The Rudd Government should clarify the status of its expensive Whaling Envoy and whether he’s in for the long haul, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
It follows revelations, through Senate Budget Estimates, that the Envoy’s never-ending ’round the world mission’ of diplomatic dialogue has already cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars despite missing last year’s most significant international forum.
Answers received to questions on notice detail fees and travel expenses for the Special Envoy for Whale Conservation and staff as they’ve jetted to Japan, the United States, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Britain, Germany, Czech Republic, Portugal, Sweden, Iceland, Mexico and Chile.
Yet Mr Hollway did not accompany Minister Peter Garrett to the main event – the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC’s) annual meeting in Portugal last June.
“Kevin Rudd has created this position of Whaling Envoy in his own image. His mini-me envoy travels the world at great expense, holds lots of talks but has nothing to show for them in the end,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Despite Labor’s Whaling Envoy clocking up travel expenses equivalent to thirty-plus ‘around the world’ business class flights, the slaughter of whales continues unabated.
“If the Whaling Envoy is to remain Australia’s number one diplomat on this issue, the Rudd Government should give the position teeth and authority by making it clear he will be the one flying the flag at future IWC meetings.
“Rather than continually reappointing through ad hoc contract extensions its Whaling Envoy on a never-ending mission of diplomatic dialogue, the Rudd Government must now clarify its expectations for this role and its duration.”
Senator BIRMINGHAM“… are there particular performance indicators that Mr Hollway is expected to meet prior to December that would signify he had met the terms of that contract and then, unless ministers wish to add new terms, it would be a natural point of conclusion?”
Ms Donna Petrachenko (First Assistant Secretary, Marine Division, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts)-“He is asked to engage in further diplomatic dialogue as determined appropriate by ministers.”
                Hansard, Supplementary Budget Estimates, 20 October 2009
Senator Birmingham is Deputy Chair of the Senate’s Environment, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee, which has questioned departmental officials on this matter.