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13 October 2006 - Campbell takes public right to protect wildlife from exploitation back to the 1970s       

Campbell takes public right to protect wildlife from exploitation back to the 1970s

Sydney, 13 October 2006                                                

Humane Society International (HSI) has slammed the Federal Environment Minister for removing the right of the public to challenge his decision-making in relation to the exploitation and trade of wildlife. This right has existed since 1982.

The democratic right to challenge the Minister’s decisions to import and export wildlife is being removed in an Amendment Bill to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, 1999 tabled in Parliament yesterday.

“The public knows full well it cannot always trust environment ministers to make decisions in the best interests of wildlife when up against the powerful forces of commercial industries”, said Michael Kennedy, HSI Director. “The ability of conservation groups to appeal poor wildlife trade decisions by the Minister in an independent court acts as a vital safety net against these forces”.

The right to challenge Ministerial decisions to allow international trade in wildlife was originally introduced by the Fraser Government in the former Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Imports and Exports) Act 1982.

Since 1982 these provisions have been used by Humane Society International and others to challenge poor decisions in relation to the export of kangaroos, possums and over-fished marine species such as southern bluefin tuna.

They have recently been used to force significantly improved animal welfare conditions for 8 Asian elephants being imported by Taronga and Melbourne zoos.

“If this amendment is passed, such challenges will no longer be possible and those that seek to profit from the commercial exploitation of Australian native species and the world’s threatened wildlife will face less scrutiny”, said Mr Kennedy.

“It is a serious blow to the transparency and public scrutiny of the Government’s decision-making in relation to the exploitation of wildlife”, said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager

Humane Society International will reserve our judgement on other aspects of the 410 page Amendment Bill to the EPBC Act until we have had a chance to consider it comprehensively.

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