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Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Amendment Bill 1990



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House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories

Purpose

To allow the Minister to exempt the export or import of certain plant and animal specimens from the controls attached to an approved management program and increase the maximum prison term which may be imposed for the unauthorised import or export of certain plant and animal specimens. The Bill will also allow the Minister to make a declaration approving, and imposing a time frame or conditions on a management program and clarify the treatment of certain plant and animal specimens in transit.

Background

On 1 May 1984 the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 (the Principal Act) came into operation in Australia. The Principal Act is administered by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (ANPWS) and enforced by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Customs Service. Basically, the Principal Act seeks to regulate: the export of Australian native plants and animals; the export and import of plants and animals listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); and the import of live exotic plants and animals which may have detrimental effects on native species. The Principal Act is structured around seven Schedules of Species in which trade is prohibited or regulated. The more important Schedules are:

*Schedule 1 lists species in which trade is limited to that undertaken for scientific purposes, or by bona fide zoos or for commercial trade if the animal or plant specimen was bred in captivity, or artificially propagated;

*Schedule 2 lists animal and plant specimens which are allowed to be commercially traded provided they were taken from the wild in accordance with an approved management program; and

*Schedule 4 lists native species of wildlife that can be exported without a permit.

Any export from, or import into, Australia involving plants or animals subject to the provisions of the Principal Act require either a permit or an authority. Permits to export or import animal or plant specimens are not granted where that would be detrimental to the survival of any species.

Commercial exports of Australian plants and animals may only occur where a plant or animal is a captive breed, has been artificially propagated, or is taken from the wild under an approved management program. Permits to import are automatically subject to a restriction not to sell or dispose of the animal or plant without permission. Penalties are imposed on individuals and corporations convicted of offences under the Principal Act.

The ANPWS maintains a record of all seizures and surrenders of plant and animal specimens made under the provisions of the Principal Act. In 1988-89, seizures and surrenders of plant and animal specimens comprised:

*clams-1468;

*medicines-1242;

*plants-708;

*coral-515;

*other reptile products-506;

*elephant products-409;

*turtle products-401;

*butterfly specimens-375;

*other mammal products-132;

*live birds-127;

*live reptiles-125;

*bird products-108;

*live fish-81;

*crocodile products-62;

*live mammals-40;

*products of the cat family-17; and

*live crabs-6. 1

During 1988-89 eight successful prosecutions were completed with an additional twelve cases remaining outstanding. Several examples of successful seizures by Australian Customs Service Officers are given in the ANPWS Annual Report for 1988-89, including the arrest in November 1988 of a West German citizen at Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport. The person was attempting to illegally export twenty-seven Australian native birds and eleven Australian reptiles. The person was sentenced to two years imprisonment for the attempted export of the birds, two years imprisonment for the attempted export of the reptiles and six months imprisonment for travelling on a forged passport. 2

In September 1988, the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (DASETT) commissioned a consultant to conduct an independent and comprehensive review of the ANPWS. The review, which was released in March 1989, included several submissions on the wildlife import and export control arrangements of the Principal Act. One submission described the Principal Act as an `...incomprehensible lawyer's paradise...'. 3 In another submission, DASETT

suggested that there may be a case for a review of the Principal Act with the following aims:

(a) improvement to achieve effective implementation;

(b) whether matters relating to the CITES are effectively and efficiently presented for effective enforcement;

(c) to identify appropriate enforcement resources to ensure efficient implementation of the Principal Act; and

(d) to determine procedures for streamlining the development and approval of management programs. 4

The Review recommended that: DASETT and ANPWS should consult as soon as possible on establishing a legislative review of the Principal Act; a continuing priority of the proposed Australian National Conservation Authority should be to ensure, on a continuing basis, that the procedures and provisions of the Principal Act are streamlined and simplified; and that bureaucratic regulation is kept to a minimum consistent with achievement of the objectives of the Principal Act. 5

The stated objective of this Bill is two-fold: (1) to provide the court's with penalties sufficient to deter wildlife traffickers; and (2) improve the operating efficiency of the Principal Act. 6

Main Provisions

Clause 4 provides that a plant or animal specimen is only taken to be in transit if:

*it is brought into Australia or an external Territory in the course of being transported to an identified person in another country;

*any delay in its leaving Australia or an external Territory is due solely to the arrangements for its transport; and

*it is under the control of Customs the whole time it is in transit (note: where a specimen is in transit, by virtue of section 8 of the Principal Act, it is taken not to be subject to the provisions of the Principal Act).

Clause 5 will allow the Minister to make a declaration approving and imposing a time frame or conditions on a management program (i.e. a program for the protection, conservation or management of animals, plants or both). Where the Minister is satisfied that the conditions attached to a management plan have been breached or the reasons for imposing the conditions no longer exist the Minister is to revoke the declaration.

Clause 6 will allow the Minister, where the Minister decides it is consistent with the object of the Principal Act, to exempt the export or import of certain plant and animal specimens from the controls attached to an approved management plan. The Minister may impose a time frame or conditions (i.e. that the export or import is limited to a particular number of specimens) to an exemption. Where the Minister is satisfied that the conditions attached to an exemption have been breached, or the reasons for imposing the conditions no longer exist, the Minister is to revoke the exemption. The Minister, when making an exemption, is to take into account certain advice of ANPWS, including: the size of the populations of the animals or plants from which the specimens are taken; the potential impact on those populations of taking the specimens; any management program relating to those animals or plants; and any other prescribed matter.

The maximum prison term which may be imposed for unauthorised import/export of plant or animal specimens without a permit or authority will be increased from 5 to 10 years (clauses 8 and 9).

References

1. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Annual Report 1988-89, p. 50.

2. Ibid., pp. 47 and 48.

3. Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, Report on the Review of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, March 1989, pp. 130 and 131.

4. Ibid., p. 131.

5. Ibid., p. 133.

6. Second Reading Speech, Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Bill 1990.

Bills Digest Service

Parliamentary Research Service

For further information, if required, contact the Science, Technology and Environment Group on

06 2772460.

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

Commonwealth of Australia 1990

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1990.