The Age yesterday on the nation's land reserve system.
AUSTRALIA'S National Reserve System will get its biggest injection of funds — $180 million over five years — since its establishment by the Keating government.
The money will expand the system of national parks and private reserves for native plants and animals.
The Government will commit $2 for every dollar advanced by state, local government or private sources, ensuring at least $370 million is available.
"It will mean that private conservancy organisations, those private investors who want to get in and protect important parts of bush — say for example in Cape York that connect with existing national parks — will have access to investment funds," Environment Minister Peter Garrett said.
Mr Garrett said priority would be given to regions of sub-tropical savannah, the Mitchell grass country of north-west Queensland and arid central Australia, all of which had a low level of protection.
It's good to see that Peter Garrett is capable of positive action, although he does not appear to have fully taken onboard the contents of the latest OECD assessment.
The trick for Garrett will be in making sure that this money is spent on land areas large enough to provide sustainable habit and ecosystems and not frittered away on small parcels which are unlikely to provide generational protection for Australian flora and fauna or on wildlife corridors which are not hectares wide.
The Government of Japan continues to push for an extension of its coastal right to hunt whales.
Its bloody-minded and expensive 'scientific' hunt in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary appears to be an attempt to blackmail the international community into lifting the whaling moratorium in the Pacific Ocean.
The National Geographic reported last week.
But the possibility now exists that a deal will be struck allowing Japan to take as many as 400 minke whales from its own waters, provided that its whaling fleet leaves the Southern Hemisphere for good.
"It would be very similar to aboriginal subsistence whaling, but not identical," Palmer said.
"What we might look at is some possibility that scientific whaling be abandoned in return for some sort of concession."
Chris Howe, executive director for the New Zealand office of the international conservation group WWF, said that any deal should include an end to scientific whaling.
"Japan would whale coastally for a small number of minkes and only for domestic use, and quotas must be based on the [Revised Management Procedure] alone."
The procedure is a set of rules developed by the IWC that determines allowable catch limits based on estimates of whale numbers and catch figures past and present.
No matter what terms they might eventually discuss, many anti-whaling delegates are optimistic simply about what they see as Japan's willingness to negotiate.
Palmer says Japan may have realized that it went "a step too far" by threatening to kill humpbacks, the basis of many whale-watching operations in the Pacific.
In addition, violent encounters between whalers and protestors in Antarctic waters last month won Japan no public sympathy. (Read "Japan Denies Shooting Anti-Whaling Activist" [March 7, 2008].)
When examining the details of any negotiations with Japan Peter Garrett needs to consider whether the ramifications of killing 400 Minke whales annually will lead to localised extinctions and how this would affect genetic diversity and species vigour.
This century in particular is not the time to accept second-best when it comes to species protection.
If this means staring down Kevin Rudd and Cabinet, the Environment Minister needs to do that also.