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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 917

Senator MURPHY —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. The minister will recall that some weeks ago I asked him a question regarding the possible mistreatment of dog pups exported from Australia to Hong Kong. At that time the minister indicated that information from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and from the Hong Kong Agriculture and Fisheries Department did not support such claims. However, the claims have continued to be made and I now ask the minister: what further steps is the government taking to address the concerns being raised?

Senator COLLINS —Mr President, the welfare of Australian pedigree pups exported to Hong Kong is a matter of personal concern to me. I must add that I have had a large volume of correspondence from senators, members, members of state parliaments and a great many individuals in the community about the publicity that was given to this by A Current Affair some weeks ago. At my request, the welfare of these pups was discussed at a recent meeting of the National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare. That committee, in consultation with AQIS, made several recommendations with regard to vaccination of these pups prior to export. Those recommendations have already been put into place by AQIS.

  The committee also recommended that an AQIS-RSPCA veterinary mission be sent to Hong Kong to investigate the situation further. As a result of that recommendation, an officer of AQIS will arrive in Hong Kong today, where he will meet with the Australian president of the RSPCA. That AQIS-RSPCA mission will examine import facilities, pet shops and RSPCA clinics in Hong Kong.

  Until January of this year no reliable statistics were available and it has been difficult to get a clear picture of the pups' welfare once they arrive in Hong Kong. Before making a decision it is very important that I have accurate and up-to-date information about the trade because, after that A Current Affair story, a number of people that I personally contacted in Hong Kong gave conflicting accounts of what was happening there. If the mission finds genuine grounds for concern about the welfare of these pups I will do everything possible to address them.

  On a related issue, I would like to advise the Senate that people wishing to bring dogs or cats into Australia from overseas may find that the quarantine conditions facing their pets have changed. On Friday I announced that, effective immediately, dogs and cats from rabies-free countries will have to spend less time in quarantine. Dogs and cats may now be imported directly from some countries in which rabies is largely confined to wildlife.

  Under the new conditions, quarantine for dogs and cats imported from approved rabies-free countries will be reduced to 30 or 60 days, depending on the country of origin. Previously animals from these countries were quarantined for up to 270 days. Direct imports from Canada, the USA and many western European countries, where dog rabies is very well controlled, will now be permitted, subject to rabies vaccination, testing and 120 days of quarantine on arrival in Australia.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.