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Monday, 11 November 2002
Page: 6034

Senator Nettle asked the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 19 September 2002:

With reference to the $5 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to Monash University to establish a national primate breeding and research facility in Churchill, Victoria:

(1) What species will be bred in this new facility.

(2) How many animals will be housed at this facility.

(3) Will any of these animals be sent to other research facilities; if so: (a) can the NHMRC provide a list of the other research facilities that these animals will be sent to; and (b) how will the welfare of these animals be monitored if they leave the breeding facility for other research facilities across Australia.

(4) Will independent animal welfare bodies be given regular access to the breeding facility; if not, why not.

(5) Has an animal ethics committee been chosen for this new facility; if so: (a) can the NHMRC provide a list of the persons on this committee, along with their qualifications and positions; (b) will there be formal reviews of the decisions made by the committee for this facility; if not, why not; if so: (i) how often will these reviews take place, and (ii) what will they entail; and (c) is there a grievance system in place for any member who is unhappy with a decision made by the committee.

Senator Patterson (Minister for Health and Ageing) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The species to be bred at the National Non-Human Primate Breeding and Research Facility (NHPF) located at Monash University (Churchill Campus, Gippsland, Victoria) are macaques and marmosets. The facility will relocate the existing National Macaque Facility and amalgamate it with the National Marmoset Facility.

(2) The new facility will house approximately 150 animals.

(3) As the NHMRC is not responsible for managing the NHPF it is unable to answer this question. This question should be directed to the management of the NHPF.

(a) The NHMRC does not have access to this information which falls under the control of the proposed NHPF. The NHMRC can not provide a list of other research facilities that these animals may or may not be sent to.

(b) The welfare of animals moved from the breeding facility for other research facilities across Australia will be monitored in accordance with the `Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes' (`the Code'), the `Policy on the Use of Non-Human Primates in Medical Research and relevant State and Territory legislation.

The Code promotes animal welfare as a key factor in the use of animals in research. It also highlights principles of replacement of animals with other methods of research, a reduction in the number of animals and a refinement of techniques to reduce the impact on animals used in scientific and teaching activities.

The Policy on the Use of Non-Human Primates in Medical Research aims to:

· protect the welfare of non-human primates in medical research;

· set out the basic principles for investigators and animal care staff who use non-human primates in their research; and

· assist Animal Ethics Committees (AEC's) in dealing with applications for research using non-human primates.

(4) Representatives of independent animal welfare bodies are included on the animal welfare committee that oversights the operation of the NHPF and they have access to the facility. However, the NHPF is not open to the public for animal welfare and public health and safety reasons.

A Management Committee that includes a nominee of the NHMRC manages the operation of the NHPF for Monash University. The facility is also inspected and as required, licensed, by relevant Victorian agencies, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service and the NHMRC Animal Welfare Committee.

(5) Facilities such as this do not have a dedicated ethics committee because no research is conducted in this facility. Ethical oversight will be through the Monash University Animal Welfare Committee. Each researcher who seeks to use animals from the facility for research purposes will have to obtain approval from their own institution's ethics committee. The NHMRC is not responsible for managing the NHPF and can not provide answers to questions 5 (a), (b) and (c). The facility is currently managed by the Monash University.