Joint Ministerial Media Release (2003)

Is there a Uruguayan Government official
on board the Viarsa?
– Wednesday 27 August 2003

Robert McClelland MP
Shadow Minister for Justice and Community Security

Kevin Rudd MP
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

The Howard Government’s handling of the suspected illegal fishing vessel Viarsa saga is becoming more bewildering by the day.

According to Spanish-language media reports overnight in Uruguay:

  • The Director of the National Marine Resources Authority of Uruguay (DINARA) has admitted that a Uruguayan Government fisheries inspector has been aboard the Viarsa throughout its voyage.
  • The Uruguayan Government has put the vessel “under arrest” and has warned other nations that the vessel is not to be intercepted or boarded, with suggestions that it is to be met by the Uruguayan Navy.

It is time for Justice Minister Senator Ellison and Foreign Minister Downer to come clean on what is really going on with the Viarsa.

These reports raise serious matters that require a full explanation from the Howard Government.

The Viarsa was first located on 7 August and the Howard Government issued the first in a series of nine press releases about the Viarsa pursuit on 12 August.

When did the Howard Government first become aware of the allegations made in these Uruguayan media reports and are they correct?

What attempts have been made by the Howard Government to pursue these matters with Uruguayan officials both in Australia and in Uruguay, and what exactly is the role of the Uruguayan Government in this matter?

Australians are entitled to know from the Howard Government what is really going on with the Viarsa.  The Government has had at least 20 days now to come clean on this matter; it is time for some for answers to these basic questions.

Further information:

Jonathan Kirkwood (Mr McClelland’s office) 0425 231 690

Alister Jordan (Mr Rudd’s office) 0417 605 823