Evidence to this inquiry revealed a weakness in Australia's current wildlife trade control framework; chiefly, the absence of regulations that apply to the domestic
market. For example, there is no legal requirement for any ivory or rhino horn item to be identified as a pre-CITES item before it is traded within Australia. The committee heard that this lack of regulation is problematic because the illegal wildlife trade exists alongside the legal trade, and acts as a conduit to the illegal trade.
Other broader concerns were discussed with the committee. Civil society groups called into question existing law enforcement and border control arrangements.
In particular, criticisms were directed at the enforcement of environmental laws and the lack of prosecutions against people found in possession of illegal ivory and rhino horn. Civil society groups argued the low prioritisation of environmental crime had resulted in the wildlife trade becoming a low risk/high reward venture. Screening procedures to identify illegal ivory and rhino horn at Australia's border were also criticised.
The committee heard overwhelming support for the implementation of a domestic trade ban for both elephant ivory and rhino horn. The individual traders and
industry representatives that would be adversely impacted by a ban also recognised that action is needed. However, there was debate about the best way to implement a domestic ban, and what type of exemptions would be included if one were implemented. Advocates for a domestic ban described the UK framework as a model of best practice. The committee considered, at length, the UK framework and stakeholders' views about its application in Australia.
Evidence to this inquiry highlighted the legal considerations that would need to be taken into account when considering the implementation of a domestic trade ban in Australia. Constitutional limitations restrict the Commonwealth government from unilaterally implementing a domestic ban; however, advocates and legal experts detailed options for how the Commonwealth government could proceed with a domestic trade ban.
Chapter 2 provides background information about the illegal wildlife trade, with a specific focus on the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. The chapter
then describes the CITES international trade regulatory framework and its application in Australia, including Australia's domestic trade regulations for ivory and rhino horn.
Chapter 3 first looks at international efforts to implement domestic trade bans, or stricter measures since the 2016 Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES. It
then considers in more detail the proposed UK framework currently being considered by the UK Parliament, in particular, evidence for and against the exemptions in that framework, as well as the compliance, enforcement offence and sanction provisions. The chapter concludes with consideration of how a domestic trade ban could be implemented in Australia.
Chapter 4 examines Australia's current trade control framework, and its gaps. It considers the elephant ivory and rhino horn trade in Australia, and arguments that a domestic trade ban is needed to reduce the risk of criminal networks use of Australia's domestic market as a means to trade illegal ivory and rhino horn. Specifically, legal markets can act as a conduit of the illegal trade. This chapter then proceeds to address evidence of industries that have been found to be at-risk of facilitating the illegal trade. These include online marketplaces, and the auction and antique industries. This chapter concludes with consideration of societal and cultural change in consumer behaviour, and how this has impacted on the desirability for items made of ivory and rhino horn.
Chapter 5 looks at the current enforcement and border control measures, including screening processes for ivory and rhino horn at Australia's border, training
of customs officers and concerns about the low level of prosecutions. This chapter then considers: compliance, seizure and trade data; and the CITES permit system (including provenance). Finally, the chapter examines education initiatives to inform customs officers and the general public.
Chapter 6 outlines the committee's views and recommendations.