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Question: Illegal Imports

Lee Rhiannon 12 Sep 2011

Question on Notice, Monday 12 September 2011

(Question No. 893)

Senator Rhiannon asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 25 July 2011:

(1)   In regard to the illegal importation of dog and cat fur products, over the past 5 years how many reported incidents have there been and:

   (a)   what action has been taken to investigate these incidents;

   (b)   have there been any prosecutions; and

   (c)   how many products have been removed from sale during this period.

(2)   What action has the department taken to enforce the ban on the importation of cat and dog fur pelts and products since it was introduced in 2004.

(3)   What is the annual budget allocated to monitor and investigate dog and cat fur products entering the Australian market.

(4)   What are the staff resources allocated to working on the illegal importation of cat and dog fur.

(5)   How has the department responded to the report of investigations by the Humane Society International, which was provided to Australian Customs, which revealed that dog fur is being imported into Australia?

Senator Ludwig: The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) There have been 18 public referrals to Customs and Border Protection, relating to 16 separate instances, alleging that prohibited cat or dog fur products have been imported. In addition, ten other consignments were detained by Customs and Border Protection at the time of importation for assessment as a result of its cargo risk assessment program.

   (a)All referrals have been followed up and investigated. Where appropriate, importers have been required to submit detailed documents or garments for independent testing and analysis.

Four cases resulted in the goods being seized and destroyed, either because the importer could not provide sufficient information to identify the goods, or the goods were abandoned.

   (b)No. Prosecution of these four cases was not initiated because, in the circumstances, this action was not considered to be in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth.

   (c) Nil. Where appropriate, goods believed to have contained cat or dog fur have been seized and destroyed at the border while under Customs control.

(2) Customs and Border Protection assesses all imported cargo as part of its broader risk assessment and border enforcement program.

Where Customs and Border Protection is concerned about the importation of fur products, including cases of suspected false labelling, importers are required to provide suitable documentation to identify the type of fur being imported. In circumstances where the fur cannot be identified and Customs and Border Protection has a reasonable suspicion that the goods are cat or dog fur products, a sample will be provided to an appropriate expert to determine the type of fur being imported. Where allegations are confirmed and a breach has occurred, Customs and Border Protection will seize the goods.

(3) Customs and Border Protection represents the interests of over 40 government agencies at the border, dealing with over 70 separate types of regulated goods. These goods range from counterfeit luxury goods, to illicit drugs, child pornography and weapons of mass destruction.

Funding is allocated by government to treat all of those risks, and is applied using an intelligence-led, risk-based approach. The control on dog and cat fur is administered within the overall allocation of funding for this wide range of prohibited, restricted and regulated goods, and is managed within our risk assessment and border enforcement program.

(4) Staff resources are not allocated to specific risks for regulated goods; they are applied according to Customs and Border Protection's risk assessment processes.

Depending on the level of risk identified and the intelligence available, tasking can be allocated to any officer undertaking relevant duties.

(5) The Humane Society International (HSI) has made multiple allegations of dog fur importation to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in 2011. These allegations have been investigated and HSI has been advised by Customs and Border Protection of the outcomes of these matters.

The allegations made by HSI were based on two tests which indicated the potential presence of dog fur in certain garments. However, one of those tests indicated the fur may be from a species of animal that is not prohibited.

Customs and Border Protection investigated the allegations, and engaged directly with the two importers. Each importer withdrew the goods from sale, pending independent testing. These tests, from credible independent scientific authorities, did not support the allegations made by HSI.

Customs and Border Protection will continue to monitor and assess potential breaches of the dog and cat fur prohibition, as part of its work in enforcing border control over a range of prohibited, restricted and regulated goods, within its risk based border enforcement framework.


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