan.
Senator SIEWERT-That is right.
Ms Petrachenko-We have just become aware of that this week and have asked questions through our embassy in Japan. We have not yet heard the factual reaction from the Japanese government at this stage, so we do not know.
Senator ABETZ-Who would want to steal the stuff?
Senator SIEWERT-They sell it on the black market.
Senator ABETZ-Yes, but I thought they had full warehouses of it that they cannot get rid of in Japan. I would not have thought it would be attracting a premium price.
Senator SIEWERT-You have contacted the embassy, and you have not had a response?
Ms Petrachenko-We have not heard officially what the Japanese government's view is. There are some reports from third parties that the Japanese government have said they will investigate this through their public prosecution office, but we do not have that confirmed.
Senator SIEWERT-Has the evidence that Australia gathered through the monitoring that we have had extensive discussions about been shared with any other countries?
Ms Petrachenko-No, it has not.
Senator SIEWERT-Do you intend to?
Ms Petrachenko-The evidence itself is with Customs and the Attorney-General's Department, so I cannot answer anything further.
Senator SIEWERT-I am presuming you have got access to that information, though.
Senator SIEWERT-So which agencies was the information collected on behalf of? Customs collected it. Was it not collected on behalf of your agency?
Ms Petrachenko-Our agency are involved because we have the technical background-as well as Antarctic Division-for the identification of whales et cetera. The actual, evidentiary value would be with the Attorney-General's Department.
Senator SIEWERT-They are the owners of the evidence?
Ms Petrachenko-I guess it is owned by the government of Australia. I do not know how we decide which department is the owner.
Senator SIEWERT-Are you aware of when the government is going to be taking legal action?
Ms Petrachenko-A decision on taking legal action has not been made, to my knowledge.
Senator SIEWERT-Do you know when a decision is going to be made?
Ms Petrachenko-No, I do not.
Senator SIEWERT-Are you involved in that process?
Ms Petrachenko-We are involved, obviously, in all matters of government policy on whales and would anticipate being consulted and involved through our minister as appropriate.
Senator SIEWERT-Can I shift on to marine parks, please? Could you tell me how much funding is going to be available for the implementation of the NRS for MPAs?
Ms Petrachenko-Is this in terms of the national reserve?
Senator SIEWERT-The National Reserve System for marine protected areas-how much money are you being allocated?
Ms Petrachenko-Are you referring to the funds allocated to the National Reserve System under Caring for Our Country?
Senator SIEWERT-No. How much money are you going to have for rolling out marine protected areas, which I presume are still part of the National Reserve System?
Ms Petrachenko-They are part of the National Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. I guess that when you add the terrestrial and the marine together you could say is the overall National Reserve System. In terms of funding for next year, I believe it is about $5 million that is in the budget statements for marine protected areas.
Senator SIEWERT-What about the second and third years?
Ms Petrachenko-In outward years, it would be the same amount.
Senator SIEWERT-The same amount each year?
Senator SIEWERT-Is that a cut?
Senator Wong-From what?
Senator SIEWERT-From previous years.
Ms Petrachenko-Previously we have had funding from the National Heritage Trust that helped with the MPA, marine protected areas, budget, yes.
Senator SIEWERT-How much did you get previously?
Ms Petrachenko-Approximately $6 million.
Senator SIEWERT-Okay, so there is $1 million cut each year?
Ms Petrachenko-No. We have $5 million and we spent approximately $8 million last year. I have my documents but I have to move all my whale papers.
Senator Wong-Are we done on whales?
Ms Petrachenko-There is about a $5.56 million reduction.
Senator SIEWERT-Over the three years?
Ms Petrachenko-No, each year.
Senator SIEWERT-Each year. So a $5.5 to $6 million reduction each year?
Ms Petrachenko-Yes. The National Heritage Trust used to give us approximately-it would vary-
Senator SIEWERT-On top of what you had before?
Ms Petrachenko-That is right. As was indicated this morning, through Caring for our Country transitional funding, we have yet to have decisions from ministers.
Senator SIEWERT-I should have asked this yesterday, so I understand if you cannot answer this: under the NRS part of Caring for our Country, is there no marine allocation?
Ms Petrachenko-No, there is not.