Transcript, interview with Tracey Holmes, ABC News Radio, 31 March 2014

31 March 2014
Transcript, interview with Tracey Holmes, ABC News Radio

Garrett: I’m absolutely over the moon for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease for once and for all. And to have this ruling from the international court, which is absolutely clear and totally comprehensive, vindicates the decision that we took in taking Japan to the court and I think it means, without any shadow of a doubt, that we won’t see the taking of whales in the Southern Ocean in the name of science

Journalist: Can you give us an indication of just how big this win is? You were taking on the might of history and tradition with the Japanese and all of their arguments that went with their case.

Garrett: This decision is incredible and I will readily say that I’m feeling a sense of great elation because the court took seriously the arguments that Australia put. And in doing so it looked very closely at what we and the nation had been saying and doing, with other nations of like ilk such as New Zealand, to point out that in actual fact if we want to understand these great marine creatures we don’t need to be killing them with harpoons in order to do it. And that it had been, and clearly was, a betrayal of the principles of the whaling convention to allow Japan to continue with that practice. This is a comprehensive and resounding decision in Australia’s favour. I am over the moon about it but I am because it means that we won’t see harpoons in the Southern Ocean. We certainly shouldn’t see them down there any longer.

Journalist: As you said, it is a resounding success. The court ruling was 12/4 in Australia’s favour. Did you expect it to be so comprehensive?

Garrett: I must admit I had mixed feelings about the court making its decision. There’s lots of judges on this international court. But I think the fact that the court found initially that the special permits that were granted by Japan weren’t for the purposes of scientific research, meant that they had actually looked closely at what was going on in the Japanese so-called scientific program, JARPA II. And you know, I always said from the start that we have got a good relationship with Japan – they are a major trading partner of Australia’s – and it was something which any nation that had such a close association could only do if it had the absolute conviction that it was the right and proper path to take. I was always convinced that it was, as was the government. And I think today the decision by the International Court of Justice has borne that out.

Journalist: Peter, you are out of politics now but you were extremely close to this issue. How often did it come up in regards to the ongoing relationship, as you say, the very strong relationship with Australia and Japan. How much of a thorn in the side was it?

Garrett: Well, I think the fact is that it was never a decision that the government took lightly. We recognised the seriousness of the relationship and we knew that it would have to be managed carefully and with sensitivity. But at the same time, most importantly, we weren’t negotiable on the question of killing whales in the name of science. And this had been a core value for me when I came into the parliament, something that I was determined to pursue no matter what. It was consistent with Labor Party policy and it became the policy of the government. And Stephen Smith, Rob McClelland, Kevin Rudd and the Cabinet had to make a decision as to whether we would take that step. I was pleased that we did but I am even now more pleased that the court has vindicated our decision.

Journalist: We know that politics is so much the art of compromise. Did you ever feel any pressure to back down from this fight?

Garrett: No, I didn’t. I think the reason for that is that I knew so well how many Australians felt deeply about this issue. I knew so well that, in some ways, we had, if you like, the tides of history on our side. It just wasn’t acceptable any longer for any nation, whether it was one that we sold a lot of our products to or not, to basically be delivering what was just a fake reason for carrying on with the practice which we didn’t believe was necessary or acceptable. And remember that the recovery of whale populations has been one of the great conservation triumphs of the last four or five decades. And it was one that was still put at risk by the actions of Japan, and other countries too, who were seeking to find ways around the convention and potentially begin commercial whaling again. So we couldn’t compromise on this. We didn’t. And tonight the court has backed us in. It’s a great day.

Journalist: We know it is not a total victory. The whaling can still continue on a much smaller scale but you’re confident that it won’t happen around Australian waters?

Garrett: Yes, I am confident. I would be very surprised if Japan saw fit to continue any form of so-called scientific whaling after this decision. The decision is absolutely comprehensive on the basis of the arguments that were brought by Australia. It finds in our favour in just about every single one of the matters that the court had to determine. Most observers, Tracey, thought that the court would find a middle ground and that it would say that it was not a particularly good thing that you are doing but on the evidence we have perhaps and find some legal language or reasoning that might be really a middle ground outcome. That hasn’t happened tonight. What’s happened tonight is that Japan have been told that they are not able to continue on the scale of killing whales that we have seen in the oceans to our south, and around the Antarctic, in the name of science. And I think that message being as clear as it is means that there shouldn’t be any killing of whales for that reason.