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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 202

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (13:02): I would like to thank the honourable member for La Trobe for bringing the issue of canned hunting to my attention and, through this motion, to the attention of the Australian parliament and wider public. Canned hunting involves the practice of breeding animals for the sole purpose of them being hunted in captivity. Disturbingly, this so-called tourist activity is gaining in popularity, especially when it involves hunting lions and rhinos in South Africa. I understand that people pay up to $40,000 to hunt and kill these animals in an enclosed area in which they are ultimately defenceless and unable to escape. I am sad to say that some tourists pay to pat or walk with young lions at what are misleadingly described as 'conservation parks' when in fact they are breeding centres for animals made subject to these unethical and highly lucrative hunting operations.

Animal welfare is an issue that is close to my heart, and I strongly condemn the hunting of animals in these circumstances, particularly when the animals are endangered. I have long been an advocate for the better treatment of animals, and to that end I support a range of organisations, some local—like Native ARC, a not-for-profit organisation in my electorate that provides medical care and rehabilitation services for injured native wildlife—and some national—like Animals Australia, our peak national animal protection organisation, whose work to investigate and expose animal cruelty has been so important in areas like live export and factory farming. I am also currently the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of the RSPCA.

I am pleased that there is strong bipartisan support for ensuring that animal welfare remains a priority for Australia and Australians. Australia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, a multilateral treaty designed to protect endangered plants and animals. In accordance with that treaty and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Australia has committed to protecting species that are endangered or are at risk of becoming endangered.

I have spoken in this House on multiple occasions in relation to the cruelty around Australia's live export trade. That has been and continues to be an example of Australia falling drastically short of acceptable standards of animal protection and welfare, notwithstanding the introduction of ESCAS. It is telling, for instance, that not one exporter has been prosecuted or has had their export licence suspended for multiple serious violations of ESCAS. I agree with the assessment of RSPCA chief executive Heather Neil, who believes ESCAS continues to set an unacceptably low bar.

I believe that canned hunting is another example of animal cruelty in which Australia is currently complicit by allowing the importation of hunting trophies. By not acting to prevent the importation of hunting trophies, we are effectively supporting an activity which is both cruel and unethical, a form of barbarism that has a direct impact on endangered species we have committed to protect. A core component of both CITES and the EPBC Act is the application of a permit system to regulate the importation of animal body parts and trophies into Australia. As the law currently stands, a permit may be granted to import species that are listed in appendix II of CITES, which includes species that are at risk of becoming endangered—including lions. That needs to change. The ability to take home part of a hunted and killed animal as a trophy is what sustains these types of hunting operations. If you take away the prize, you take away the game.

To this end, I commend the Minister for the Environment for his recent decision to ban the importation of rhinoceros trophies into Australia. Yet the horrific evidence that we have been shown recently of canned hunting—in particular of lions in South Africa—suggests that the minister must act in extending this ban to other species on the CITES list. For as long as Australian tourists are permitted to return to the country with lion trophies in their luggage, we all remain complicit in the practice of canned hunting. And to be complicit in canned hunting is to stand by while the senseless killing of animals occurs and while endangered species are put at greater risk, in contravention of the standards established under CITES. While canned hunting may not always be illegal, the practice is reprehensible—especially when it masquerades as a form of conservation. I am sure the Australian community would want us to take action to ensure there is no encouragement or tolerance of canned hunting in our customs regulations.

For all these reasons, I give my strongest support to the terms of the motion before us, and I urge the government to take action to ban the importation of animal parts and trophies of any species listed in CITES, including lions, so that Australia can do its part in bringing the abhorrent practice of canned hunting to an end.