A Shorten Labor Government will work with Australia’s states and territories to implement a domestic ban on Australia's commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
While the poaching of elephants and rhinos might not be an issue in Australia – the trade of products containing ivory and rhino horn is. Australia’s domestic market is unregulated and there’s nothing to stop people buying and selling products containing ivory and rhino horn if they manage to get them into the country.
Elephant and rhino populations in Africa and Asia have continued to decline and elephants and rhinos continue to be targeted for their ivory and horn: in the six months during which the inquiry took place (April-October 2018) 10,000 elephants were killed across the African continent, and in South Africa alone, approximately 528 rhinos were killed.
A 2018 Parliamentary Inquiry into the trade in Australia looked at online traders, auction houses and antique dealers in Australia, identifying illegal domestic markets for ivory and rhinoceros horn worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. These markets continue to fuel the poaching crisis of elephants and rhinos in Africa.
While ivory and rhino horn continue to maintain a value in marketplaces around the world, poachers will continue to kill these iconic species.
Australia, as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES), prohibits the import, export or possession of ivory and rhino horn “harvested” after 1975, but when such an item finds its way into the country the domestic market is unregulated.
Currently, there is no legal requirement for Australian sellers to provide any evidence at the point of sale demonstrating the legality, provenance or age of items containing elephant ivory or rhinoceros horn. That means post-1975 ivory and rhinoceros horn items can easily be passed off as antique, circumventing Australia’s current laws.
Labor’s commitment is in line with the UK Government’s recent ban of its domestic ivory trade. The United States, China, Hong Kong, France and Taiwan have also all implemented domestic bans.
In the past four years, nearly 36,000 people have written to the Australian Government supporting a domestic ban, while a Galaxy Research Poll conducted last year suggested that 86 per cent of Australians want the trade banned. However, that same poll found that 77 per cent of Australians thought that trading in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn within Australia was already illegal.
Labor will work with states and territories to:
- Develop model legislation to be adopted across Australia, banning the trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
- Ensure there are well-targeted exemptions for museums and cultural institutions, antique musical instruments with small ivory content, portrait miniatures more than 100 years old, and other antiques with minimal ivory and rhino horn content.
- Develop appropriate penalties and new offences for individuals and companies which circumvent the ban
Today’s commitment supports the bipartisan recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement’s 2018 inquiry into the trade.
Labor’s implementation of a domestic ban on Australia’s commercial trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn will help the international efforts to save these iconic species for future generations, before it is too late.